Over the last two weeks, Fox News Channel has continued to distance itself from its supposed commitment to "fair and balanced" reporting. In a clear demonstration of political bias, Carl Cameron, Fox News' chief political correspondent, wrote an item for the Fox News web site in which he used fabricated quotes to present a distorted and inaccurate image of Sen. John Kerry.
The item was posted on the web site on Friday, Oct. 1. As reported by the Associated Press, Mr. Cameron quoted Sen. Kerry as having made the following statements at a rally in Tampa, Fla.: "Women should like me! I do manicures,"; "Didn't my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate!"; "I'm metrosexual – [Bush's] a cowboy."
Sen. Kerry never made these statements, and they serve no purpose other than to unjustly ridicule and mischaracterize Sen. Kerry. When these inaccuracies were picked up on by the blog community and exposed by several news outlets, the story was removed from the Fox News web site. As part of its mea culpa, Fox (according to a statement issued by the company) "reprimanded" Mr. Cameron for a "poor attempt at humor." Fox has not said how Mr. Cameron has been reprimanded.
The following day, on Saturday, Oct. 2, a second inaccurate item was posted on the Fox News web site in which a representative of "Communists for Kerry" was interviewed. The organization's representative said the following: "We're trying to get Comrade Kerry elected and get that capitalist enabler George Bush out of office Even though he [Kerry], too, is a capitalist, he supports my socialist values more than President Bush."
This is all well and good, except that "Communists for Kerry" is not a real organization. In reality, it is the creation of a Republican 527 political committee, "The Hellgate Republican Club." Their intent is to lampoon and defame Sen. Kerry by linking him with communism. To print a quote from "Communists for Kerry" without explaining the organization's background is, to say the least, negligent.
Ever since the scandal surrounding the authenticity of the "60 Minutes" memos broke, the integrity and journalistic ethics of our media institutions have been at issue as perhaps never before. Fox News should be obligated to follow the example of CBS News and begin an investigation of its own clearly inadequate journalistic standards and practices. A rudimentary fact checking of the "Communists for Kerry" item would have revealed the group's origins. This was clearly not done, as the background of the organization is made readily available on the "Communists for Kerry" web site (as well as from other sources) and is easily accessed on a search engine such as Google.
With regard to Mr. Cameron, a slap-on-the-wrist "reprimand" does not sufficiently reflect the severity of his offense, nor does it reflect a commitment to sound journalism. The only way to send the proper message to Mr. Cameron and ensure the trust of the viewing public is to remove him from the network's coverage of Sen. Kerry's presidential campaign. Mr. Cameron's overt political biases are already well documented, most notably in Robert Greenwald's "Outfoxed" documentary, which contains part of a 2000 interview in which Cameron told then-candidate George W. Bush how delighted Cameron's wife was with the opportunity to campaign with Bush's sister and talked about Bush's "counterpunches" against his opponent, former Vice President Al Gore.
But to expect accountability from Fox News is, sadly, unrealistic. Biased coverage and lax interpretation of the ethics of journalism have been the underlying hallmarks of the Fox News Channel. Perhaps one day, after enough of these lies and instances of bias are exposed, the network will respond in the manner of a respectable news organization.