Following What Donald Trump Says And Tweets

The miracles of modern technology now provides a simple tool to keep up with everything Donald Trump has said on any topic. A searchable database can be found here which contains all of Donald Trump’s public statements, including tweets, videos, and material from his campaign website. This even includes deleted tweets, and an indication of the time since his last tweet. At present there are 2,457,084 total words, 254.3 hours of video, 30,379 tweets, and 153 deleted tweets. You are on your own to sort out the contradictions and absurdities.

They are testing the system with Donald Trump, with plans to possibly extend this to others in the future.

For those who prefer a more curated report on what Trump has said, or prefer a pro-Trump, source, there is always Fox. For a while, especially with Megyn Kelley there and Roger Ailes gone, it looked like there was a chance that Fox might be less partisan, or at least not be a pro-Trump organ comparable to the Bush years. While Megyn Kelley has her faults, she would at least present news critical of both Trump and Clinton during the presidential campaign–often making her preferable to both others on Fox, and to MSNBC during prime time. However, her time slot is now being given to Trump supporter Tucker Carlson.

The long term bias of Fox remains uncertain. Rupert Murdoch is more centrist and less partisan than Ailes, and tends to back the party in power. It is conceivable that he might support future Democratic administrations, or possibly even break with Trump, not having been so favorable towards Trump at times during the campaign.

Idea For Fox Began With Roger Ailes In Nixon White House

Gawker uncovered this document showing how Roger Ailes came up with the idea of using television to circumvent the real news media to deliver “pro-administration” stories to viewers during the Nixon era. The advantage of television was that, “People are lazy. With television you just sit — watch — listen. The thinking is done for you.”

Richard Nixon didn’t survive, but Roger Ailes went on to put his plan into action at Fox.

How Roger Ailes Uses Propaganda To Promote Right Wing Extremism and Spread Misinformation

Rolling Stone looks at Fox. They demonstrate,  as others  have pointed out previously, that Roger Ailes, not Rupart Murdoch, is the larger problem. The story shows how he has used misinformation, often fueled by his own extremist world to shape the Republican message and dominate Republican politics. This included his fear of Muslims, which is reflected in coverage at Fox.

Fear, in fact, is precisely what Ailes is selling: His network has relentlessly hyped phantom menaces like the planned “terror mosque” near Ground Zero, inspiring Florida pastor Terry Jones to torch the Koran. Privately, Murdoch is as impressed by Ailes’ business savvy as he is dismissive of his extremist politics. “You know Roger is crazy,” Murdoch recently told a colleague, shaking his head in disbelief. “He really believes that stuff.”

To watch even a day of Fox News – the anger, the bombast, the virulent paranoid streak, the unending appeals to white resentment, the reporting that’s held to the same standard of evidence as a late-­October attack ad – is to see a refraction of its founder, one of the most skilled and fearsome operatives in the history of the Republican Party. As a political consultant, Ailes repackaged Richard Nixon for television in 1968, papered over Ronald Reagan’s budding Alzheimer’s in 1984, shamelessly stoked racial fears to elect George H.W. Bush in 1988, and waged a secret campaign on behalf of Big Tobacco to derail health care reform in 1993. “He was the premier guy in the business,” says former Reagan campaign manager Ed Rollins. “He was our Michelangelo.”

In the fable Ailes tells about his own life, he made a clean break with his dirty political past long before 1996, when he joined forces with Murdoch to launch Fox News. “I quit politics,” he has claimed, “because I hated it.” But an examination of his career reveals that Ailes has used Fox News to pioneer a new form of political campaign – one that enables the GOP to bypass skeptical reporters and wage an around-the-clock, partisan assault on public opinion. The network, at its core, is a giant soundstage created to mimic the look and feel of a news operation, cleverly camouflaging political propaganda as independent journalism.

The result is one of the most powerful political machines in American history. One that plays a leading role in defining Republican talking points and advancing the agenda of the far right. Fox News tilted the electoral balance to George W. Bush in 2000, prematurely declaring him president in a move that prompted every other network to follow suit. It helped create the Tea Party, transforming it from the butt of late-night jokes into a nationwide insurgency capable of electing U.S. senators. Fox News turbocharged the Republican takeover of the House last fall, and even helped elect former Fox News host John Kasich as the union-busting governor of Ohio – with the help of $1.26 million in campaign contributions from News Corp. And by incubating a host of potential GOP contenders on the Fox News payroll– including Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – Ailes seems determined to add a fifth presidential notch to his belt in 2012. “Everything Roger wanted to do when he started out in politics, he’s now doing 24/7 with his network,” says a former News Corp. executive. “It’s come full circle.”

