One of the myths that Fox uses to prop up its credibility as a news-gathering operation is that it has "straight news" shows that possess the same integrity as those on any other channel.
It's a helpful argument for them, made all the more believable because these shows really look like news. Fox makes use of television conventions to convince its audience that what they are seeing is "news."
But anyone who closely watches these purportedly straight-news shows knows that, in fact, they're unlike any other news on television.
Actress Ellen Barkin recently made this point in an interview with the Los Angeles Times Magazine. Discussing "the enormous success that has killed us in terms of Fox News," Barkin said:
The blatant lying that passes itself off as journalism. I don't even need to get there to go mental. Can you imagine a legitimate newsperson -- Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw -- just lying on the news?
This earned her a jab in Bill O'Reilly's daily briefing*. (The instinct to defame critics, rather than engage them, is one of the qualities that separates Fox from legitimate news operations -- see here, for instance.)
The evidence that Fox disregards journalistic ethics, including outright "lying on the news," is extensive.
Imagine this: A news anchor uses talking points cribbed from a document released by a political party and presents them as his own news outlet's research. So faithfully, in fact, that the outlet reproduces a typo in the original document. When pressured on the issue, the anchor apologizes ... for the typo.
Jon Scott, co-anchor of one of Fox's daytime straight-news shows, Happening Now, did exactly that on Fox News. Plenty of other Fox straight-news shows have presented Republican Party research as their own.
Fox News is falsely claiming that McKinsey & Co. has released a new survey this week estimating that a large number of employers will drop health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. However, in an email to Media Matters, McKinsey stated that it has not released any new research on the topic in months.
It all started on October 27, when Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by House Republican Darrell Issa, issued a report critical of health care reform. The report cited research that McKinsey had released in June that stoked fears that "more than 30 percent of employers overall, and 28 percent of large ones, say they will definitely or probably drop coverage after 2014."
On Wednesday, just days after Issa's report cited McKinsey's June research, America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer claimed that McKinsey itself was responsible for "a survey out this week." On Monday, Happening Now co-host Jenna Lee claimed that "a new survey conducted by an independent research firm finds that 30 percent of employers will definitely or probably stop offering company-sponsored health coverage once the new health-care law kicks in." Lee did not make clear what "new survey" was the source of her claim.
When Media Matters contacted McKinsey & Company to obtain a copy of the new survey, the organization told Media Matters via email that it has not released one on this topic since June. From the email:
We did not release any other survey on this topic. The Fox News piece is based on the survey that was conducted in February of this year and published in June. All the information about that survey is available on our website: http://www.mckinsey.com/en/Features/US_employer_healthcare_survey.aspx.
In June, Fox had aggressively promoted the McKinsey survey to warn that 30 percent of employers would drop health coverage once the Affordable Care Act was implemented, forcing 78 million Americans out of their current health insurance. Fox trumpeted the survey results as "blockbuster" research that undermined efforts to reform the health care system.
Those claims fell apart after McKinsey was forced to acknowledge that the survey was not intended to be a predictive economic analysis.
This is not the first time Fox News has served as a mouthpiece for GOP research.
From the November 2 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona, a prominent anti-immigration advocate who recently formed an exploratory committee to consider a run for Congress, is a frequent guest on Fox News, and has used his platform to promote and fundraise for his potential congressional bid. Babeu is just the latest in a long line of Republican candidates that Fox News has enthusiastically promoted.
Yesterday on Imus in the Morning, Imus and his guest, America's Newsroom co-anchor Martha MacCallum, rehashed the usual argument Fox employees trot out when they want to insulate the network's supposed "journalists" (like MacCallum) from accusations of partisanship -- that there exists a firm line between the network's "news" and "opinion" programming.
During the discussion, Imus praised MacCallum and her co-host Bill Hemmer, saying that there is "no editorializing at all" on their show. While attacking the partisanship of other networks, MacCallum said, "a lot of people are sort of brainwashed into believing that line of thinking that we're not fair and balanced, and everybody else is."
MacCallum explained that "during the daytime, we try to shoot as straight we possibly can. Everybody is a human being -- there's going to be times when your feelings about something enter a discussion."
