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Rather Not

October 27th, 2005

Conservatives relentlessly point out that Dan Rather was fooled by the forged documents about Bush in the National Guard, and tried to smear Bush with them. But then, was not Bush fooled by the forged documents from Italy about the Niger yellowcake uranium purchases, and used it in the State of the Union speech to start a war? Which is worse? You could say that one or both suspected forgery and publicized them anyway for political purposes–but frankly, if only one of them did it, do you really think it was Rather and not Bush?

A more general point: Dan Rather and the National Guard story on the liberal side do not equal the full force and weight of Fox News on the conservative side. I don’t know how many times now I have heard conservatives defend Fox News’ incessant hard-core right-wing bias by dragging out Dan Rather and the National Guard story, time and time again, as if the two balance each other out somehow. They don’t, not by a long shot. Rather pounced on many a scandal and rumor about Clinton during his years, and did more than his share of cheerleading the Bush war effort and not questioning it; he’s a poor icon of liberalism, and if a similar story had come his way about Kerry, it would be hard to imagine him burying it. Rather is not considered liberal because he’s done liberal journalism, he’s considered liberal simply because conservatives have repeatedly insisted that he is. He simply got sloppy on the National Guard story. See if you can name one–just one–other story by Rather that demonstrated a liberal bias. Hey, expand on that–demonstrate how CBS News is somehow left-leaning. Betcha can’t.

Fox News, on the other hand, pours out a continuous stream of right-wing rhetoric and talking points. Right-wing commentators abound, and even their main anchors shill for the Bush administration. One example: Brit Hume, Fox News’ anchor, intentionally took Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words out of context and made it sound like he was proposing the privatization of Social Security when in fact he was saying the opposite. A quick look at Roosevelt’s original statement and it becomes very clear that there is no way you could read that and come away with Hume’s spin; furthermore, in order for Hume to have misrepresented Roosevelt the way he did, he would have had to carefully choose exactly which words to extract to give the wrong impression. In short, it was not an error or misunderstanding, but rather a deliberate act. This is just one example of the constant right-wing bias coming from Fox.

Furthermore, as a former Fox News staffer points out in this article, the Fox News team gets its political talking points from its chairman, who is rabidly right-wing:

Editorially, the FNC newsroom is under the constant control and vigilance of management. The pressure ranges from subtle to direct.  First of all, it’s a news network run by one of the most high-profile political operatives of recent times. Everyone there understands that FNC is, to a large extent, “Roger’s Revenge” – against what he considers a liberal, pro-Democrat media establishment that has shunned him for decades. For the staffers, many of whom are too young to have come up through the ranks of objective journalism, and all of whom are non-union, with no protections regarding what they can be made to do, there is undue motivation to please the big boss.

… the roots of FNC’s day-to-day on-air bias are actual and direct. They come in the form of an executive memo distributed electronically each morning, addressing what stories will be covered and, often, suggesting how they should be covered. To the newsroom personnel responsible for the channel’s daytime programming, The Memo is the bible. If, on any given day, you notice that the Fox anchors seem to be trying to drive a particular point home, you can bet The Memo is behind it.

The idea that Rather and CBS News were or are even a hundredth as liberal as Fox is conservative, is simply a load of bull. The next time you hear anyone say different, you call them on it.

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  1. R
    October 27th, 2005 at 17:33 | #1

    Nice comparison of forged documents.

    Regarding the memo sends out to Fox employees every day though …this shouldn’t be surprising at all and I would expect something like this on any news network: “this is what we’ll be covering today.”

    In the documentary “OUTFOXED: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism” they made a huge deal about this memo and I had a hard time giving a crap.

    It reminded me of people who go around saying “you know…corporations don’t really care about you…they just want to make money” like they are you telling you something secretive nobody knows.

    And we all know Fox News is conservative/anti liberal. Big Shocker there.

  2. Luis
    October 27th, 2005 at 18:59 | #2

    The big deal about Fox’s Memo was not that there was a memo, and not that it talked about what stories to cover. The deal is that the memo instructed reporters as to the political slant of the n ews they were reporting. Journalists are supposed to be objective, which means that everything from the stories they choose, the interviews they carry out, the editing they do, and the commentary they make should be non-biased and should give a clear, objective view of the issue so as to inform, not to persuade.

    The role of editors or publishers in a professional, ideal newsroom is to guide the reporters to do their job correctly–if anything, making them more objective, not less.

    Therefore, the significance of The Memo was that it forced all Fox News journalists, commentators and anchors to be biased, which is considered bad journalism (not “fair and balanced”), and even beyond that, to pound home a political point of view that supported a specific political party. That’s not “news,” that’s overt propoganda. You want to call it the “Fox Right-wing Propaganda Channel,” or “Fox Propaganda” and that’s accurate. But Fox “News”? No.

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