The article reviewed Ailes’s career, including how he used deception to influence the news. When he took over at Fox, he made sure it only presented his viewpoints:

Ailes then embarked on a purge of existing staffers at Fox News. “There was  a litmus test,” recalled Joe Peyronnin, whom Ailes displaced as head of the network. “He was going to figure out who was liberal or conservative when he came in, and try to get rid of the liberals.” When Ailes suspected a journalist wasn’t far enough to the right for his tastes, he’d spring an accusation: “Why are you a liberal?” If staffers had worked at one of the major news networks, Ailes would force them to defend working at a place  like CBS – which he spat out as “the Communist Broadcast System.” To replace the veterans he fired, Ailes brought in droves of inexperienced up-and-comers – enabling him to weave his own political biases into the network’s DNA. To oversee the young newsroom, he recruited John Moody, a  conservative veteran of Time. As recounted by journalist Scott Collins in Crazy Like a Fox, the Chairman gave Moody explicit ideological marching orders. “One of the problems we have to work on here together when we start this network is that most journalists are liberals,” Ailes told Moody. “And  we’ve got to fight that.” Reporters understood that a right-wing bias was hard-wired into what they did from the start. “All outward appearances were  that it was just like any other newsroom,” says a former anchor. “But you  knew that the way to get ahead was to show your color – and that your color  was red.” Red state, that is.

Ailes biggest accomplishment was to proclaim George Bush the winner of the 2000 election when subsequent reviews of the vote showed that Al Gore would have won with a state-wide recount:

But it was the election of George W. Bush in 2000 that revealed the true power of Fox News as a political machine. According to a study of voting patterns by the University of California, Fox News shifted roughly 200,000 ballots to Bush in areas where voters had access to the network. But Ailes, ever the political operative, didn’t leave the outcome to anything as dicey as the popular vote. The man he tapped to head the network’s “decision desk”  on election night – the consultant responsible for calling states for either  Gore or Bush – was none other than John Prescott Ellis, Bush’s first cousin.  As a columnist at The Boston Globe, Ellis had recused himself from covering  the campaign. “There is no way for you to know if I am telling you the truth about George W. Bush’s presidential campaign,” he told his readers, “because in his case, my loyalty goes to him and not to you.”

In any newsroom worthy of the name, such a conflict of interest would have immediately disqualified Ellis. But for Ailes, loyalty to Bush was an asset.  “We at Fox News,” he would later tell a House hearing, “do not discriminate  against people because of their family connections.” On Election Day, Ellis  was in constant contact with Bush himself. After midnight, when a wave of late numbers showed Bush with a narrow lead, Ellis jumped on the data to  declare Bush the winner – even though Florida was still rated too close to  call by the vote-tracking consortium used by all the networks. Hume  announced Fox’s call for Bush at 2:16 a.m. – a move that spurred every other network to follow suit, and led to bush wins headlines in the morning papers.

“We’ll never know whether Bush won the election in Florida or not,” says Dan  Rather, who was anchoring the election coverage for CBS that night. “But  when you reach these kinds of situations, the ability to control the narrative becomes critical. Led by Fox, the narrative began to be that Bush had won the election.”

Dwell on this for a moment: A “news” network controlled by a GOP operative  who had spent decades shaping just such political narratives – including those that helped elect the candidate’s father – declared George W. Bush the victor based on the analysis of a man who had proclaimed himself loyal to  Bush over the facts. “Of everything that happened on election night, this was the most important in impact,” Rep. Henry Waxman said at the time. “It immeasurably helped George Bush maintain the idea in people’s minds that he was the man who won the election.”

After Bush took office, Ailes stayed in frequent touch with the new Republican president. “The senior-level editorial people believe that Roger was on the phone every day with Bush,” a source close to Fox News tells Rolling Stone. “He gave Bush the same kind of pointers he used to give George H.W. Bush – delivery, effectiveness, political coaching.” In the aftermath of 9/11, Ailes sent a back-channel memo to the president through Karl Rove, advising Bush to ramp up the War on Terror. As reported by Bob Woodward, Ailes advised Bush that “the American public would tolerate waiting and would be patient, but only as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible.”

