A New York magazine blog post pointed to anecdotal evidence as proof that Fox News is moderating its political advocacy in the run-up to the 2012 election, but the weight of the evidence shows that Fox is playing a heavy role in selecting the next president.
In a September interview with the Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz, Fox News head Roger Ailes claimed that the cable behemoth had taken a "course correction" in light of the network's close connections to Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the tea party movement becoming a "branding issue."
Citing a recent, contentious interview Fox anchor Bret Baier conducted with Mitt Romney, New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman took the bait and argued that while Fox would "continue to function as home turf" for Republicans, Ailes' "course correction" has been on display during the 2012 primary:
This chaotic and raucous primary season is demonstrating that Roger Ailes will put the interests of his network ahead of all else. If 2010 was the year that Fox fueled the tea party -- culminating in record ratings and the Republican sweep of the House midterms -- 2012 is shaping up to be the year that Ailes decided Fox will benefit if the political world recognizes that his network is willing to make GOP candidates sweat in front of their base. Like any good candidate, the network plans to tack toward the center for the general election.
It's a complex game Ailes is playing. Conversations with Fox sources and media executives suggest a new strategy: Fox is trying to credibly capture the center without alienating its loyal core of rabid viewers. To this end, the network is flexing its news-gathering muscles in high-profile ways that will capture media attention.
Baier's interview with Romney must be viewed in the context of Fox's overall treatment of the GOP candidates. As The Washington Post's Eric Wemple noted, "based on recent appearances, Fox appears to be treating Mitt Romney (hardball warehouse interview with Bret Baier) more harshly than Newt Gingrich (smiling, treacly interview with Sean Hannity)." The New York Times recently reported on the role that television has played during the 2012 election, in particular Fox News:
"Everything has changed," said Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, who traveled across Iowa as an unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate four years ago. "It's like a town hall every day on Fox News. You hear people talking back to you what you saw yesterday on Fox. I like Fox, and I'm glad we have an outlet, but it is having a major, major effect on what happens."
Sherman also pointed to the presence of a New York Times reporter at a recent Fox News candidates forum as further evidence that Fox is a different animal during the 2012 primary. An adequate analysis of Fox News' role in electing the next president, however, requires looking beyond the dog and pony show.
In a February 27 New York magazine article, Fox News contributor Karl Rove renewed his attacks on fellow Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, criticizing her for starring in a reality show and asking, "How does that make us comfortable seeing her in the Oval Office?" During the interview, Rove reportedly did a "withering impersonation of Palin" while criticizing her reality show. From the article:
One week before the 2010 midterm elections, Rove took aim at Sarah Palin, questioning the wisdom of her appearance on a reality show, Sarah Palin's Alaska, if she really wanted to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. Palin lacked the "gravitas" to be president, went a subhead in the U.K.'s DailyTelegraph.
Rove later tried wriggling out of his comments, as well as observations he made in a German magazine that tea-partiers weren't "sophisticated," being unfamiliar, as Rove was, with intellectuals like the economist Friedrich August von Hayek. But Rove's backhands weren't accidental, nor was he the victim of outrageous tabloid reporting. When I bring up his statements about Palin during our interview, Rove says only that he wished he'd made his comments on Fox News instead--before going into a withering impersonation of Palin, recalling a scene from her TV show in which she's fishing.
"Did you see that?" he says, adopting a high, sniveling Palin accent: " 'Holy crap! That fish hit my thigh! It hurts!' "
"How does that make us comfortable seeing her in the Oval Office?" he asks, disgusted. "You know--'Holy crap, Putin said something ugly!' "
Did the editors of New York magazine not read The Overton Window?
I mean, they can be forgiven for not reading Glenn Beck's non-thrilling "thriller" novel, which set a new, impossibly low standard for cliché-ridden, nonsensically awful writing. But they really should have before they turned their pages over to Beck this weekend so he could give his "factionalized" account of an Al Gore presidency.
For those unaware, "faction" is the clever-but-not-really portmanteau Beck employs to describe his style of creative writing, which, as you've probably already guessed, blends "fact" with "fiction." In the pages of New York, however, Beck has tweaked the formula a bit, blending fiction with thoroughly debunked garbage:
Gore's four o'clock was another one of the bright young minds that he liked to surround himself with, a guy named Barry Obama. (Who continued to maintain that his name was Barack, leading Gore to once advise him that no one in North Carolina would ever be caught dead voting for a guy named Barack.) Barry had come to the administration as deputy attorney general via an under-the-radar deal between Gore and Jack Ryan, now the senator from Illinois. Though he had been leading Barry in the polls, Ryan didn't want to take any chances, so he called in a favor. He had information about a certain late afternoon Gore had spent in a hotel in Chicago a few years back. A trip to the day spa had turned into a second chakra-release party.
