Gibbs highlights false distinction between Fox's opinion and news programs

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Appearing on CNN's Reliable Sources, White House press Secretary Robert Gibbs noted that Fox News' "political slant" is apparent in both Fox's news programs and opinions shows and pointed to Fox News' airing footage of a mushroom cloud from a nuclear test and asking if the new START treaty will "leave the U.S. defenseless until it's too late." Indeed, Fox's "news" programs echo the smears, distortions, and attacks pushed by Fox's opinion shows.

Fox's "news" programming featured mushroom cloud after asking if START treaty leaves us "defenseless"

Gibbs: "[T]he anchor disappeared, and for several seconds there was a 1960s video footage of a nuclear test and a mushroom cloud." When asked by CNN's Howard Kurtz if the White House thinks Fox News has a "political slant" in "the news coverage as well as the opinion shows," Gibbs stated: "Well, here's a good example. The president signed the START Treaty last week. And there was a lot of debate about whether us reducing our nuclear warheads was making this country less safe. And then the anchor disappeared, and for several seconds there was a 1960s video footage of a nuclear test and a mushroom cloud." From the April 18 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:

GIBBS: Well, look, Howard, I will say this -- that we are -- as you said, we live in a town in which you have to play the game. And we're happy to put guests on. We're happy to do interviews.

Obviously, I take questions from their correspondent each and every day in the briefing. I don't think many people have to watch Fox to understand the political slant that they have.

KURTZ: In the news coverage as well as the opinion shows?

GIBBS: Well, here's a good example. The president signed the START Treaty last week. And there was a lot of debate about whether us reducing our nuclear warheads was making this country less safe. And then the anchor disappeared, and for several seconds there was a 1960s video footage of a nuclear test and a mushroom cloud.

Now what you didn't see was -- you didn't see in any of that, where the last time we are familiar with seeing pictures of START treaties being signed, are that of Ronald Reagan, or when the president makes a pledge to end nuclear weapons on our planet --

KURTZ: Reagan did the same thing.

GIBBS: -- it mimics what -- or what Reagan. So I think in that case, you are -- and you've mentioned their increase in cable numbers. They're feeding an audience that they know wants to see and hear a certain side of that argument.

Fox News' America Live aired mushroom cloud footage after asking if START treaty will "leave the U.S. defenseless until it's too late." As Talking Points Memo documented on April 7, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly stated of the START treaty on America Live: "Now critics are asking, will the new deal leave the U.S. defenseless until it's too late?" America Live then aired footage of a mushroom cloud from a nuclear test before going to commercial.

Fox News' opinion and news programming featured slanted coverage of nuclear issue

Rove proffered false claims to criticize Obama's Nuclear Posture Review as likely to "undermine our strength." During the April 7 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, Fox News contributor Karl Rove falsely claimed that the administration's nuclear policy review says the United States "will not use nuclear weapons under any circumstances against a non-nuclear state. I find that a little troubling." Also during the segment, Rove commented that "we do look weak when we take steps that seem to undermine our strength," a claim rejected by nuclear experts and military brass.

Fox distorted Obama's comments on remaining "a dominant military superpower." Fox News distorted President Obama's comments that "whether we like it or not," the U.S. "remain[s] a dominant military superpower" to suggest that Obama is opposed to the U.S. holding this position. In fact, Obama said that as a "military superpower," the U.S. has an interest in reducing tensions between foreign nations because violent conflict abroad inevitably "ends up costing" the United States "significantly in terms of both blood and treasure." The Fox Nation has distorted the remarks twice, including trumpeting a headline highlighting criticism from Fox News contributor Sarah Palin that said, "Palin Asks: Mr. President, Is a Strong America a Problem?" In addition, Fox News host Bret Baier stated of Obama's remarks on the April 13 edition of Special Report, "'Whether we like them or not.' I thought most people liked it" (transcript accessed via Nexis):

BAIER: I want you to react to a sound bite at the end of President Obama when he was asked about the Middle East. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because, whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military super power, and when conflicts might break out, one way or another we're pulled into them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: "Whether we like them or not." I thought most people liked it.

KRAUTHAMMER: He is giving the standard answer to what our interest is in the Middle East. The peace, you could give utopian answer, we want to see everybody happy. The real answer, the one he gave, is in the national interest, be quiet in that area and other areas of the world because necessarily there is a break-out of problems in the Middle East or in the Taiwan straits or as happened in Korea in 1950, we're going to get sucked in. So yes, that's the standard answer.

He dodged the answer on the Middle East because he doesn't want to exacerbate what are already terrible relations with the Israelis.

BAIER: OK, but when he said "Whether we with like it or not, we, the U.S., remain a dominant military superpower."

KRAUTHAMMER: I think he meant whether we like it or not we'll be drawn in. I think because of our position, we're eventually, as in the earlier wars, we're going to get drawn in one way or another. I think he exaggerated to say in relation in the Middle East it's a matter of blood and treasure. The United States has never been involved directly in a Middle East war involving Israel, never.

Fox continued tired obsession with Obama's supposed "bowing." The Fox Nation has revived its obsession with Obama's supposed "bowing" to foreign leaders by highlighting a photo of Obama greeting Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Nuclear Security Summit. Conservative media have previously attacked Obama's greetings of Saudi King Abdullah, Japanese Emperor Akihito, and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. Baier also highlighted the supposed "bow," asking, "Is this the latest bow by the American president to foreign leader?" From the April 13 edition of Special Report (transcript accessed via Nexis):

BAIER: It happened again. Or did it? Here you see President Obama greeting Chinese president Hu Jintao Monday in the nuclear summit. Is this the latest bow by the American president to foreign leader? You decide.

