12 Unbelievably Awful Things Fox News Did This Year
2012 was a dismal year for Fox News. The PR arm of the GOP failed to fulfill its prime directive: advancing the interests of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. It spent much of the year constructing an alternative reality that left millions of its flock in shock when President Obama won an overwhelming reelection. It refused to accept the facts on the ground and denigrated polls (even its own) when the results conflicted with the fictional narrative it was peddling. And perhaps most painful of all, Fox surrendered its ratings lead to MSNBC. Two-thirds of its primetime lineup (Hannity and Van Susteren) dropped to second place behind the competition on MSNBC (Maddow and O’Donnell). However, Fox’s travails did not occur for lack of effort. It was clearly operating at the top of its capacity to distort and deceive. In the process it unleashed some of the most feverishly biased reporting, even for Fox News. What follows are a few of the worst departures from ethical journalism by Fox in the last year.
The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward revealed that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes had dispatched a Fox News defense analyst, to Kabul, Afghanistan to recruit Gen. David Petraeus as a GOP candidate for president. The notion of a news network soliciting candidates for political office is a perversion of the role journalists play in society. In response, Ailes claimed that it was “a joke” and that he “thought the Republican [primary] field needed to be shaken up.” Where Ailes got the idea that it was his right and/or duty to shake up the GOP primaries is unexplained. News people are supposed to report the news, not make it. Woodward’s story affirms that Fox News is a rogue operation. Its intrusion into the political process debases journalism by breaching all standards of ethical conduct. And it debases democracy as well by exploiting its power and wealth to manipulate political outcomes.
Last May on Fox & Friends, the program’s hosts introduced a video that purported to examine “Four Years of Hope and Change.” What it was in reality was a four-plus minute campaign video that presented a variety of soundbites by President Obama accompanied by ominous graphics and eerie music that falsely implied his campaign promises were unkept. The video (which Media Matters thoroughly debunks here) could not have been a more pro-Romney, anti-Obama attack had it been produced by the Republican National Committee. Apparently Fox News also recognized the gross inappropriateness of its anti-Obama attack ad. Minutes after the video was posted online it was removed. Later, an edited version was re-posted, and then that too was removed. Eventually, Fox EVP Bill Shine issued a statement scapegoating an “associate producer” and concluding that the matter “has been addressed.” But it’s difficult for Fox to absolve itself of responsibility for this atrociously unethical affair. By now it is so obvious that Fox exists only to promote Republicans and bash Democrats that this video fits squarely within its mission.
In a discussion of the role of women in the military, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta expressed an opinion about new rules from the Pentagon that would permit women to serve closer to the front lines. Trotta’s take on this centered on the problems faced by servicewomen who are sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers whom she regards as whiners because they won’t shut up and accept the fact that if they work closely with men they should expect to be assaulted. And if that weren’t bad enough, Trotta went on to complain about the expensive military bureaucracy set up to “support women in the military who are now being raped too much.” I would really like to know precisely how much rape is acceptable before it crosses Trotta’s line. Is there any context in which she might have meant that that isn’t unfathomably repulsive?