After the Bush years, Ailes has used his influence to terrorize and misinform  his audience,  spread scare stories about Barack Obama, and promote far right wing causes:

Ailes knows exactly who is watching Fox News each day, and he is adept at playing to their darkest fears in the age of Obama. The network’s viewers are old, with a median age of 65: Ads cater to the immobile, the infirm and the incontinent, with appeals to join class action hip-replacement lawsuits, spots for products like Colon Flow and testimonials for the services of Liberator Medical (“Liberator gave me back the freedom I haven’t had since I started using catheters”). The audience is also almost exclusively white – only 1.38 percent of viewers are African-American. “Roger understands audiences,” says Rollins, the former Reagan consultant. “He knew how to target, which is what Fox News is all about.” The typical viewer of Hannity, to take the most stark example, is a pro-business (86 percent), Christian conservative (78 percent), Tea Party-backer (75 percent) with no college degree (66 percent), who is over age 50 (65 percent), supports the NRA (73 percent), doesn’t back gay rights (78 percent) and thinks government “does too much” (84 percent). “He’s got a niche audience and he’s programmed to it beautifully,” says a former News Corp. colleague. “He feeds them exactly what they want to hear.”

From the time Obama began contemplating his candidacy, Fox News went all-out to convince its white viewers that he was a Marxist, a Muslim, a black nationalist and a 1960s radical. In early 2007, Ailes joked about the similarity of Obama’s name to a certain terrorist’s. “It is true that Barack Obama is on the move,” Ailes said in a speech to news executives. “I don’t know if it’s true that President Bush called Musharraf and said, ‘Why can’t we catch this guy?’” References to Obama’s middle name were soon being bandied about on Fox & Friends, the morning happy-talk show that Ailes uses as one of his primary vehicles to inject his venom into the media bloodstream. According to insiders, the morning show’s anchors, who appear to be chatting ad-lib, are actually working from daily, structured talking points that come straight from the top. “Prior to broadcast, Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson – that gang – they meet with Roger,” says a former Fox deputy. “And Roger gives them the spin.”

Fox & Friends is where the smear about Obama having attended a madrassa was first broadcast, with Doocy – an Ailes lackey from his days at America’s Talking – stating unequivocally that Obama was “raised as a Muslim.” And during the campaign, the show’s anchors flogged Obama’s reference to his own grandmother as a “typical white person” so relentlessly that it even gave Fox News host Chris Wallace pause. When Wallace appeared on the show that morning, he launched a rebuke that seemed targeted at Ailes as much as Doocy. “I have been watching the show since six o’clock this morning,” Wallace bristled. “I feel like two hours of Obama-bashing may be enough.”

The Obama era has spurred sharp changes in the character and tone of Fox News. “Obama’s election has driven Fox to be more of a political campaign than it ever was before,” says Burns, the network’s former media critic.“Things shifted,” agrees Jane Hall, who fled the network after a decade as a liberal commentator. “There seemed suddenly to be less of a need to have a range of opinion. I began to feel uncomfortable.” Sean Hannity was no longer flanked by Alan Colmes, long the network’s fig-leaf liberal. Bill Sammon, author of At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election, was brought in to replace Moody as the top political enforcer. And Brit Hume was replaced on the anchor desk by Bret Baier, one of the young guns Ailes hired more than a decade ago to inject right-wing fervor into Fox News.

Most striking, Ailes hired Glenn Beck away from CNN and set him loose on the White House. During his contract negotiations, Beck recounted, Ailes confided that Fox News was dedicating itself to impeding the Obama administration. “I see this as the Alamo,” Ailes declared. Leading the charge were the ragtag members of the Tea Party uprising, which Fox News propelled into a nationwide movement. In the buildup to the initial protests on April 15th, 2009, the network went so far as to actually co-brand the rallies as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” Veteran journalists were taken aback. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a news network throw its weight behind a protest like we are seeing in the past few weeks,” said Howard Kurtz, the then-media critic for The Washington Post. The following August, when the Tea Party launched its town-hall protests against health care reform, Fox & Friends urged viewers to confront their congressmen face to face. “Are you gonna call?” Gretchen Carlson demanded on-air, “or are you gonna go to one of these receptions where they’re actually there?” The onscreen Chyron instructed viewers: HOLD CONGRESS ACCOUNTABLE! NOW IS THE TIME TO SPEAK YOUR MIND.

Fox News also hyped Sarah Palin’s lies about “death panels” and took the smear a step further, airing a report claiming that the Department of Veterans Affairs was using a “death book” to encourage soldiers to “hurry up and die.” (Missing from the report was any indication that the end-of-life counseling materials in question had been promoted by the Bush administration.) At the height of the health care debate, more than two-thirds of Fox News viewers were convinced Obama­care would lead to a “government takeover,” provide health care to illegal immigrants, pay for abortions and let the government decide when to pull the plug on grandma. As always, the Chairman’s enforcer made sure that producers down in the Fox News basement were toeing the party line. In October 2009, as Congress weighed adding a public option to the health care law, Sammon let everyone know how Ailes expected them to cover the story. “Let’s not slip back into calling it the ‘public option,’” he warned in an e-mail. “Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance’ … when­ever possible.” Sammon neglected to mention that the phrase he was pushing had been carefully crafted by America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s largest lobbying organization, which had determined that the wording was “the most negative language to use when describing a ‘public plan.’”