Remember that smear, forwarded by the National Enquirer and later determined to be completely and totally without factual basis? It's back! And now it's true! At least it is in Beck's make-believe world. And anyone who wants to defend Beck's inclusion of this smear in his larger fictionalized attack on Gore will likely point that out: "It's only fiction! It's not real! Lighten up!"
But that's just the thing: even within the contours of Beck's fictional world, there's no reason to include this. Beck seems to acknowledge this himself -- he writes that Ryan was leading Obama in the polls (apparently there was no real-life divorce scandal waiting in the wings to take the Illinois Republican down), but for some reason he "call[s] in a favor" with Gore, threatening to expose the president's tryst with a masseuse if he doesn't lure the opponent he's already beating out the race.
Also: we're supposed to believe that a Republican politician would sit on information regarding a Democratic president's marital infidelities so he could call in a (relatively minor) favor later on? Really?
It's completely gratuitous. Including it in the story only makes it seem less plausible. But Beck thinks it's hilarious to crack about the former vice president having affairs and (I wish I were kidding) accidentally eating polar bear meat. So instead of something interesting, or funny, or well-written, or coherent, we get Glenn Beck's latest turn at "faction," and New York magazine inextricably links themselves to the author who brought us the timeless admonition: "Don't tease the panther."
This one had me laughing so hard my stomach began to hurt.
New York Magazine's Daily Intel blog is reporting that Fox News contributor Sarah Palin had a fun time scolding members of the press at the TIME 100 party on Tuesday night (emphasis added):
Sarah [Palin], on the other hand, was happy to be in a room with so many reporters - particularly Time's Joe Klein, of whom she is a fan - so she could set the record straight. "I did talk to a couple of reporters already and said that a bunch of stuff that they write is bogus, but we had a great conversation about it and we agreed to disagree on a lot of things," she said. "One thing we can all agree on, though, is how much we respect and want to protect the freedom of the press and we have that in common, so at the end of the day, I think as long as we're protecting that and not abusing the right - we have to be writing truth - then we'll get along just fine tonight." Particularly, she wanted to clear up "the bogus reports about how much money I supposedly make," she said. "I have a business. I run a business with my speaker's fee."
It takes a lot of guts for the former half-term Governor of Alaska to attack the media for the unspecified "bunch" of "bogus" "stuff" it reports when her own Facebook profile and appearances on Fox News would keep fact-checkers and editors busy for weeks.
Then there's the gem about Palin agreeing, "[H]ow much we respect and want to protect the freedom of the press." How much respect could she possibly have for an institution that she routinely calls the "lamestream media" and so rarely avails herself to for serious sit-down interviews?
If anything, Palin routinely shows contempt for the press. As I wrote last week:
Sure we all remember when the former half-term Governor of Alaska was paid to speak at the National Tea Party Convention -- a speech that was initially closed to press except for a few right-wing outlets like Fox News (her employer.) Then there was the news that one of her speaking contracts required "questions" following her remarks were "to be collected from the audience in advance" and "pre-screened."
Now, Think Progress brings us word of yet another disturbing story: Palin's speech earlier this week "at a fundraiser for the Austin-based Heroic Media, a "faith-based" anti-choice organization that seeks to reduce the number of abortions "by creating a Culture of Life through television, billboard and internet advertising."
The piece by Think Progress' Ben Armbruster goes on to note a report from the Austin-American Statesmen that members of the press had to make a contribution to Heroic Media in order to attend Palin's address.
In order to understand the delusion that fuels Palin's bizarre "media" talking points, it's worth revisiting the justification she offered Jay Leno when asked about her decision to join Fox News earlier in the year (again, emphasis added):
"I had studied journalism...my college degree there in communications and now I am back there wanting to build some trust back in our media. I think that the mainstream media is quite broken and I think that there needs to be the fairness, the balance in there...that's why I joined Fox."
"Those years ago that I studied journalism, it was all about the who, what, where, when and why. It was not so much the opinion interjected in hard news stories. So, I would like to see, in order to build trust in the media, because it is a cornerstone of our democracy, Americans deserve to have more of that factual fairness."
Far from respecting the First Amendment or media as an institution, Palin -- like scores of right-wingers before her -- uses the media to score political points with a conservative basis detached from reality and glued to the political spin coming from right-wing outlets like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.
Several media outlets have asserted that AIG's payment of controversial employee-retention bonus packages could squelch or impede President Obama's ability to promote his policy agenda. Most of those reporting the claim failed to elaborate on how disclosure of the bonuses could impede Obama's ability to pass aspects of his agenda such as health-care reform and climate change policy.