On this week's edition of Fox News' media criticism program Fox News Watch, host Jon Scott concluded the show by defending his network against criticism of its coverage of the Shirley Sherrod scandal.
While last week, the show strove to deflect criticism of the Fox News' coverage of the Sherrod saga by claiming that CNN had covered the story "the most number of times," Fox News Watch took a different tack this week. Scott aired two clips of Fox News hosts rebutting Former Governor Howard Dean's claims that Fox helped rev up the scandal by airing the heavily edited video of Sherrod. In the clips, Fox hosts Bret Baier and Chris Wallace suggest that Fox News did not cover the Sherrod story until after the Obama administration had asked her to resign. Scott referred to these rebuttals as "delivering the facts on how this network handled the Shirley Sherrod story." But in reality, Wallace, Baier, and Scott left out some very key "facts."
Fox News Watch joined other Fox hosts in ignoring the promotion of the Sherrod video on FoxNews.com and Fox Nation, both of which carried the clip before Sherrod was asked to resign. What is particularly astonishing about the report by Fox's media criticism show is the fact that it also ignored the admission of Fox News' Senior Vice President of News that the story had been published on the network's websites before Sherrod's resignation due to "a breakdown in the system."
This would be a surprising omission were it not for Fox News Watch's history of silence on controversies surrounding its network. Whether ignoring the outrage following contributor and Fox Business host John Stossel's call to repeal the Public Accommodation section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, or turning a blind eye to scandals involving Fox's two most popular primetime personalities, it's clear that Fox News Watch has an established pattern of defending Fox News by aiming its media criticism elsewhere.
From the July 6 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox's media criticism program Fox News Watch promises to "cover the coverage of the week's biggest stories." This week, host Jon Scott and his panel had time to cover the fifth anniversary of YouTube, but didn't have time to analyze their colleague John Stossel's on-air call for the repeal of the Public Accommodation section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Last week Stossel said he was "in total agreement with Rand Paul," adding: "And I would go further than he was willing to go ... and say it's time now to repeal that part of the law because private businesses ought to get to discriminate."
A Fox News contributor openly calling for the repeal of the legislative landmark of the Civil Rights era should warrant some media analysis. After all, Stossel's comments were criticized by civil rights experts and activists as "silly," "ahistorical," and risking "tak[ing] us back to a racist past from which so many people gave their lives to liberate us."
Fox News Watch has had difficulty covering its own in the past. For instance, the Saturday after Fox executives yanked Sean Hannity's plans to broadcast his show live from the Cincinnati Tea Party, with "all proceeds" benefiting the organization, Scott and company were silent.
Other media critics have taken note of Fox News Watch's reluctance to focus its analysis on its own network's personalities.
Media Matters investigative reporter and senior editor Joe Strupp recently reported on criticism that Fox News Watch, the network's media watchdog program, has veered away from being a program that critiques media issues on all networks, including its own. Strupp quoted former Fox News Watch host Eric Burns (no relation to Media Matters President Eric Burns) saying: "The show was getting to be more and more of a struggle to do fairly. There was a progression of interference to try to make the show more right-wing. I fought very hard against it."
The trend continued on Saturday's broadcast, where Fox News Watch again avoided critiquing any of Fox News' growing ethics problems. Here's the show's opening summary of its segments:
The show -- shocker -- did find enough time to critique MSNBC and hosts Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, of whom a Fox News voice-over said: "Nobody really likes him."
It's been noted before, but there's a special irony in having Jon Scott host a media analysis show: Last year, Scott was caught lifting text from a GOP press release and passing it off as his own research. For Fox, that apparently qualifies you to critique other media outlets on ethics.
President Obama argued for the passage of health care reform legislation at a rally today at George Mason University in northern Virginia, and only one cable news network didn't cover the event in it's entirety. Can you guess which network cut away to cover Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner's press conference?
From the March 19 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
Fox's Jon Scott cut off President Obama and stated flatly: "I described it before it began as a pep rally and you can kind of see that's what it is. The President doing everything he can to try and get the American people behind his health care reform plans." Scott suggested the Fox audience finish watching Obama's event on the internet if they were so inclined and then cut to Boehner for "the opposition point of view."
Oh, and for the record, both MSNBC and CNN showed Boehner's press conference after Obama's event had ended.
Here's a side-by-side comparison of the networks:
On March 16, Fox News anchors during their self-described daytime "news hours" repeatedly forwarded the false suggestion that, by using a legislative procedure known as the "self-executing rule" to finalize health care reform in the House, Democrats would be passing health care reform "without actually voting for it." In fact, implementing the proposed procedure requires a majority vote.
