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Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Media, Politics | 10 comments

Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” Virtual Political Ad Against Obama Further Damages (or Reaffirms?) Fox News’ Image

I’ve always defended Fox News (including in a recent post and in comments) as a network that has many solid news and technical pros working for it who cannot and should not be lumped in with the overall corporate “niche” and its talk radio style, predictable on the air talent. And this doesn’t make my argument (which I still will make) any easier:

“Fox and Friends” aired a remarkable four-minute video on its Wednesday show.

The video, which the hosts of the show advertised as taking a “look back” at President Obama’s four years in office, could easily be mistaken for a Republican attack ad. It was aired multiple times throughout the show. (UPDATE: Fox News later issued a statement disavowing the ad and attributing it to an associate producer. See the statement below.)

“We decided to take a look back at the president’s first term to see if it lived up to hope and change,” host Gretchen Carlson asked at one point, introducing the video.

In the video —which is labeled as a “Fox and Friends Presents” production — viewers see images of Obama talking about jobs contrasted with footage of homeless people. There is dark, foreboding music, and statistics about the unemployment rate, the rise in the number of food stamps, and the national debt, among other things.

The hosts heaped lavish praise on the producer of the video saying that it had taken a “tremendous amount of research” to put together.

You can judge it for yourself:

The Baltimore Sun’s TV critic David Zurawik wrote, in part:

With Mitt Romney now officially President Obama’s opponent, it truly appears to be game on at the Fox News channel — at least, if this morning’s “Fox & Friends” is any indication.

Today’s version of the morning show featured an anti-Obama video that resembled propaganda films from 1930’s Europe more than it did responsible TV politics of today.

And the remarkable thing was the witless crew on the couch that serves as hosts for this show had the audacity to present it as journalism and congratulate the producer who put it together….

…But as the guy who challenged the Obama administration two years when it tried to deny Fox News access to interviews and other opportunities offered to the media on the grounds that Fox was not a legitimate news operation, I have to tell you even I am shocked by how blatantly Fox is throwing off any pretense of being a journalistic entity with videos like this. Don’t be fooled by Bret Baier’s Boy Scout smile or all the talk about how some shows are news and some are opinion on the channel. Any news organization that puts up this kind of video is rotten to the core.

I wonder if it is part of a larger movement on the right, with conservative media trying to raise its partisan game on behalf of Romney. I wonder.

Media Matters first brought this attention to the new and old media, estimating it’s $100,000 in free political advertising from the GOP.

Meanwhile, due to the growing mini-firestorm (and perhaps yet another blow to its image among those who are not registered Republicans), Fox News’ Executive Vice President Bill Shine issued this short statement (via TV Newser):

“The package that aired on FOX & Friends was created by an associate producer and was not authorized at the senior executive level of the network. This has been addressed with the show’s producers.”

The problem with Fox News is this all feeds into an impression that rather than causing heads to roll this company produced political ad will really cause backs to be patted. It used to be said that journalists must remain “overtly” unbiased; Fox News increasingly is an organization that gives a clear message that it is “overtly” biased.

This tidbit from The Guardian’s blog:

The statement prompted Gabriel Sherman, author of a forthcoming unauthorised biography of Fox News boss Roger Ailes, to point out that Fox presenters had praised the segment on air and namechecked the producer, Chris White. Host Steve Doocy said White had spent two weeks on the segment and had “remembered everthing everyone said”.

Among the raised eyebrows on this: conservative blogger Ed Morrissey, who wrote in an update:

One last point: Several people in the comments argue that F&F is an opinion show, and that this is therefore fair game. That would certainly be true if they wanted to play ads run by other organizations as part of their commentary. My point is that this ad was produced by Fox News itself, and it’s clearly intended to campaign against Obama. That’s the problem with this video, and I think it was ill-advised by Fox to have produced and published it. If CBS News produced a four-minute video extolling all of Obama’s accomplishments, or a four-minute video with this dramatic music and animation ripping Romney for his years in Massachusetts and at Bain Capital, we’d be screaming our heads off, and rightly so.

May I say a word I don’t often use?


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  • The_Ohioan

    I think the problem is it was not an editorial or a political content show like Frontline.

    Here are the FEC rules that might apply:

    Q: What can a person do if he or she is attacked personally on a cablecast?