The result of this concerted campaign of disinformation is a viewership that knows almost nothing about what’s going on in the world. According to recent polls, Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of all news consumers. They are 12 percentage points more likely to believe the stimulus package caused job losses, 17 points more likely to believe Muslims want to establish Shariah law in America, 30 points more likely to say that scientists dispute global warming, and 31 points more likely to doubt President Obama’s citizenship. In fact, a study by the University of Maryland reveals, ignorance of Fox viewers actually increases the longer they watch the network. That’s because Ailes isn’t interested in providing people with information, or even a balanced range of perspectives. Like his political mentor, Richard Nixon, Ailes traffics in the emotions of victimization.

Update: Conservatives cannot handle the truth. They have been brainwashed by right wing propaganda to the point they do not recognize facts as opposed to right wing fiction.  In contrast, many people in the Soviet Union realized that Pravda was lying.

 

Inside The Fox Propaganda Machine

Fox (I refuse to call it Fox News) has always been a rather curious outfit. We have often seen authoritarian political parties utilize propaganda outfits comparable to Fox, but I do not believe we have ever had a situation where the propaganda outfit has come to dominate the party. New York Magazine has an article on the founding of Fox and events there, including the removal of Glenn Beck.

The full article is well worth reading. The article, like many I have read about Fox, shows that Roger Ailes as opposed to Rupert Murdoch (who considered endorsing Obama over McCain) is the bigger problem there:

Even Rupert Murdoch, sensing the shifting tectonic plates, contemplated a move to the middle. In the summer of 2008, Ailes confronted Murdoch after he learned Murdoch was thinking of endorsing Obama in the New York Post; Ailes threatened to quit. It was a politically vulnerable time for Ailes. Murdoch’s children were agitating for a greater role in the company. Ailes surely understood that their politics, along with those of then–News Corp. president Peter Chernin and communications adviser Gary Ginsberg, differed greatly from Murdoch’s. The tensions surrounding Ailes played out in the publication of Michael Wolff’s Murdoch biography. Matthew Freud, husband of Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth and a London-based PR executive, encouraged Wolff to portray Fox as a pariah wing of the News Corp. empire. Ailes was furious with Wolff’s account, which was critical of Fox, and Rupert, seeking to quell the turmoil, offered Ailes a new contract. This corporate victory, not to mention Fox’s profits, ensured that Ailes remained unscathed by the succession games playing out among the Murdoch children.

By October 2008, Ailes recognized that Obama was likely to beat McCain. He needed to give his audience a reason to stay in the stands and watch his team. And so he went on a hiring spree. By the time Obama defeated McCain, Ailes had hired former Bush aide Karl Rove and Mike Huckabee and went on to assemble a whole lineup of prospective 2012 contenders: Palin, Gingrich, Santorum, and John Bolton.

It was, more than anything, a business decision. “It would be easy to look at Fox and think it’s conservative because Rupert and Roger are conservative and they program it the way they like. And to a degree, that’s true. But it’s also a business,” a person close to Ailes explained. “And the way the business works is, they control conservative commentary the way ESPN controls the market for sports rights.

Not surprisingly, the Obama administration was great for Fox, which pandered to paranoia about a liberal black president. It was not good if Fox desired to be seen as a legitimate news outlet:

Fox’s record ratings during the beginning of Obama’s presidency quickly put an end to Ailes’s fears that he would be bad for business. The network’s audience hit stratospheric levels as the tea-party rebellion provided a powerful story line that ran through Fox’s coverage. Sometimes Fox personalities took an active role in building the movement, something that Ailes was careful to check if it became too overt. In April 2010, Fox barred Hannity from broadcasting his show at a Cincinnati tea-party rally. “There would not have been a tea party without Fox,” Sal Russo, a former Reagan gubernatorial aide and the founder of the national Tea Party Express tour, told me.

But as Fox was helping to inflate the tea party’s balloon, some of the network’s journalistic ballast was disappearing. Starting in July 2008, a series of high-level departures began when Brit Hume, Ailes’s longtime Washington anchor, announced his retirement inside Fox. Then, three weeks after the election, David Rhodes, Fox’s vice-­president for news, quit to work for Bloomberg. Rhodes had started at Fox as a 22-year-old production assistant and risen through the ranks to become No. 2 in charge of news. His brother was a senior foreign-policy aide to Obama, and Rhodes told staffers that Ailes had expressed concern about this closeness to the White House. Rhodes privately told people he was uncomfortable with where Fox was going in the Obama era.