From the March 6 edition of Fox News Watch:
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From the January 9 edition of Fox News Watch:
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Fox News' Jon Scott allowed Sen. Orrin Hatch to falsely claim on Happening Now that the Medicare payroll tax increase in the Senate health care bill will hit "42 million people out there who are earning less than $200,000 a year." In fact, the bill states that the 0.9 percent increase applies only to income that exceeds $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals.
Continuing its pattern of failure to disclose the conflicts of interest of health care reform opponents who appear on its programs, Fox News hosted Frank Donatelli -- identified only as chairman of the "Republican advocacy organization" GOPAC - who claimed that Democrats "don't really want the American people to see what's in" the Senate health reform bill "because it's so bad." Donatelli also serves as executive vice president of a public affairs consulting firm whose clients include firms in the health insurance, health care provider, and pharmaceutical industries.
On both Fox News' Happening Now - which the network states is a "news" program - and Fox & Friends -- which Fox News considers "editorial" programming -- Fox News hosts prompted Sen. Orrin Hatch to falsely claim that the amendment he co-sponsored with Sen. Ben Nelson is an attempt to "just put the Hyde amendment" -- which forbids the use of federal funds for abortions except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest - into the Senate health care reform bill. In fact, the bill already explicitly prohibits the use of federal funds to provide coverage for abortions that are not allowed under the Hyde Amendment, and the Hatch/Nelson amendment would restrict funding of abortion beyond the Hyde restrictions; the Hatch interviews thus again demonstrate how Fox's "news" programs echo the same falsehoods and GOP talking points as their "editorial" programming.
From the November 25 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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What, exactly, is the point of Fox News Watch, Fox News' purported media criticism show?
On the show's November 21 installment, host Jon Scott told viewers, "I had better be accurate on a media criticism show." He's not.
We've noted that Fox News Watch routinely gets facts wrong, while excusing or ignoring criticism of its own network. Recently, the show falsely claimed that President Obama watched an HBO documentary about himself instead of election returns - days after Fox News apologized for starting the incorrect story. (Fox News Watch has yet to correct the record on its program.)
There's a special irony in having Jon Scott host a media criticism show. Scott has been repeatedly caught cut and pasting GOP talking points and press releases as his own research. After one Jon Scott cut and paste incident, Washington Post and CNN media critic Howard Kurtz blasted Scott for failing to apologize "for using partisan propaganda from the GOP without telling your viewers where it came from."
On November 21, Fox News Watch took on Obama's bow and Scott painted it as upsetting "a lot of people":
SCOTT: There was the announcement that he made as he got ready to jump on the plane that he was going to hold a jobs summit. This, after it came out that unemployment is, what, 10.2 percent now.
ELLIS HENICAN (Fox News contributor): That's right. Uncomfortable news. And you do anything you can as a politician to bury it.
To me, what was a little disappointing about the coverage was it didn't have a lot of discussion how it is, when we see our banker, always an uncomfortable situation, and it was the kind of silly stuff. It was the bowing and the political hits back and forth and the buried fact. I wish we had a discussion about the other stuff.
SCOTT: Symbolism did matter. I mean, the bowing did offend a lot of people.
RICH LOWRY (Fox News contributor, National Review editor): Yes, I find it offensive. I believe it's an offense against smaller "R" Republican manners for any president of the United States to bow to a foreign potentate. Look, this is a classic narrative story where a Republican -- you know, Nixon can do it, and it's not a big deal. But Obama does it, because the idea's out there, justifiably in my mind, that he's a weakling abroad, that he has an overly submissive attitude towards foreign countries. And that's why it was exploded. And kudos to the blogosphere, which was onto this way before the mainstream media.
Scott claims that "the bowing did offend a lot of people." But Americans overwhelming say that Obama's bow didn't offend them - according to a Fox News poll. 67% of Americans view Obama's bow as appropriate, while 26% view it as never appropriate. Even a majority of Republicans (53-40) view Obama's gesture as appropriate. Shockingly, Scott never mentioned the poll.
Daily Kos' Jed Lewison wrote, "Perhaps Fox should change their slogan: we report and you decide, but only if it's something that we think will make you hate President Obama." Indeed, when given a chance to note Fox News' polling days after its release, and while discussing public perception of that very topic, Scott - Fox News' designed media critic - claimed the opposite of what his own poll found.
Then again, with Fox News' own history of deception and inaccuracy, maybe Jon Scott is a 'perfect' fit as Fox News' media critic.
From the November 14 edition of Fox News Watch:
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During the November 8 edition of Fox News Watch -- Fox News' media criticism and analysis program -- host Jon Scott repeated the fake story that President Obama watched an HBO documentary about himself on November 3 instead of election returns. However, Fox News White House correspondent Major Garrett said on November 4 that the story -- which Fox News started -- was incorrect and apologized for what he said was his "mistake."