    A: The personal attack rule applies when “an attack is made upon the honesty, character, integrity, or like personal qualities of an identified person or group” during origination cablecasting concerning controversial issues of public importance. A cable system must give the following to the person or group attacked within one week: (1) notification and identification of the cablecast; (2) a script, tape or accurate summary of the attack; and (3) an offer of a reasonable opportunity to respond over the cable facilities.

    Q: What personal attacks are exempted?

    A: The rule exempts the following: (1) attacks by political candidates and their associates on other candidates and their associates, including attacks that occur during “uses” by candidates; (2) attacks made during bona fide newscasts, bona fide news interviews, and on-the-spot coverage of bona fide news events; and (3) attacks on foreign groups or foreign public figures.

    Q: Can a cable system endorse or oppose a political candidate in an editorial?

    A: Yes, as long as it complies with the political editorial rule. The rule requires the cable system to give to the opposing candidates not endorsed or the opposing candidate the following within 24 hours of a political editorial: (1) notification and identification of the editorial; (2) a script or tape of the editorial, and (3) an offer of a reasonable opportunity for the candidate or his or her spokesperson to respond over the cable facilities. Where an editorial is cablecast within 72 hours prior to election day, the cable system is obliged to give notice and an opportunity to respond sufficiently far enough in advance to enable the candidate opposed or not endorsed a reasonable opportunity to prepare a response and to present it in a timely fashion.

    So if the “ad” falls into any of these categories, Obama should get a free 4 minutes on Fox?

  • labman57

    The issue is not that FOX News is critical of the Democratic party and everything Obama. The issue is that they are critical simply to be critical. Their boss (Ailes) has publicly acknowledged that their main mission shall be to criticize Obama’s policies, no matter what they are, and hence they have lost all objectivity.

    They have reduced themselves to be a propaganda tool for the conservative base — the functional equivalent of a Political Action Committee. That is certainly their right, but they lose the right to claim “fair and balanced” and to behave self-righteous and indignant when called out on it.

  • StockBoyLA

    ONe of the main points of the video, mentioned several times, is the increasing gas and food prices. They even mention that Exxon is making $40 billion a year in profit.

    I thought these prices were set by the marketplace. Supply and demand. What sorts of policies would Fox News like the government to undertake? Subsidies to oil and gas companies so they continue to make record profits, but the American consumer pays less? And laws to limit American oil and gas from being shipped overseas to foreign markets? Sounds more like a combination of communism (where the state controls the natural resources and prices) and private greed (where companies make literally tens of billions of profits. And if the federal government pays for more subsidies to oil and gas companies, where will the government get the money? Talk about runaway spending!

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Your title says it all, Joe: Yes and yes.

  • dduck

    Today I am a Democrat and a Fox hater.
    This was so far over the line that a head or two should roll. This guy did such a good job producing this “report” that Goebbels would give him the Iron Cross and Leni” Riefenstahl would applaud. And certainly if he is fired, he can get a Super Pac job in a second.
    Bottom line: Ailes should be DEEPLY ashamed.

  • StockBoyLA

    This is just meat to the conservatives. This is now out on the internet. Conservatives who want to believe this junk will just use this as one more excuse to show how the “liberal media” controls things…. it’s the “liberal media” which is the problem.

    Never mind that some conservatives don’t like this. This still appeals to the conservatives who won’t change their mind on anything. This is what poisons national discourse in the country. Regardless of who “denounces” it.

    And the producer shouldn’t be fired…. he could find a job with a super-PAC and earn more money. That’s not a “punishment”. He should stay at Fox…. and if Fox really wanted to be “fair and balanced” they would make him write pro-Obama ads and programming.

  • dduck

    I have to admire the “liberal media” today, namely the NYT. They put Obama’s nose in his own poop on their editorial page:
    “It has been clear for years that the Obama administration believes the shadow war on terrorism gives it the power to choose targets for assassination, including Americans, without any oversight.”
    “but, like all occupants of the Oval Office, he is a politician, subject to the pressures of re-election. ”

  • joeychan

    one honest at fox sep smith and only shep smith

  • Roger Ailes wanted to call Fox news GOPTV. Murdoch thought that would be a bad idea in name but not content wise.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    joeychan says:

    “one honest at fox sep smith and only shep smith”

    I have always thought that, too. I wonder how much longer he’ll last.

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