I wouldn’t care whatsoever if FOX News just came out and said to their audience that they were a biased news organization with a clear agenda of castigating President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party and all progressives at every opportunity. At least that would be honest. At least MSNBC uses the mantra “lean forward” to suggest that the network is basically a progressive mouthpiece.
But it’s FOX News’ constant and blatant deception and sophistry, even after being exposed, that I think puts FOX beyond the pale of anything that might resemble journalism. I have actually heard FOX News officials claim that the channel draws a clear line between commentary like Bill O’Reilly and supposed “straight-laced” anchors like Shepard Smith, but this demarcation line, and as far as I can tell, has never existed.
Here is an example of one of these “straight-laced” news segments omitting a portion of Obama’s speech to imply that Obama was “blaming the troops” for the ISIS threat, and here’s another in which another supposed “straight-laced” correspondent, Ed Henry, who is FOX’s chief White House reporter, no less, fabricated a story suggesting that Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey changed his position on ISIS.
Nonetheless, Robert Ailes from an interview in 2006 addressed criticism of FOX News when he was asked, “If you reject the conservative label, is there another way you would define yourself?:”
I think conservatives were underserved, that does not make us a conservative channel. I think a lot of conservatives watch our channel, that does not make us a conservative channel. If we’re conservative, what does that make the other channels? Liberal. Reporters are very interesting, they keep coming at me and saying aren’t you more conservative, and I say yes well, you mean they’re more liberal? The answer is you see both on our channel. In the last 25 years you CNN had Bob Novack and they thought that was balanced. One half hour they had Bob and the rest of the time they had liberals. We decided to balance all the arguments and treat the conservative view with the same respect as we have for the liberal view, and that is really irritating some people.
We’re not promoting the conservative point of view, we’re merely giving them equal time and access. Why would that offend journalists, to have another point of view? We don’t quite get that. Dragged kicking and screaming the rest of the media is now saying oh my god maybe we should be a little more balanced than the way we were doing things.
He is essentially arguing, without presenting any evidence and just on pure conjecture, of course, that before FOX came along, the national media was just a hive of liberalism, and journalists were not telling the other side of the story. First, it’s not the job of journalists to tell the other side of the story. It’s the journalist’s job to report what is happening, and more times than not, news stories do not have just two sides. They could have three or four or five sides. The suggestion that the goal of journalism is to represent all sides equally is to fail to understand journalism itself, which is, in turn, a particularly unfortunate failure for someone who claims to run a news channel.
And further, if it was true that the nation somehow had a shortage of conservative viewpoints in this period, wouldn’t we have seen nothing but Democrats in the White House and in Congress before FOX opened shop in 1996? I seem to recall some folks named Reagan, Bush Sr., Ford and Nixon. Also, in 1996 when Fox News took to the air, the Republicans had a majority in both houses of Congress.
However much top FOX News officials, reporters and anchors have failed at journalism, they have proven themselves to be professionals at clinical self-delusion.