Last night, as denizens of the liberal blogosphere likely know by now, the Huffington Post published an internal memo from Fox News’ veep of news.
The memo informed Fox news employees to “be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem controlled Congress,” and “just because Dems won, the war on terror isn’t over.”
Yes, and your point is? With all the righteous indignation that was spewed back in 2003 when ex-Fox Newser Charlie Reina claimed that the news division sends out a daily memo explaining to employees how to spin the news rightward, and other news-memo leaks over the years, this path is pretty well-worn.
Besides, at this point in the great Bias Wars, anyone who claims that Fox doesn’t tilt right is either lying to themselves or being disingenuous for the sake of argument. There’s nothing wrong with Fox having a conservative point of view — as long as everyone is honest about it. But lefty outlets like the Huffington Post just can’t seem to get their fill.
It is interesting to note, however, that on November 9, the day the memo was released, on the Fox News show “Live Desk,” host Martha MacCallum claimed that there are “some reports of cheering in the streets on the behalf of the supporters of the insurgency in Iraq, that they’re very pleased with the way things are going here and also with the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld.”
Never mind that saying “some reports” — without evidence to support your contention — makes the whole claim suspect, what was odder still was that just before going to commercial on three separate occasions, “Live Desk” aired — without explaining what it was showing — three clips from a documentary called “Obsession: The Threat of Radical Islam.” The clips of what we assume are terrorist training camps simply ran before cutting to commercial, leaving us scratching our heads as to what exactly Fox was trying to do.
But the non-bombshell memo reminds us of another non-bombshell memo that partisans in the blogosphere tried to hype.
In October 2004 a memo from ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin was leaked, in which Halperin outlined some things ABC reporters should look out for in covering the Bush/Kerry presidential race. (Let’s not forget that Halperin is same guy who recently told Hugh Hewitt that reporters are “overwhelmingly liberal,” hate the military and have “huge biases” either for or against “gays, guns, abortion, and many other things.”)
Anyway, Halperin’s innocuous memo said that
…the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.
Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.
We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn’t mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides “equally” accountable when the facts don’t warrant that.
I’m sure many of you have this week felt the stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage. This is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.
The righty blogs erupted, claiming that ABC’s “liberal bias” had finally been exposed, when in reality all Halperin said was that if one side fudges facts more than the other, it’s the job of ABC’s reporters to call them on it, instead of reverting to the weak-kneed “he said, she said” method of reporting which is currently sinking American journalism.
Probably the best line written about the Halperin non-story came from the often unintentionally hilarious right-wing blog, Powerline, which wrote, “Drudge has the most astonishing media bombshell ever. ABC News’ Political Director Mark Halperin has directed the ABC News staff to support John Kerry … Is it conceivable that President Bush can survive the media onslaught, unprecedented in American history, that has been unleashed against him?”
Stuff like that makes it hard to decide whether rabid partisans like Powerline — and take your pick on the left — actually believe what they’re saying, or if they’re just trying to play to the crowd.
Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.
Regardless, the latest Fox News memo takes it place alongside the Halperin memo and other infinitely insignificant memos. It exposed nothing important, but it sure made for some good copy.