Fox managed to move even further to the right with the addition of Bill Sammon:

Meanwhile, Hume’s replacement, Bill Sammon, a former Washington Times correspondent, angered Fox’s political reporters, who saw him pushing coverage further to the right than they were comfortable with. Days after Obama’s inauguration, an ice storm caused major damage throughout the Midwest. At an editorial meeting in the D.C. bureau, Sammon told producers that Fox should compare Obama’s response to Bush’s handling of Katrina. “Bush got grief for Katrina,” Sammon said.

“It’s too early; give him some time to respond,” a producer shot back. “This ice storm isn’t Katrina.”

While the major bad guys of the article are Roger Ailes and Bill Sammon, another villain emerged: Hillary Clinton. During the primary campaign I had often noted how Hillary Clinton began to resemble a creature of the right wing far more than a liberal. The article confirmed what we had suspected about her:

There was bad blood left over from the campaign. In the bitter primary fight for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton’s advisers, led by Howard Wolfson, courted Fox and fed them negative research about Obama and John Edwards. “She made some kind of compact with Murdoch,” Obama’s former media adviser Anita Dunn told me.

As Fox continued to promote false right wing narratives, the White House attempted without much success to respond. Beyond the public response, David Axelrod attempted to utilize more quiet diplomacy, but found that this was futile:

While Dunn and others publicly engaged Fox, David Axelrod worked back-­channel diplomacy as the good cop. About a week before Dunn’s CNN appearance, Axelrod secretly sat down with Ailes at the Palm in midtown. They met before the restaurant opened to avoid drawing attention. Axelrod told Ailes they should try to defuse things and work together.

Going back to the 2008 campaign, Axelrod had maintained an off-the-­record dialogue with Ailes. He had faced off against Ailes in a U.S. Senate campaign in the early eighties and respected him as a fellow political warrior and shaper of narrative. But early on, Axelrod learned he couldn’t change Ailes’s outlook on Obama. In one meeting in 2008, Ailes told Axelrod that he was concerned that Obama wanted to create a national police force.

“You can’t be serious,” Axelrod replied. “What makes you think that?”

Ailes responded by e-mailing Axelrod a YouTube clip from a campaign speech Obama had given on national service, in which he called for the creation of a new civilian corps to work alongside the military on projects overseas.

Later, Axelrod related in a conversation that the exchange was the moment he realized Ailes truly believed what he was broadcasting.

News Corp will ultimately be controlled by younger, less conservative, members of the Murdoch family, and Ailes will not remain forever at Fox. There is question as to what will happen to Fox after Ailes retires, and of his legacy:

In the halls of Fox News, people do not want to be caught talking about what will happen to Fox News after the Ailes era. The network continues to be Ailes’s singular vision, and he’s so far declined to name a successor. One possibility in the event Ailes departs when his contract is up in 2013 is that Bill Shine could continue to oversee prime time and Michael Clemente would run the news division. But more than one person described fearing Lord of the Flies–type chaos in the wake of Ailes’s departure, so firm has his grip on power been.

This spring, the announcement by News Corp. that James Murdoch was being promoted to deputy chief operating officer triggered another round of speculation that the accession of the next generation would be problematic for Ailes. So far, James has had little interaction with Ailes. The last time the pair worked closely together was in the late nineties, when James was overseeing News Corp.’s dot-com properties and was briefly in charge of Fox’s website.

James likely witnessed his older brother Lachlan’s frustration over clashing with Ailes (one of the factors that caused Lachlan to leave the company). James has smartly avoided any major interactions with Ailes. Last year, when Matthew Freud criticized Ailes in a Times article, James immediately e-mailed Ailes to say that Freud wasn’t speaking for him. At a budget meeting with Ailes and Rupert a couple of weeks ago, James, who clearly hopes to run the company some day, praised Ailes for his outsize profits. But the future could be different. Rupert’s wife, Wendi, recently agreed to host an Obama fund-raiser with Russell Simmons. “She’s a big fan,” Simmons told me.

Last week, Ailes turned 71. He’s spending considerable time thinking about his legacy. It bothers him that he’s still regarded as an outsider. “He doesn’t want to be hated,” a GOPer who knows Ailes well said. “It really bothers him. You can’t gross a billion a year and retain an outlaw sensibility forever.”

Glenn Beck To End Daily Television Show

Glenn Beck has announced plans to transition off his show on Fox. The parting does appear, at least on the surface,  to be more amicable than the separation of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC. There is no word as to whether Beck plans to voluntarily seek in-patient psychiatric care after leaving Fox. More seriously, there is no acknowledgment of his declining ratings or the number of advertisers who have dropped his show due to not wanting to be associated with the views he promotes.There has been speculation he wants to start his own network but it is questionable how successful this will be. Beck’s brand of craziness will attract a certain number of viewers, but how many reputable companies will want to be associated with him?

