Fox News Watch panelist Gabler: Fox News "pumping" Christmas "war"

››› ››› JOE BROWN

While appearing on Fox News Watch, media writer Neal Gabler asserted Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and John Gibson are "demagogues" who seek to "rally the masses" every Christmas season with their talk of a purported "war" on the holiday. Fox News contributor Jane Hall said the effort is "largely a fund-raiser for Jerry Falwell."

Media writer Neal Gabler, a regular Fox news panelist, asserted that Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and John Gibson are "demagogues" who seek to "rally the masses" with their talk of a purported effort to suppress public recognition of the Christmas holiday. On the December 3 edition of Fox News Watch, Gabler said of those making such accusations: "They'll do it every Christmas. They did it last Christmas; they'll do it next Christmas." Later in the segment, Gabler stated: "The media, particularly Fox media, has been pumping the hell out of this thing."

Gabler's comments came during a segment that an off-screen announcer previewed by asking, "Is there a Grinch taking the holly jolly out of Christmas? Why has this holy season become a target of the liberal media?" Early in the discussion, Gabler remarked that the battle over public acknowledgement of Christmas "is being called a war ... in certain places." During the segment, American University professor and Fox News contributor Jane Hall specifically criticized O'Reilly and Gibson for their emphasis of the issue:

HALL: Bill O'Reilly has made this a huge issue. He's obviously getting a lot of feedback. John Gibson has a book about it, another Fox anchor. I think this is largely a fund-raiser for Jerry Falwell to pick up on some run-amok PC [political correctness].

Gabler later said: "I want to talk about the media angle, because we've avoided it; it's the elephant in the room -- it's Fox News." He then launched into a critique of "demagogues" O'Reilly, Hannity, and Gibson.

When host Eric Burns protested, "I don't think it is demagoguery to point out that there are people who are themselves being demagogues by trying to take away the worship terminology of 95 percent of Americans," Gabler replied, "[W]e are at war. There's [the humanitarian crisis in] Darfur. There's an AIDS crisis. And you're worried about whether people are saying 'Merry Christmas' or not? ... What world do you live in?"

When Burns defended his focus on the Christmas issue, on the grounds that "it's one issue, and it's the issue that's the subject of this ... segment," Gabler again criticized "[t]he media, particularly Fox media" for focusing excessively on the story.

From the December 3 edition of Fox News Watch:

ANNOUNCER: Is there a Grinch taking the holly-jolly out of Christmas? Why has this holy season become a target of the liberal media? Details next on Fox News Watch.

[...]

GABLER: Michelle Goldberg had a great article, and anybody interested in this issue -- in Salon -- ought to read it, in which she said that Henry Ford, back in 1921, declared that there was a war on Christmas. Of course, he blamed Jews. She cites the John Birch Society -- the reactionary John Birch Society -- in the 1950s saying there's a war on Christmas in 1959 by secularists.

BURNS: All right. Listen, hold it. Let's not call it a war necessarily --

[crosstalk]

GABLER: No, it is being -- it is being called a war --

BURNS: It is.

GABLER: --in certain places.

BURNS: Well, let's not do it here. But let's just say, isn't it ridiculous, Jane, to want to get rid of the word "Christmas tree" and say "holiday tree." But wait -- let me just mention this before you answer. You know, a few years ago in Pittsburgh, there was an edict in one of the school districts that if you were an employee in that school district, you couldn't say "Merry Christmas" to a kid. A memo came down -- you had to say, "Happy Sparkle Season."

[laughter]

BURNS: Serious. Aren't we going too far?

HALL: Well, if you cite those examples, yes. But I think there's -- there's a real question that I have here. I mean, the last time I checked, Jesus was for tolerance. And to have -- Bill O'Reilly has made this a huge issue. He's obviously getting a lot of feedback. John Gibson has a book about it, another Fox anchor. I think this is largely a fund-raiser for Jerry Falwell to pick up on some run-amok PC. I think to talk about the corporations, as Bill O'Reilly has been doing, and what they do -- I mean, he's certainly within his rights. But I think, what are they saying? Boycott the corporations that have holiday wishes? What is the point of that?

[...]

JAMES P. PINKERTON (Newsday columnist): This story was ignored by the mainstream media for --

GABLER: Because it's not a story, and that's why it was ignored. And as I said, in 1921 this began.

HALL: It's a fund-raiser.

GABLER: Now let's talk about the elephant in the room; let's talk about the media.

BURNS: Just a minute, Neal; if it started in 1921 --

GABLER: It's not a story.

BURNS: If I can just --

GABLER: It was a demagogic campaign.

BURNS: If I can just give three examples right now in different parts of the country --

GABLER: We're 300 million people. You know, I can give you --

BURNS: But there are -- just a minute, there are more than three examples to give --

GABLER: Three incidents of chicken pox doesn't make an epidemic.

HALL: But what is the media -- where is the media angle?

GABLER: The media angle right here -- Look, I want to talk about the media angle, because we've avoided it; it's the elephant in the room -- it's Fox News. Come on. It's O'Reilly; it's Hannity; it's Gibson. They're demagogues who realize that at Christmastime, you can -- you can --

[crosstalk]

GABLER: You rally the masses on this issue.

[crosstalk]

GABLER: They'll do it every Christmas. They did it last Christmas; they'll do it next Christmas.

BURNS: I spend this whole show sitting back most of the time. I don't think it is demagoguery to point out that there are people who are themselves being demagogues by trying to take away the worship terminology of 95 percent of Americans.

GABLER: Eric, we are at war. There's [the humanitarian crisis in] Darfur. There's an AIDS crisis. And you're worried about whether people are saying "Merry Christmas" or not?

BURNS: No.

GABLER: What world do you live in?

BURNS: Hey, Neal, it's one issue, and it's the issue that's the subject of this top -- that's the subject of this segment.

GABLER: And the media have been pumping it, and that's my point.

PINKERTON: All right.

GABLER: The media, particularly Fox media, has been pumping the hell out of this thing.

Stories/Interests
Religion, War on Christmas, Separation of Church and State
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