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.
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?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.