Fox contributor Lauren Ashburn complained that "it's just not fair" for critics to hold Fox News accountable for any misinformation and biased commentary made on-air by the network's paid hosts and contributors, suggesting the network shouldn't be held responsible for a recent conspiracy theory about the timing of Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala's capture, which originated on Fox.
Khattala was taken into U.S. custody on June 17 for his role in helping lead the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox News hosts and correspondents began immediately questioning the curious timing of Khattala's capture, speculating that it was intended to help Hillary Clinton's book tour and Fox News interview, ignoring the months of planning and preparation spent prior to Khattala's capture. The network even attempted to legitimize its hosts' conspiracy theories by pretending the speculation originated outside of the network.
On the June 22 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz, Ashburn defended her network, complaining "it's just not fair" for critics to hold Fox News accountable for the conspiracy theories pushed by its hosts and contributors on-air if their commentary isn't an official statement from the network. Discussing criticisms the network received for questioning the timing of the Benghazi suspect's capture, Ashburn said, "the more outlandish the comments, the more the websites are going to say 'oh my gosh, Fox News said this, and they made this point,' and it's funny because Fox News didn't say that, those individual contributors said that." Ashburn concluded "it's just not fair to do that":
Fox News host Howard Kurtz criticized his own network's coverage of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, blasting the network for elevating Bundy's anti-government agenda and turning the lawless rancher into a folk hero before falling silent when Bundy's racist remarks came to light.
Fox News darling Cliven Bundy rose to his folk hero status after he failed to comply with court orders directing him to remove his trespassing cattle from public land, following decades of refusing to pay required grazing fees. Fox News and other right-wing media elevated the story with substantial coverage, championing Bundy and his supporters as they threatened violence against federal law enforcement officials.
But when Cliven Bundy revealed his racist worldview, Fox News fell silent, abruptly ending their incessant promotion of the lawless rancher. The New York Times first reported that Bundy had questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy," and Media Matters quickly obtained video of the racist remarks.
On the April 27 edition his Fox News show #MediaBuzz, Kurtz posited that Fox News "fell seriously short" in their coverage of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy once his "blatantly racist" comments were revealed, after having previously built Bundy up "as a symbol of resistance":
Media critics on Fox News and CNN criticized a recent article that outed the inventor of a golf putter as a transgender woman. The two networks' history of problematic transgender coverage suggests that CNN and Fox could stand to take their own advice.
On January 15, the sports website Grantland published a lengthy article by Caleb Hannan about Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, the founder of Yar Golf and inventor of a "scientifically superior" golf club. In the story, which Hannan described as "the strangest story I've ever worked on," Hannan outed "Dr. V" as a trans woman. Hannan wrote that during the course of his reporting, Vanderbilt resisted his outing of her. At the end of the article, he revealed that Vanderbilt had killed herself.
Hannan's digging into Vanderbilt's personal life -- and his problematic framing of a transgender woman's identity as "strange" - sparked fierce criticism and generated questions about the role his invasive reporting may have played in Vanderbilt's suicide. On January 26, CNN's Reliable Sources and Fox's #MediaBuzz weighed in on the controversy, with hosts and panelists on both shows agreeing that Grantland should have consulted a trans person before proceeding with the article.
On Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter invited ESPN.com's Christina Kahrl and GLAAD's Tiq Milan to discuss the story and the ethical questions it raised:
MILAN: What journalists can take away from this is exactly what [Grantland editor-in-chief] Bill Simmons said in his letter ... to consult with LGBT organizations like GLAAD or like the National Center of Trans Equality to see how to better -- what are the best practices to deal with situations like this.
STELTER: It goes back to one of these journalistic maxims that diversity is so important to have in newsrooms. But I wonder if that's easier said than done sometimes for these places. I think you made a point, Christina, that the article was being written for an audience that could have learned a lot about the transgender community if only the research had been done.
Meanwhile, on Fox's #MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz dubbed Grantland's story a "media fail":
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz reneged on his promise to cover a new biography offering a harsh critique of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes on Fox's media show, #MediaBuzz.
On the January 19 edition of #MediaBuzz, Kurtz said he would cover the newly released book, New York writer Gabriel Sherman's The Loudest Voice In The Room, on the following week's show, saying:
First, a programming note. A biography of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes by a New York Magazine reporter has been getting plenty of media attention. We will talk about it, on next week's show.
But Kurtz did not report on the book as promised during his January 26 show, as Variety noted. Segments featured on the show instead included discussions of Glenn Beck's time at Fox News, media coverage of Wendy Davis' campaign for Texas governor, and the Chris Christie bridge scandal.
Fox News has attempted to discredit the Loudest Voice for more than a year, attacking Sherman personally and reportedly firing a top Fox executive for leaking information to the author. Ailes also cooperated with conservative journalist Zev Chafets' 2013 biography Roger Ailes, Off Camera, reportedly "because he was eager to preempt Sherman's version with a more favorable and hopefully sympathetic account of his legacy."
A review of Sherman's book found that Fox was right to be worried; unlike Off Camera, Sherman's biography revealed an unflattering portrait of Ailes as a vindictive, paranoid partisan who uses his cable news network as a clearinghouse for Republican propaganda.
Media Matters has previously found that Kurtz has been giving his employer a pass since taking the position as Fox's media analyst last year. An analysis of Kurtz's television appearances and online columns during his first two months on the job found that he almost entirely avoided criticizing Fox News, including ignoring controversies related to the network that had been widely covered elsewhere.
Variety's Brian Lowry noted that Kurtz's failure to report on Sherman's Ailes biography once again calls his credibility into question:
For in-house media critics to have any credibility, they have to be willing to at least occasionally explore the shortcomings of their employers. And given all the coverage regarding Ailes' concern regarding the book and his alleged campaign against the author, Kurtz looked caught between the proverbial rock and hard place -- so much so that ignoring the book would have been preferable to creating the appearance of acting as Ailes' surrogate.
Nevertheless, to promise coverage -- as Kurtz did on air at the close of last week's program -- and then renege creates an impression of Kurtz as Ailes' lap dog. And it's not like there weren't ways to approach Sherman's biography in a skeptical manner, especially after New York Times critic Janet Maslin panned the book, providing some cover from one of the bastions of liberal media Fox News so regularly derides.
On the January 12 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz:
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From the January 5 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz:
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From the November 17 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz:
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