Fox News Has An African-American Problem

Last night, Fox News' Greta Van Susteren apologized for airing file footage of Shirley Sherrod while discussing a story about African-American Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

As Media Matters' noted, not only is this not the first time Fox News has made such a mistake, it also fails the network's self-described "zero tolerance" policy for onscreen/factual errors:

Van Susteren didn't mention the error during her show last night, though she later apologized for it on her blog. But let's not forget: Fox has a stated "zero tolerance" policy for onscreen or factual errors. And it's worth repeating that, despite this policy, Fox has repeatedly refused to correct previous "mistakes."

This also isn't the first time Fox News has inadvertently shown footage of one African-American while discussing another. As Media Matters has noted, in June 2007, Fox News showed footage of Rep. John Conyers during a report on the expected indictment of Rep. William Jefferson. In 2006, Fox aired footage of Harold Ford Jr. while talking about Barack Obama.

Fox News doesn't just have a problem telling African-Americans apart, the network has trouble attracting African-Americans viewers and finding different ones to appear in Glenn Beck's studio audience.

As Huffington Post's Danny Shea noted last week, just 1.38% of Fox News' audience is African-American:

The New York Times' Brian Stelter tweeted that, according to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News has averaged just 29,000 black viewers in primetime so far this television season (9/09-7/10). That represents just 1.38% of its 2.102 million total viewer audience.

And, as Oliver Willis noted on his blog, Glenn Beck has a habit of recycling African-American audience members for his show (check his post for the screen captures):

New York City is a very big city. It has a population of over 2 million black residents according to the 2000 census, the largest of any U.S. city. So, there's a pretty big pool of people to deal with. And yet, for his most recent revisionist history show, Glenn Beck had to recycle [black audience members] from his show a month ago about black history.

These problems aren't the right-wing network's only problems when it comes to race. Fox News and its personalities have a long history of aggressive race-baiting and racially charged commentary.

Thank goodness they've been rewarded with that front-row seat in the White House press briefing room. Sigh.

Karl Frisch is a progressive strategy consultant, writer, pundit, occasional radio host, and Media Matters contributor. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, or sign up to receive updates about his work and media appearances by email.

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