Is anyone in charge at Fox News?


This week was a bit of a mixed bag for the journalistic ethics of Fox News. On the upside, we confirmed that News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch is familiar with the idea of journalistic standards. On the downside, Murdoch appears to be completely unaware that his news network doesn't have any.

This week was a bit of a mixed bag for the journalistic ethics of Fox News.

On the upside, we confirmed that News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch is familiar with the idea of journalistic standards. On the downside, Murdoch appears to be completely unaware that his news network doesn't have any.

Responding to a question from Media Matters VP Ari Rabin-Havt about whether Murdoch thinks it is appropriate for a news organization to aggressively promote the tea party movement, Murdoch stated that Fox shouldn't be "supporting the Tea Party or any other party." Murdoch added, "I'd like to investigate what you are saying before I condemn anyone."

First, a point of agreement with Murdoch: It's certainly true that a news organization shouldn't be promoting political movements. However, a question arises as to whether Murdoch has taken the opportunity to flip to Fox News at any point over the last year. If he had, odds are good that he would have stumbled across evidence of Fox's incessant promotion of the tea party movement.

Since he is apparently too busy to keep an eye on his own news network, we offered some assistance with Murdoch's "investigation." Some lowlights:

  • Fox Business anchor and "business journalist" Stuart Varney on April 13, 2009: "It's now my great duty to promote the tea parties. Here we go."
  • In the 10 days leading up to the Tax Day Tea Parties last year, Fox News aired more than 100 commercials promoting the protests and Fox's coverage of them.
  • Glenn Beck encouraged viewers to "please go" to "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties."
  • Fox Nation hosted a "virtual tea party" that was promoted on-air by news anchor Megyn Kelly, news host Bill Hemmer, and Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson.
  • On April 3, 2009, Hannity directed viewers to his website to "get all the details about our special 'Tax Day Tea Party.' " He later added, "We hope you'll join us."

And if that isn't enough to convince Murdoch, Fox News explicitly branded the protests "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties," and ran this image on multiple shows:

Murdoch didn't even need to watch Fox to learn of the network's promotion. After the tea parties, dozens of articles on local tea parties reported that Fox News helped to promote turnout at the events.

And all of those examples are just from the lead-up to the Tax Day Tea Parties last April. Since then, Fox's promotion of the tea party movement has continued unabated.

In fact, just two weeks ago Fox spent an entire day promoting "Conservative Woodstock." It was just like the real Woodstock, except it was an anti-Harry Reid tea party protest in Searchlight, Nevada, featuring the musical stylings of former Saturday Night Live cast member Victoria Jackson instead of Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane.

If Murdoch wants an even more recent example, this week Neil Cavuto started running ads promoting his coverage of an upcoming tea party protest that "some say could be a very, very heated rally."

But do let us know how that investigation turns out, Mr. Murdoch.

Other stories this week

Fox News' idea of a Democrat

Unfortunately for Murdoch, his comments about Fox's tea party promotion may not have been the most laughably absurd thing he said during his appearance at the National Press Club. After Murdoch called out the other networks for a perceived lack of balance, he was asked to name the Democrats at Fox News. Murdoch responded:

I could give you a couple of names but they're certainly there. Uh, if Roger [Ailes] were here he'd certainly spit them out very quickly. I think probably every night Greta Van Susteren is certainly close to the Democratic Party.

Oh, boy. This brings us to that "other party" that Fox News "shouldn't be promoting," according to Murdoch. As we've documented extensively, Fox News has essentially given up any attempt to hide the fact that it is an arm of the GOP rather than an actual news outlet.

But perhaps we've been too quick to judge. Let's have a look at who Rupert Murdoch describes as "probably every night ... certainly close to the Democratic Party."

Between March 21 and April 6, Van Susteren continued Fox's promotion of the GOP's efforts to overturn health care reform, hosting 15 guests who said that the health care bill is unconstitutional, and only one who called it constitutional.

Her roster of guests attacking the health care reform bill as unconstitutional included Republican attorneys general from seven different states, as well as four different Republican governors. Van Susteren's nonstop promotion of the GOP's efforts to overturn health care reform led the Republican attorney general from Michigan to praise her coverage of the issue.

This was after his third appearance in eight shows.

But to be fair to Murdoch and Van Susteren, she does occasionally show her closeness to the Democratic Party. For example, in the lead-up to the health care reform vote, she repeatedly hosted Rep. Bart Stupak to misinform about abortion funding in the health care bill. That counts, right?

Back in November, Media Matters senior fellow Eric Boehlert wondered why Rupert Murdoch is "so clueless about Fox News." This came after Murdoch, among other outrageous statements, called Sean Hannity an "academic" and falsely claimed that nobody at Fox News had compared Obama to Stalin.