MacCallum's claim echoed comments made by Bill Hemmer last year, when he told TVNewser that the opinions of Fox's right-wing primetime hosts don't carry over into America's Newsroom because "our broadcast, with Martha MacCallum and me, we shoot it down the middle."
Setting aside the larger problems with Fox's supposedly unimpeachable "news hours" -- complicated by things like having a Washington managing editor that orders network journalists to routinely cast doubt on climate science -- America's Newsroom often resembles Fox's "opinion" shows. While MacCallum suggests her and Hemmer's "feelings about something" only occasionally enter the discussion, they both have a record of echoing GOP talking points, and MacCallum has even flatly endorsed conservative policies.
In its latest assault on green technology loans that have been supported by the Obama administration, Fox News is now targeting a loan to the Michigan-based steel company Severstal North America. According to the company and the Department of Energy, respectively, the loan will allow Severstal North America to create hundreds of jobs and help cut thousands of metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.
After ABC News uncovered the faux scandal that a California automaker that received a federal loan is creating American jobs, the right-wing media is predictably failing to acknowledge those American jobs. Instead, they're hyping the fact that the company, Fisker, is assembling the cars in Finland, without clarifying that none of the loan money is going towards the overseas facility.
For instance, Fox's "straight news" program America's Newsroom aired a graphic saying "FEDERAL LOAN ... FOR FINLAND?" But host Bill Hemmer never mentioned that the loan supported American jobs, or that Fisker is barred from putting the money towards its overseas plant:
It's also worth noting that this story is not "news" -- the Department of Energy included the fact that the cars would be assembled "overseas" in a press release announcing the loan over a year ago:
From the October 20 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the October 17 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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A Fox News report on efforts to ban employers from discriminating against the jobless is just the latest example of Fox figures attacking anti-discrimination efforts as being burdensome or creating a "protected class," or even defending the right of businesses to discriminate against customers based on race.
From the October 11 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the October 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Following up on a series of one-sided reports suggesting that the Department of Justice's investigation of Gibson Guitar over charges of illegal logging was unwarranted, Fox News senior national correspondent John Roberts has now explicitly declared: "[T]here doesn't appear to be any illegal logging here."
HEMMER: What do they say is behind all this John?
ROBERTS: It is an amendment to the 1900 Lacey Act that was passed in 2008 to help protect against any illegal logging. But there doesn't appear to be any illegal logging here. The Indian government says that they wood that it exported to Gibson and other luthiers across the country is legal. But the U.S. government says "No it's not legal to import into the United States." This of course has created a massive amount of confusion. So much so that the National Association of Music Merchants wrote a letter to the president and to members of Congress complaining about the "unintended consequences of the Lacey Act that we feel are damaging to our industry and the economy." I asked Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee about that. He was a cosponsor of the 2008 amendment. He told me that "some changes may be needed here."
Fox's coverage on the Gibson Guitar's case has been skewed from the very beginning and Roberts' report is the logical culmination of its coverage so far.
Fox News' America's Newsroom opened today with a segment covering a new Kaiser Family Foundation study that found that health insurance premiums are 9 percent higher this year than last year. Guest Charles Payne of the Fox Business Network tried to portray this increase as a result of the Affordable Care Act, and then at the very end of the segment host Bill Hemmer finally reported the facts: Only about 1.5 percentage points of the increase are related to provisions of the ACA, as reported by News Corp.'s own Wall Street Journal.
Hemmer framed the segment as a "debate over how much of this increase is related to the new health care law." Payne assured him that "there's no doubt, Bill, that a lot of this has to do with the health care law," blaming the law's provisions allowing young people to remain on their parents' insurance plan till age 26 and requiring coverage of preventive procedures. Payne then speculated that insurance companies are raising premiums in anticipation of more provisions of the ACA coming into effect, and Hemmer responded, "This might be only the beginning."
In fact, this trend is not new. Health expenditures have been increasing in the United States since the 1970s and have been shooting up dramatically since the beginning of the 1990s, long before the Affordable Care Act came into being:
In a Newsweek article titled "Roger's Reality Show," Howard Kurtz wrote that Fox executives acknowledge that the news channel "took a hard right turn." This admission confirms what has long been clear: that Fox's news division has been slanted.