Meet A Token Liberal
If you believe everything the Fox News Channel says, you're either a conservative or an idiot.
For years, the right-wing brainchild of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes has been making money pushing the right-wing agenda of its conservative commentators, all in the name of "fair and balanced news." In the network's sea of conservatives, however, there is one anomaly. His name is Alan Colmes.
Alan Colmes is the only "liberal" on the Fox News Channel, or so the network tells us. When USA Today asked about his political ideology, the "liberal" co-host of Hannity and Colmes -- Fox's answer to CNN's Crossfire -- replied, "I'm quite moderate." This, in contrast, to co-host Sean Hannity, a self-proclaimed "staunch-conservative," a protégé of Newt Gingrich and the host of his own conservative radio talk show.
Hannity also recently signed a contract with ABC Radio to continue his conservative spinning for $10 million a year. He is also a popular paid-speaker, sometimes collecting over $10,000 per event. Colmes, on the other hand, was fired from his radio show. He doesn't publish liberal op-eds, have a large following outside of New York or speak at liberal functions. Is there a problem here?
Colmes, who transmits as much screen-presence as a box of comic books, is often uninformed and unprepared in his questioning. Though he has five years of television experience, he has failed to develop as a TV commentator. He frequently stutters when asking questions, isn't knowledgeable about political theory and resorts to quick jokes when he can't think of a response. On occasion, he asks, to paraphrase, "Well you wouldn't agree with me because you're conservative, right?" This, compared to the polished and precise Hannity.
In an interview with LeisureSuit Media (I guess the "liberal media" isn't rushing to interview him), Colmes was asked about his favorite magazines and newspapers. Colmes rattled off traditional favorites, The New York Times and Washington Post, but also promoted (to be balanced, he says) a few others most liberals usually don't frequent or care to acknowledge: The New York Post and the Washington Times. Liberal, huh?
Taking this mixed and confused ideology to television neither benefits Colmes nor liberals. An experienced viewer of Bill Press on "Crossfire" will grimace in pain as Colmes gets whipped every single segment, either by Hannity or his own incompetence. When scandal queen Paula Jones appeared on the Fox News show after her stint on "Celebrity Boxing," Colmes joked amicably with her even when there was a clear opportunity to point out the hypocrisy of Jones's attacks on Clinton and her own public image: she has appeared nude in "Penthouse" and on Fox's questionable program.
Indeed, if Alan Colmes were to host his own show it would be titled, "Softball." In a March 27 interview with "Independent counsel" Robert Ray, who completed Kenneth Starr's investigation and is now seeking the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in New Jersey, half of Colmes' questions were about Hillary Clinton, insinuating the former First Lady is difficult to work with. Further, none of his questions ever established the vindictive nature of the Independent Counsel's report. Colmes devoted nearly two minutes to questions that are offered to kindergarteners, not Republican operatives. In the segment, Colmes asked no questions about the actual Whitewater investigation and the nearly 7-year witch-hunt that cost taxpayers $73 million.
So what are we supposed to make of Colmes, a man who isn't even an ardent support of liberal or progressive philosophies (he once The Tampa Tribune that he's "never really thought much about" his political orientation, "but my positions tend to fall left of center), has been a relative failure on radio and has never written for any liberal publications or is well-regarded on the left? Not much.
In the puppet show that is the Fox News Channel, as Bill Press once told Bill O'Reilly, viewers want to hear their own opinions reinforced. That's what drives the ratings. And that's why Alan Colmes is so good. He reinforces the idea that liberals are disorganized bumblers. He makes conservatives feel better about themselves because he is smacked down by his more articulate and intelligent ideological counterpart.
Alan Colmes is a stand-in for a true liberal. Though he seems like a genuinely nice guy - his radio fans cite his personality, not political commentary, as his best feature - he is a poor fit as a news commentator among the abrasive and obnoxious Fox News conservatives. Until the Fox News Channel replaces him with someone worthy to carry the mantra of "liberal," Rupert Murdoch's network will always be a "faux," plain and simple.
Eric Hananoki is the editor of The Hamster.