There are three categories of news media:
1. Opinion Outlets
•The Young Turks
•Wall Street Journal Editorial Side
2. Partisan Press (Ideologically Driven Press)
•Fox News Channel
3. Straight News
•MSNBC News Programs
•New York Times
•Wall Street Journal (Non-Editorial)
There's absolutely nothing wrong with being in any of these categories. As you can see, I put our show in the "Opinion Outlet" category. I have no problem with that. We tell you our take on the news of the day. All of the categories are based on the news; but they do range based on how much original news reporting or editorializing they do. And that is an important distinction.
The Obama White House has taken on Fox News channel in an effort to point out they are not a legitimate news network. This is very important because out of all the outlets mentioned above, they are the only ones being dishonest about what category they are in. This is where the confusion lies.
Fox News admits that their talk shows are opinion based, which is obvious and indisputable. It's not straight news and it's not meant to be. No problem. The problem lies in their "news" side. They don't have a straight news division like CNN, MSNBC, ABC, etc. They have propaganda disguised as news. That's a serious issue that must be addressed.
If they simply admitted as some of the partisan journals do -- on both the left and the right -- that they cover the news but from a certain ideological perspective, then again there would be no problem. The Nation isn't purely an opinion magazine; it does real reporting. But they have a clear ideological perspective, in their case a liberal one. The National Review is the same on the right -- news stories and opinion from a conservative point of view. Again, as long as there is truth in advertising there's no problem at all.
The problem with Fox News is that they have shown over and over again that they tilt their news coverage indisputably toward a right-wing perspective and refuse to admit it. They are not purely driven by the news. They are driven by an agenda.
The Daily Show did a great segment just last week showing how Fox News acted as cheerleaders for the 9/12 Tea Party protests and gave it wall to wall coverage, yet for a protest of almost the same exact size -- the Gay Rights protest last weekend -- they didn't send a single camera crew. And The Daily Show didn't even mention a Fox News producer who was caught on camera riling up the crowds in the 9/12 protest and literally encouraging them to cheer louder. I don't think they sent a similar "news producer" to the gay rights march. To argue that they covered these protests straight without any leaning toward one side or another is comically disingenuous.
But this is only one of dozens of readily available examples. Think Progress has another fantastic example of exactly what the administration is complaining about -- Fox News anchors parroting Republican talking points. First you see Republican representatives pushing the talking point of "Where are the jobs?" then you see Fox anchors asking the same exact question as if they are independently asking questions about the news rather than repeating propaganda (it's a perfect example of Fox's agenda -- watch the Republicans first and then Fox News here).
As if all of this weren't enough, we have absolute proof from the inside that Fox purposely manipulates the news to suit a Republican agenda. There is a leaked memo from their Vice President of News, Dan Moody, where he directs his so-called reporters to find Iraqi insurgents celebrating Democratic victories in 2006 (you can read it here). Are we really having a serious conversation about whether Fox has an ideological perspective?
Unfortunately, the rest of the media seems to be unbelievably dense in recognizing this point, so they treat Fox coverage as if it's real, straight news. So, when Fox wants to drive an issue like Bill Ayers or Rev. Wright or ACORN or just about every other conservative attack against Obama, the rest of the press goes along with it as if these are all straight news stories.
Now, it's important to point out that ideologically driven press can break real stories. They should not be dismissed out of hand as not news simply because they came from those sources. As an example, Mother Jones has broken many important stories that are no less valid because they came form a source that has a clear liberal perspective. So, Fox News can -- and does -- break stories that are valid and should receive some press coverage from everyone. That's why partisan press provides an important voice in the national conversation.
The problem is when partisan press gets confused for straight, unbiased news. The perfect example of this is when Fox News called the 2000 election for George W. Bush first -- and every other news network followed like sheep. The person in charge of calling the 2000 election at Fox News was the cousin of George W. Bush. That is not some hyperbole. It was literally Bush's cousin.
Would the other networks have panicked and called the election for Gore because Air America said he won? Would they have followed the lead of The Young Turks in calling the election for Gore if we had hired Gore's uncle to tabulate the votes for us? It's ridiculous and unthinkable, right (especially so, since Air America and The Young Turks weren't around yet at the time of that election; but you get my point -- there's no way they would consider that legitimate, but yet they considered Fox's call perfectly legitimate)?
So, why did they commit this unpardonable error in the 2000 election when Fox News was involved? Because Fox has purposely sold itself as straight news when they know that they are nothing of the sort -- specifically to be able to influence the rest of the press in this way. And the rest of the media bought it.
This dangerous charade has to end, and that is why I think it was a fantastic idea by the White House to call out Fox on this phenomenon. They're not saying they won't go on Fox News or that Fox's point of view is illegitimate or unacceptable. They're simply asking people to recognize their point of view. That's a perfectly valid request.
In fact, if they don't do this they are going to continue to get swift-boated on every issue because the press will follow the lead of Fox News on every partisan attack they bring up. They must respond or they'll wind up in the same position as John Kerry when Fox News kept asking if he really served honorably in Vietnam (the problem again was that they were pretending to ask the questions as if they were journalists looking into the issue, but in reality they just wanted that story to last longer in the press so that more people would question Kerry's service -- Fox plays this "question" game all the time).
Even if you don't agree with the White House's tactic of taking on Fox, you have to agree that they have been smart in at least bringing up the question of Fox News's credibility. This was not a conversation that the rest of the press was having before. Now, at least a question arises as to whether the media should really trust a story coming out of Fox News or whether they are pushing a Republican agenda with their so-called news item. That's a debate the White House can't lose; because as Fox News has taught us, it's not the answer that matters, it's the question.
I would take it one step further than the White House though. Yes, administration officials should go on Fox News on a regular basis. You still want to talk to that audience. Even if you think you're not going to convince them, you're still an administration that represents all of the American people and you must talk to your conservative constituents as well. But the president himself should make a stand.
President Obama should go on Fox News again only when they admit that they are partisan press. If they are not trying to trick anyone by pretending to be neutral journalists, then of course the president should talk to them. But if they continue on their policy of purposeful deception in how they represent themselves, then the White House shouldn't reward that behavior.
Obama's negative numbers have been driven up by constant attacks from Fox News Channel (the one entity that the Republican base says represents them the most). They can be proud of that accomplishment. They're having a large impact. But to pretend that they are not behind the organized way those attacks are driven into the mainstream press is not just dishonest; it's an insult to our intelligence.
Obama is accused by some (including Fox, of course) of being too wimpy to come on Fox and challenge them. Well, isn't Fox News too wimpy to admit what they really are? Why don't they have the courage of their convictions and admit that they are conservative? If they rise up to the challenge of confessing their real identity and real purpose, then -- and only then -- should Obama rise up to the challenge of taking on that conservative voice in the media in an interview on their air. That sounds fair and balanced to me.