In light of his performance at the National Press Club, we are left with two options: either Rupert Murdoch can't be bothered to watch his own network, or he isn't interested in telling the truth. Murdoch's lack of interest in researching the subjects he is discussing and his willful disregard for reality would make him a great fit as a host at ... oh, right.

Here we go again: Justice Stevens announces retirement

We've seen this movie before.

Last year, when Justice David Souter announced his retirement, conservatives started spreading their favorite myths about the Supreme Court. As they can never let a good smear die, we expect to see some of the classics return in the coming weeks.

To quickly recap, conservatives have pushed the idea that liberals -- but not conservatives -- engage in "judicial activism." Not true. They have also suggested that diversifying the court is somehow at odds with picking nominees based on merit. It isn't. They have claimed that a judge espousing "empathy" conflicts with a commitment to the law. Another miss. The have distorted comments Obama made to claim he said it was a "tragedy" that the Supreme Court had not pursued the "redistribution of wealth." He didn't. Lastly, they have suggested that the GOP has been consistent on the appropriateness of judicial filibusters. They haven't.

When Obama announced Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee, media figures launched false -- and often viciously personal -- attacks on her. They frequently relied on gender stereotypes. With news reports naming at least two women on the short list of replacements, we can probably expect the media to fall into their old habits.

So far, we're off to a bit of a weird start in response to the news of Stevens' retirement. After spending several months last year smearing Sotomayor as an "extreme" "ideologue" who is a "racist," Fox News today announced that Sotomayor is "mainstream." Good to know.

Glenn Beck apparently missed the Fox memo that Sotomayor is now mainstream, because he attacked her as a "radical" today after suggesting that Obama will find a "gay, handicapped, black woman, who's an immigrant" to replace Stevens.

Beck's comment echoes a line that Rush Limbaugh delivered back before the Sotomayor nomination, when Rush said that "we need a teenage single mother, who's gay, is a lesbian, who's dirt poor, African-American, and disabled."

It's nice to see that the leading lights of the conservative movement can still manage to fit race-baiting, homophobia, class-warfare, and gender stereotypes into one sentence.

Some things never change.

CNN's Erickson is all grown up

Speaking of Supreme Court justices, let's check in quickly with the man who once called Justice Souter a "goat-fucking child molester." I'm referring to the newest addition to CNN's "Best Political Team on Television," Erick Erickson.

Two weeks ago, Howard Kurtz confronted Erickson on his long history of outrageous comments. In response, Erickson explained how he "had to grow up."

ERICKSON: Being a blogger, up until that moment, I always considered I was just a guy chatting with friends, even on Twitter, and realized that I've actually reached the point where people listen to what I say and care about what I say and, frankly, it was a wake-up call to me that I had to grow up in how I write.

Well, that newfound maturity didn't last too long. As we've documented, a mere four days after his conversation with Kurtz, Erickson announced that he would "[p]ull out my wife's shotgun" if they try to arrest him for not filling out the American Community Survey.

On Tuesday, the White House responded to Erickson's "remarkably crazy" comments by saying that they "should concern CNN." All of this led Media Matters president Eric Burns to ask on MSNBC, "What is CNN going to do about it?"

In response to the growing controversy, CNN apparently attacked Bill Press for asking Gibbs about Erickson. A CNN source told Mediaite that "[w]e think its important that Erick explain those comments, and he has done just that." If CNN's treatment of its Lou Dobbs problem is any indication, perhaps we should anticipate a prolonged wait for the network to take definitive action.

Perhaps CNN puts up with Erickson's outrageous comments due to his astute political analysis? This might be plausible if Erickson wasn't a complete buffoon.

On Wednesday night, in the wake of the bombing-attempt-that-wasn't, Erickson took to RedState to explain how we should "get some answers" prior to "throwing blame." Great advice. Of course, this was after he had spent several paragraphs blaming President Obama's policies for the "bombing" attempt.

Yesterday, Erickson read half of a news article to proclaim that Obama wants to "ban college internships." He took this as evidence that "Barack Obama is destroying another aspect of the free enterprise system." Had he read the second half of the article he cited, it would have been clear that Obama is proposing no such thing. The Labor Department is trying to address unpaid internships that violate labor laws, not ban internships. Whoops.

Nice hire, CNN.

This week's media columns

This week's media column from Media Matters senior fellow Eric Boehlert examined -- in the wake of the arrest of members of the Hutaree militia -- how Fox News spread the militia message.

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Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments, The Judiciary
Fox News Channel, CNN
Rupert Murdoch, Erick Erickson
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