This would be the fifth such incident, preceded by apparent bows to the Saudi king, the Japanese emperor, the Chinese premier, and the mayor of Tampa.

Hemmer falsely suggested that START could mean U.S. would have to "concede" on missile defense. Fox News' America's Newsroom anchor Bill Hemmer stated, "[We] already talked about Republicans in the Senate not being on board this deal because of some of the provisions containing the missile defense shield. That may or may not have to be conceded by the U.S., if that pact were to be agreed to." In fact, the Obama administration says the treaty does not constrain U.S. missile defense, and treaties -- including a nuclear arms treaty signed by President Bush -- typically allow parties to withdraw. From the April 9 edition of America's Newsroom:

HEMMER: It's shaping up to be quite a summit. You've got this decision right now, following the news yesterday about the nuclear pact that was signed in Prague in the Czech Republic. [We] already talked about Republicans in the Senate not being on board this deal because of some of the provisions containing the missile defense shield. That may or may not have to be conceded by the U.S., if that pact were to be agreed to.

Fox cut away from Obama speech to air Glenn Beck. During its April 13 coverage of Obama's speech at the Nuclear Security Summit, Fox News cut away from Obama's speech to air Glenn Beck.

Fox News ignored Obama's nuclear policy experience, while attacking his comments about Palin's lack of nuclear experience. After President Obama reacted to Palin's criticism of his nuclear policy by stating that she is "not much of an expert on nuclear issues," right-wing media figures, including Fox News' Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, responded by denigrating Obama's own nuclear expertise prior to assuming the presidency. In fact, as a U.S. senator, Obama co-authored nonproliferation legislation and traveled to the former Soviet Union to examine weapons stockpiles.

Fox & Friends sees a "Muslim image" in logo for Nuclear Security Summit. During the April 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Gretchen Carlson cited the Michael Goodwin's column in the New York Post and stated, in Kilmeade's words: "When I first saw this logo, I wasn't really thinking this, but upon further review, perhaps I should have been. And that is, if you look at the Nuclear Security Summit logo, what does that have in common with all those other flags there representing Muslim nations?" Showing images of flags, Carlson replied: "That's the same thing that you see on the flags of Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, and Pakistan, and what do they all have in common? They're all Muslim nations." During the segment, Fox featured text that read: "Curious Crescent Logo: Summit Symbol Similar to Muslim Image" and "Islamic Image? Summit Design Looks Like Crescent Moon." Comedy Central's Jon Stewart debunked the claim, stating that the White House said "the inspiration for the logo is actually the Rutherford-Bohr Model of the atom that we all learned about in high school."

Carlson on nuclear summit accomplishments: "A lot of people would say, so what?" During the April 14 edition of Fox & Friends Kilmeade stated of the nuclear summit, "You can say they did accomplish a few things. They got, for example, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Chile and Canada to give up their low grade uranium." Carlson responded, "But a lot of people would say, so what? I mean, a lot of people would say, so what? Where we really feeling threatened by those countries?"

Fox "news" programs echo smears, distortions, attacks of Fox's "opinion" shows

Fox's news programs echo its "opinion" shows: Smears, doctored videos, GOP talking points. Fox News has responded to White House criticisms of its network by claiming that while its "editorial" programs are filled with "vibrant opinion," its news hours are straight and objective. However, Fox News' purportedly straight news programs echo its "editorial" programs: Media Matters for America has compiled a non-exhaustive list -- from part of 2009 alone -- documenting how Fox's news programming features smears, falsehoods, doctored and deceptive editing, and GOP talking points.

Jarrett: I "agree" with the GOP that the health care bill is unconstitutional. On the January 4 broadcast of America's Newsroom -- one of Fox's purported "news" hours -- substitute anchor Gregg Jarrett agreed with former Republican official Ken Blackwell's criticisms that the health care bill is unconstitutional. Jarrett concluded the segment by telling Blackwell: "They're all good ones ... they're great arguments, and I happen to agree with them."

Fox's Kelly builds entire segment around Beck's criticism. On the March 19 edition of America Live, purported "news hour" anchor Megyn Kelly constructed an entire segment around "editorial" host Glenn Beck's criticism of New York's proposed restaurant salt ban, airing clips from his show and asking her guest to respond to Beck's arguments.

Fox's chief political correspondent Cameron goes on the attack against health care reform bill. During the March 20 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, Fox News' chief political correspondent Carl Cameron stated of health care reform, "[W]hen the Obama administration says don't worry, you'll love it once you get it, you gotta ask yourself, well how great do we think the federal government is at accomplishing its normal business? And if that's how they're going to be running aspects of health care, there's a lot of people who say that the federal government could do a better job on that stuff."

Media differentiate Beck's "opinions" from Wallace's "news," but record shows Wallace repeatedly echoes Beck. In discussing the Obama administration's criticisms of Fox News, several media figures have argued that Beck's show and other Fox News' "opinion" programming are separate and distinct from the "news" programming of Chris Wallace and others and should be viewed as such. However, Wallace has repeated several of the same falsehoods and attacks that Beck has, including fearmongering about health care rationing.

Fox News' tea party coverage makes mockery of claim that network provides "straight ... news" in daytime. While Fox News executives claimed "the channel plays it straight with its daytime news programming," during coverage of the tea party protests, daytime anchors, reporters, and guests repeatedly promoted the events before and on April 15, 2009, often echoing participants' rhetoric.

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