Fox Leans Right, White, and Male
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FAIRs latest study of Fox s Special Report with Brit Hume finds the networks flagship news show still listing rightheavily favoring conservative and Republican guests in its one-on-one interviews. And, according to the study, Special Report rarely features women or non-white guests in these prominent newsmaker interview spots.
In previous studies FAIR has found that looking at a shows guest list is one of the most reliable methods for gauging its perspective. In the case of Special Report , the single one-on-one interview with anchor Brit Hume is a central part of the newscast, and the anchor often uses his high-profile guests comments as subject matter for the shows wrap-up panel discussion. If Fox is the fair & balanced network it claims to be, then the guest list of what Fox calls its signature news show ought to reflect a diverse spectrum of ideas and sources.
FAIRs current study looked at 25 weeks of Special Report s one-on-one interview segments (6/30/0312/19/03), finding 101 guests. FAIR classified each guest by political ideology, party affiliation (where applicable), gender and ethnicity. When FAIR first studied Special Report in 2001, the dominance of conservative guests was so overwhelming (71 percent of all guests) that we used just two ideological categories, conservative and non-conservative. The latter included guests with no discernible political ideology.
When FAIRs second study in 2002 found conservative guests had dropped to less than half of the total, we added a left of center category for comparison purposes. Though the left of center category was more broadly defined than the conservative category since many right-of-center guests were not counted as conservativesconservatives still outnumbered those on the left, 14 to one.
For this study three ideological categories were used: conservative, centrist and progressive. Guests affiliated with openly conservative, centrist or progressive think tanks, magazines or advocacy groups, or who openly promote such views, are labeled as such. Guests who do not avow an ideologysuch as military operations experts and journalists who decline to reveal their own political inclinationswere categorized as non-ideological.
As with earlier FAIR studies of Special Report , Republicans were not automatically counted as conservatives and Democrats were not automatically counted as liberals. For instance, Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller, who champions many conservative causes and openly campaigns for George Bush, is classified as an ideological conservative. Likewise, Georgia Democratic congressmember Jim Marshall, who has one of the most conservative voting records of any congressional Democrat, was classified as a centrist, as was Democrat Susan Estrich, who was a member of Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggers transition team and has implored Democrats to move to the center. Dennis Ross, who has served under Republican and Democratic administrations and whose positions on the Middle East are center-right, was counted as a centrist for the purposes of this study.
In the past, Special Report featured interviews with moderate Republicans such as Christopher Shays, Christine Todd Whitman and David Gergen who were counted as non-conservatives under the earlier classification system. Only one Republican was counted as a centrist in the current study period: Noah Feldman, a legal expert who worked for the Bush administration in Iraq.
Conservative & Republican
Fifty-seven percent of Special Report s one-on-one guests during the period studied were ideological conservatives, 12 percent were centrists and 11 percent were progressives.
Twenty percent of guests were non-ideological. Among ideological guests, conservatives accounted for 72 percent, while centrists made up 15 percent and progressives 14 percent. (The total exceeds 100 percent due to rounding.). Viewers were roughly five times more likely to see a conservative interviewed on Special Report than a progressive.
The five-to-one conservative-to-progressive imbalance is actually a marked improvement from FAIRs 2002 study, which found that left-of-center gueststhree percent of the totalwere outnumbered 14 to one. In the 2002 study, however, conservative dominance was less marked, at 48 percent of total guests.
Special Report s guestlist shows a similarly heavy slant toward Republicans. Forty-two guests were current or former Democratic or Republican officials, candidates, political appointees or advisers. Guests who had past affiliations with both Republicans and Democrats were counted as nonpartisan; for example, Dennis Rosshaving served under presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clintonwas classified as non-partisan.
Of the 42 partisan guests, 35 were Republicans and only seven were Democratsa five-to-one imbalance. Furthermore, of the handful of Democrats that did appear, the majority were centrist or conservative, and frequently expressed views more typical of Republican guests. For example, centrist Rep. Jim Marshall (10/23/03) argued that the media werent covering the good news in Iraq, while Sen. Zell Miller talked about his dissatisfaction with the Democratic party and his fondness for George Bush. Thirty-four of the 35 Republicans who appeared were conservatives; only one, Noah Feldman, was classified as a centrist.
The five-to-one partisan imbalance represents a greater slant than FAIRs 2002 study, which found Republicans outnumbering Democrats by three to two, though it is still better than FAIRs 2001 study, which found Special Report s guest list favoring Republicans by more than eight to one (50 vs. 6). After the 2001 study, the shows anchor, Fox managing editor Brit Hume, told the New York Times that, though he had yet to read the findings, if it is a reasonable question, and we find that there is some imbalance, then well correct it.
White & male
Special Report continues to overwhelmingly favor white and male guests: As in 2002, only 7 percent of guests were women, and the percentage of people of color rose only slightly, to 11 percent from 7 percent in 2001 and 2002. In 2003, only one woman of color was featured in a one-on-one interview: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
As in past studies, those women and people of color who did appear on Special Report were remarkably conservative. Four of the seven appearances by women were by conservative Republicans and two were by centrist Democrat Susan Estrich. No progressive women appeared in the study period. Of the seven guests of color (accounting for 11 appearances), five were conservative and only one was progressive, journalist Charles Cobb of allAfrica.com.
The one person of color classified as non-ideological, Mansoor Ijaz, accounted for five appearances. Ijaz, a wealthy investment manager of South Asian heritage who has expressed support for Hillary Clinton, is also a frequent and vocal booster of neo-conservative causes and difficult to label ideologically. Leading all other guests with five appearances during the period studiedhes appeared on Fox more than 100 times on other occasionsIjaz regularly echoes Bush White House and neo-conservative claims about global threats, ignoring evidence while citing only shadowy, unnamed sources.
Imbalanced All Around
Conservatives often defend Fox s rightward slant by claiming that it simply counterbalances a predominantly left-leaning media. But previous FAIR studies have found that, across the supposedly liberal media, Republican sources dominateand Fox simply skews even farther to the right.
FAIRs original 2001 study of Special Report included a comparison to CNN s Wolf Blitzer Reports which favored Republicans 57 to 43 percent. And a 2002 FAIR study of the three major networks nightly news broadcasts found an even greater imbalance than on CNN : Of partisan sources, 75 percent were Republican and only 24 percent Democrats. The differences among the networks were negligible; CBS had the most Republicans (76 percent) while ABC had the fewest (73 percent).
Even NPR , characterized by conservative critics as liberal radio, favored Republican sources over Democrats by a ratio of more than three to two in a recent study of its main news shows. And Republican political domination doesnt explain the imbalance: In FAIRs 1993 study of NPR , when Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, Republicans still outnumbered Democrats 57 to 42 percent.
In our second study of Special Report, FAIR remarked, While Special Report can claim to have moderated its imbalance with regard to Republican and conservative guests, the show still falls short of reflecting the diverse ideas and communities of the United States. With current findings indicating that the show has tipped back toward increased imbalance, it becomes harder to defend Special Report from charges that it chooses its guests based on political sympathies, not news judgment.
Research assistance: Daniel Butterworth and Jon Whiten This study was commissioned for the film Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism by Robert Greenwald.