Following is the the press release. Details in the release, like everything else coming from either Fox or Beck, needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

FOX NEWS AND MERCURY RADIO ARTS ANNOUNCE NEW AGREEMENT
(New York, NY)  Fox News and Mercury Radio Arts, Glenn Beck’s production company, are proud to announce that they will work together to develop and produce a variety of television projects for air on the Fox News Channel as well as content for other platforms including Fox News’ digital properties. Glenn intends to transition off of his daily program, the third highest rated in all of cable news, later this year.

Roger Ailes, Chairman and CEO of Fox News said, “Glenn Beck is a powerful communicator, a creative entrepreneur and a true success by anybody’s standards.  I look forward to continuing to work with him. ”

Glenn Beck said: “I truly believe that America owes a lot to Roger Ailes and Fox News. I cannot repay Roger for the lessons I’ve learned and will continue to learn from him and I look forward to starting this new phase of our partnership.”

Joel Cheatwood, SVP/Development at Fox News, will be joining Mercury Radio Arts effective April 24, 2011. Part of his role as EVP will be to manage the partnership and serve as a liaison with the Fox News Channel.

Roger Ailes said:  “Joel is a good friend and one of the most talented and creative executives in the business. Over the past four years I have consistently valued his input and advice and that will not stop as we work with him in his new role.”

“Glenn Beck” is consistently the third highest rated program on cable news.

For the 27 months that “Glenn Beck” has aired on Fox News, the program has averaged more than 2.2 million total viewers and 563,000 viewers 25-54 years old, numbers normally associated with shows airing in primetime, not at 5pm. “Glenn Beck” has dominated all of its cable news competitors since launch.

Why Legitimate Journalists Pretend Fox Is A News Outlet

Harold Raines, a former editor of The New York Times asks a good question over at The Washington Post: Why don’t honest journalists take on Roger Ailes and Fox News?

One question has tugged at my professional conscience throughout the year-long congressional debate over health-care reform, and it has nothing to do with the public option, portability or medical malpractice. It is this: Why haven’t America’s old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration — a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?

Through clever use of the Fox News Channel and its cadre of raucous commentators, Ailes has overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II. Yet, many members of my profession seem to stand by in silence as Ailes tears up the rulebook that served this country well as we covered the major stories of the past three generations, from the civil rights revolution to Watergate to the Wall Street scandals. This is not a liberal-versus-conservative issue. It is a matter of Fox turning reality on its head with, among other tactics, its endless repetition of its uber-lie: “The American people do not want health-care reform.”

Fox repeats this as gospel. But as a matter of historical context, usually in short supply on Fox News, this assertion ranks somewhere between debatable and untrue.

The American people and many of our great modern presidents have been demanding major reforms to the health-care system since the administration of Teddy Roosevelt. The elections of 1948, 1960, 1964, 2000 and 2008 confirm the point, with majorities voting for candidates supporting such change. Yet congressional Republicans have managed effective campaigns against health-care changes favored variously by Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Clinton. Now Fox News has given the party of Lincoln a free ride with its repetition of the unexamined claim that today’s Republican leadership really does want to overhaul health care — if only the effort could conform to Mitch McConnell’s ideas on portability and tort reform.

It is true that, after 14 months of Fox’s relentless pounding of President Obama’s idea of sweeping reform, the latest Gallup poll shows opinion running 48 to 45 percent against the current legislation. Fox invariably stresses such recent dips in support for the legislation, disregarding the majorities in favor of various individual aspects of the reform effort. Along the way, the network has sold a falsified image of the professional standards that developed in American newsrooms and university journalism departments in the last half of the 20th century.

Raines proceeded to further discuss how Fox abuses journalistic standards:

For the first time since the yellow journalism of a century ago, the United States has a major news organization devoted to the promotion of one political party. And let no one be misled by occasional spurts of criticism of the GOP on Fox. In a bygone era of fact-based commentary typified, left to right, by my late colleagues Scotty Reston and Bill Safire, these deceptions would have been given their proper label: disinformation.

Under the pretense of correcting a Democratic bias in news reporting, Fox has accomplished something that seemed impossible before Ailes imported to the news studio the tricks he learned in Richard Nixon’s campaign think tank: He and his video ferrets have intimidated center-right and center-left journalists into suppressing conclusions — whether on health-care reform or other issues — they once would have stated as demonstrably proven by their reporting.

