Terry H. Schwadron
March 9, 2019
It’s not news that Fox News commentators are consistent cheerleaders for President Trump. Indeed, both the president and the network make much of the fact that the country’s largest viewership survive on a diet of pro-Trump explanation and re-telling of news with alternative context.
But a New Yorker magazinearticle by Jane Mayer, a solid reporter, details that the relationship goes far beyond any kind of organized political lean among the network’s biggest commentators. Her reporter suggests that Fox has become “state TV,” or a propaganda organ for a cooperating White House, and that some of its noted voices, like Sean Hannity, have become virtually part of the West Wing.
At one point her sizeable article, Mayer reports that Fox had the Stormy Daniels report before the 2016 election — and killed its publication because Fox owner Rupert Murdoch felt that it might hurt Donald Trump’s chances at winning.
That is not okay — not for the news industry and not for the country.
She reports that Sean Hannity went to the border as did other reporters, but was not kept back from the presidential party as other reporters. Instead, he hugged administration members and finally interviewed Trump.
“Hannity was treated in Texas like a member of the Administration because he virtually is one. The same can be said of Fox’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch. Fox has long been a bane of liberals, but in the past two years many people who watch the network closely, including some Fox alumni, say that it has evolved into something that hasn’t existed before in the United States. Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor of Presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center says of Fox, ‘It’s the closest we’ve come to having state TV.’
Along with the constant exchange of Fox personnel (like ex-Fox producer Bill Shine) into White House positions (like deputy chief of staff), there seem to be no barriers. This week, there is a renewed dust-up over a White House-ordered legal challenge to an AOL-Time Warner merger that seemed aimed at punishing CNN, a Trump-identified media enemy, and a part of Time Warner.
“The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead. All day long, Trump retweets claims made on the network; his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has largely stopped holding press conferences, but she has made some thirty appearances on such shows as “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.”
Though even Fox head Roger Ailes had been known to criticize Hannity for going too far over the unstated line between news and opinion, “Such niceties no longer apply. In November, Hannity joined Trump onstage at a climactic rally for the midterm elections. Afterward, Fox issued a limp statement saying that it didn’t “condone any talent participating in campaign events” and that the “unfortunate distraction” had ‘been addressed.’”
Among other things, Mayer reported that during the election debates, someone from Fix had warned Trump that Megan Kelly would be asking a tough question about women. It is particularly ironic since Trump later blasted CNN’s Donna Brazile for flagging a question from that network’s hosts to Hillary Clinton.
Stil, the issues at Fox mostly surround their commentators, the explainers, rather than the news folks, who include Chris Wallace and others.
As press critic Margaret Sullivanoutlines in the Washington Post, “What Fox News has become is destructive. To state the obvious: Democracy, if it’s going to function, needs to be based on a shared set of facts, and the news media’s role is to seek out and deliver those facts. Most news organizations take that seriously, though they may flounder badly at times. When they do, they generally try to correct themselves — that’s why you see editor’s notes, lengthy corrections, on-air acknowledgments, suspensions and even firings of errant news people. Not at Fox News.”
In recent days, Fox’s biggest voices have been undercutting the legitimacy of investigations into the president’s full range of strange behaviors, from the Russia investigations to the Cohen charges to the Democrats’ announced campaign to collect documents and testimony that could lead down the path towards impeachment.
It is troubling that the president spends hours each day in “executive time,” with much of it watching Fox television, which is handing him back his own phrasing in a kind of intellectual loop.
It is troubling that many viewers of Fox — or any of the networks — insist on seeing only the information, freely mixing news and opinion, from this one network, thus guaranteeing that the White House is talking to itself.
It is troubling that journalistic ethics don’t seem to apply to Fox.
It is troubling that anyone but Fox is an enemy of the Trump people.