There are at least three answers I can think of (none of which are all that good) as to why Fox and the arguments they spread to the rest of the media are not challenged enough:

  1. Far too many journalists are lazy. They don’t see any point in taking on Fox or those who repeat the GOP/Fox line. It is easier to put on a conservative who repeats their usual lies, a liberal who might be telling the truth, and not to bother trying to determine the actual facts.
  2. Accusations of liberal bias. Conservatives whine about a mythical “liberal media” and the lazy journalists decide it isn’t worth fighting. Often this leads to putting on the lying conservative without even bothering to put on the reality-based counter arguments.
  3. Journalists often stick together. Sometimes this might even be due to a misguided belief this is necessary to defend freedom of the press. In reality it is the abuse of journalistic standards by Fox which is harmful to the free press. Fox is essentially a propaganda arm of the Republican Party and it should be treated just as an official GOP press office would be treated, and not as a legitimate news organization.

Dan Rather Showing Progress in Case Against CBS

Before being forced from CBS News, Dan Rather exposed how George Bush had avoided going to Vietnam and fulfilling his National Guard commitments. Even if the controversial, and possibly faked, memos are ignored, Rather still had a strong story based upon other evidence. In his suit against CBS, Rather is showing that instead of being a bastion of a supposedly liberal media, CBS was, as Editor and Publisher puts it, “acting mainly to get the GOP off its back.” The New York Times reports:

So far, Mr. Rather has spent more than $2 million of his own money on the suit. And according to documents filed recently in court, he may be getting something for his money.

Using tools unavailable to him as a reporter — including the power of subpoena and the threat of punishment against witnesses who lie under oath — he has unearthed evidence that would seem to support his assertion that CBS intended its investigation, at least in part, to quell Republican criticism of the network.

Among the materials that money has shaken free for Mr. Rather are internal CBS memorandums turned over to his lawyers, showing that network executives used Republican operatives to vet the names of potential members of a panel that had been billed as independent and charged with investigating the “60 Minutes” segment…

Some of the documents unearthed by his investigation include notes taken at the time by Linda Mason, a vice president of CBS News. According to her notes, one potential panel member, Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, was deemed a less-than-ideal candidate over fears by some that he would not “mollify the right.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Thornburgh, who served as attorney general for both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, was named a panelist by CBS, but only after a CBS lobbyist “did some other testing,” in which she was told, according to Ms. Mason’s notes, “T comes back with high marks from G.O.P.”

Another memorandum turned over to Mr. Rather’s lawyers by CBS was a long typed list of conservative commentators apparently receiving some preliminary consideration as panel members, including Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan. At the bottom of that list, someone had scribbled “Roger Ailes,” the founder of Fox News.

Candidate Accuses Fox News of Bias

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An accusation of bias against Fox News is hardly news, unless the accusation comes from a Republican candidate. Fred Thompson might be right that Fox has been biased against him as the connections between Roger Ailes and Rudy Giulinai are well known. Thompson made an accusation of bias by Fox News in an interview (video above) with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

Fox News: The Unmaking of the Myth

Michael Tomasky has an op-ed in The Guardian describing Fox News. Most readers will not find anything unexpected, but with Fox still pretending to be a news organization it is enjoyable to see this shot down once again. Tomasky begins:

Britons may be familiar with Rupert Murdoch, but I don’t think the UK has a beast quite like the American Fox News Channel. Celebrating its 11th year on the air, Fox is a breathtaking institution. It is a lock, stock and barrel servant of the Republican party, devoted first and foremost to electing Republicans and defeating Democrats; it’s even run by a man, Roger Ailes, who helped elect Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior to the presidency. And yet, because it minimally adheres to certain superficial conventions, it can masquerade as a “news” outfit and enjoy all the rights that accrue to that.

Journalism with a point of view is a fine thing. It’s what I do. The difference is that I say I’m a liberal journalist while Fox executives and “reporters” insist they play it straight. But everyone in the US knows that my description is true. This is precisely why its fans watch it. Walk into any bar, hair salon, gym or motel lobby in the country; if the TV is tuned to Fox rather than CNN, you know that the owner or clientele or both are Republican. It’s a secret – although not actually secret any more – sign of fraternity among conservatives, the way a solid red tie worn by a single urban man used to signal to other urban men that the wearer was indeed “that way”.

So everyone knows, but, because of the conventions of journalistic propriety, Fox can’t admit that it’s a Republican outfit. It would have no credibility with politicians if it did and would be too easily dismissed as “ideological media”. To get around this problem, its marketers devised what must be the most deviously ingenious pair of advertising slogans of all time: “We report, you decide” and “Fair and balanced”.

Tomasky moves on from a general description of Fox to a discussion of Judith Regan’s wrongful dismissal case against Fox News. Not only does Regan have dirt on Fox, she has also had an affair with Bernard Kerik, which could also mean more embarrassing stories for Rudy Giuliani, who Roger Ailes is trying to help become the next president:

Regan, naturally enough given her special knowledge of the man, was questioned about Kerik by federal investigators. And she now alleges that two executives of Fox News instructed her to “lie to, and withhold information from” the investigators about Kerik. Regan charges that Fox executives did this because they feared the inquiry into Kerik might singe Giuliani, whose presidential ambitions, her complaint charges, Fox has long been intent on “protecting”.

Let’s linger over that for a moment. Two executives of a major news organisation may have told a citizen to lie to federal investigators to protect a presidential candidate. It’s a stunning charge. If proven someday, Fox will no longer be able to hide behind the fiction that it’s a neutral news outfit.

Tomasky has some advice for the Democrats:

In the meantime, Democrats should ratchet up their refusal to pretend that Fox bears any relationship to news. I’ve always felt they should just boycott the network en bloc. One can be pretty confident that if the situation were reversed – imagine a cable channel that was known as a Democratic house organ and run by, say, Bill Clinton adviser James Carville – Republicans would have done something like that long ago. I asked Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic speaker, about this last Friday, and she just replied wanly: “I think we have to reach out to all the viewers out there.”

Fox News is Right For Once in Calling Richardson Number Three in Democratic Race and Romney Number One in GOP Race

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I’ve criticized Fox News so many times here that I feel, in the spirt of being fair and balanced, I should defend them after seeing a liberal blog attack them in a rare case where Fox is right. Newshounds criticizes the Political Derby segment (video above) because their assessment of the horse race differs from the national polls. Newshounds particularly protests that Bill Richardson and not John Edwards is placed in fourth place despite Edwards being third in the national polls, and that Mitt Romney is placed first in the GOP race despite ranking between third and fifth in most national polls.

During the segment, Jason Wright explains that he looks at factors beyond the national polls. This is a perfectly sensible thing to do. National polls this far before the primaries begin have had very little predictive value historically unless there was a clear and undisputed favorite such as an incumbent. During the fall of 2003, John Kerry even trailed Al Sharpton in some national polls. The nomination is determined by a series of state events and, as we saw after Kerry’s Iowa victory, early victories have considerable influence on the subsequent national polls. Most voters do not even make up their minds until the final couple of days before voting, as was seen in Kerry’s move from fourth place to first place in Iowa over the final ten days in 2004. Besides, there would be be little point in having a segment predicting the race if they were required to stick to the rankings of the national polls.

Not only is Fox correct in looking at factors beyond the national polls, there rankings are quite reasonable. I’ve considered Richardson to be the number three candidate in terms of chances to win for quite a while based upon factors including fund raising and the trends in the polls. Edwards has benefited from name recognition but the more many voters see him the less they like him while the reverse is true of Richardson. Edwards is also relying on a risky strategy of following John Kerry’s path of gaining momentum from an Iowa victory. As Edwards has virtually lived in Iowa since 2005, anything less than a landslide win is likely to give more momentum to whoever comes in second. Even if Edwards wins in Iowa, he is not as likely as Kerry to be able to follow this with a win in New Hampshire where his populist platform is not likely to be received as well as in Iowa.

Fox News and I are hardly the only ones to note this trend. James Boyce recently picked Richardson as the number two candidate. Some predict that Richardson will even win the Iowa caucus, which would not only establish Richardson as a major candidate but also eliminate Edwards from the race. The Concord Monitor has also noted that Richardson is on the way up while support for Edwards is falling.

The Republican race is very difficult to predict right now, and Fox certainly has a case for believing that Rudy Giuliani will not win the nomination, especially as more Republicans discover his past statements on abortion and gay rights. Romney is well positioned to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, which could easily lead to victory. Placing Giuliani second also runs counter to recent suspicions of a bias in his favor due to his ties to Roger Ailes. With Thompson not even officially in the race it is even harder to predict how he will do, and a third place ranking at this time looks reasonable.

This is not to say that my rankings or Fox’s rankings will correctly predict the outcome. Such predictions are based upon conditions and trends at present and a lot can change between now and January. Edwards could still wind up in third place, and possibly even win, and Giuliani might win the Republican nomination. However, if forced to predict now I agree with ranking Edwards fourth and Romney first in their races.

Wright also expressed the view that Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama might be harming their husbands and that “the more Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Edwards run their yappers, the better Hillary looks.” I agree with him with regards to Elizabeth Edwards following two serious gaffes. Not long after pondering whether John is at a disadvantage for being a white male, Elizabeth hurt John’s chances of getting the support of all us voters who do not meet her definition of an “actual Democrat.” My only real disagreement with Wright is over his belief that Michelle Obama has harmed her husband. I can hardly find serious fault with a commentator who I agree with on three out of four controversial statements.