FOX News feud bad news for White House

White House officials took off the gloves by denouncing FOX News’ legitimacy as a news organization.

The White House’s first punch came in mid-September, when FOX News was excluded from a round of presidential interviews with Sunday morning news programs.

In late September, the White House used an official blog post to directly contradict what it called “disregard for the facts.” The post named “Reality Check: Turning a Moment of Pride into a Moment of Shame,” lists false statements quoted from Glenn Beck’s September 29 program.

On Oct. 10, White House communications director Anita Dunn characterized FOX News as “opinion journalism masquerading as news” and an “arm of the GOP.”

Whatever your opinion of FOX News or the current administration, it’s a terribly distracting issue at a time when both involved parties should be focusing on real issues like health care reform and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

FOX News seems to be enjoying the attention, devoting numerous hours of news coverage and commentary to the feud.

White House officials say they are happy to have at least started a public debate about FOX. But what has the administration really achieved?

No fair-minded person actually believes FOX News isn’t biased. It may be the most heavily biased mainstream news organization in the United States.

Sure, every news organization has a bias – some more obvious than others – but nobody misrepresents opinion, or even blatant falsehoods as fact the way FOX News often does.

As an aspiring journalist and COJO major, it’s disheartening to see FOX News’ disregard for real journalism smear the discipline’s already tarnished name.

Real journalism values objectivity above all else, something that is conveniently ignored by many of FOX News’ “reporters” with a few notables exceptions such as Major Garrett and Shepard Smith.

FOX News embodies the biggest problem with today’s U.S. political system; shameless partisanship that is more about rooting for a particular political party than resolving issues and moving forward as a nation.

But what the White House has done is no better – it has brought itself down to FOX News’ level. By engaging in these attacks, the White House has mistakenly implied itself as FOX News’ equal.

While government can and should debate opposition views, the White House’s tactics go beyond that. By singling out a single news outlet, it has alienated the network’s viewers and given opponents a convenient opportunity to criticize the White House of stifling dissent.

And it’s never a good idea to antagonize the people with barrels of ink – now armed with pixels and film too.

This term’s administration is not the first to take on the media. Administrations in the past haven’t achieved much success and I highly doubt that it will this time.

FOX News will continue to be FOX News, and News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch certainly isn’t complaining.

“All I can tell you is that it’s tremendously increased their ratings,” Murdoch reportedly told shareholders about the controversy surrounding his network at an annual meeting last week.

Perhaps the White House should keep this in mind the next time it attempts to manhandle a media giant.

Brent Fischer can be reached at

17 Replies to “FOX News feud bad news for White House”

  1. I have to respectfully disagree. It seems to me that the White House has done what everyone else seems scared to do – point out publicly the purely partisan reporting on Fox. They are not a news organization – at least not in the traditional American sense. Instead, they are more akin to British newspapers (not surprising given Murdoch’s history) that are unabashed in their partisanship. In the UK, readers expect most papers to report from a specific political viewpoint. That is not so in the US. There is a mindset here that if a news organization reports it, there must be some legitimacy to it (while we may expect some news orgs to be more liberal or conservative, we also tend to expect them to have some rules in place that legitimize their reporting.) Fox on the other hand has so blurred the lines between News and Opinion that the legitimacy of much of their reporting must be questioned. The rest of the news media seems unwilling to do so, and in many cases follows Fox’s lead no matter how shaky the foundation of the report. I believe that the White House felt it was time to call Fox out and question their legitimacy as a news organization. I think the goal is not to “take down Fox” but rather to encourage skepticism of Fox reporting. The fact that Fox has been successful by being partisan doesn’t matter. The point is to encourage the public (and more likely the rest of the mainstream media) to be skeptical of Fox’s reporting rather than be led by it. That conversation needs to start at some point. Just because they are a media giant doesn’t mean they cant be and shouldn’t be challenged publicly to defend their questionable “reporting.”

  2. FOX news is truely ridiculous. I actually watch it a lot just because it is more entertaining than other news channels; kind of like a ridiculous reality show that is so horrible you have to see more. I watch FOX to see just exactly how they view things that are happening, and it is VERY biased. By no means do I agree with them politically. I know what they are reporting is biased, but sadly there are a lot of people out there who take FOX seriously.

  3. The White House is acting like little kids. They’ve decided to surge against Fox but not in Afghanistan.

  4. “It may be the most heavily biased mainstream news organization in the United States.”

    Very bold claim, Mr. Fischer. However, you seemed to have forgotten to mention CNN and MSNBC.

    Take coverage of the 2008 presidential election, for example. A study by the Pew Research Center showed that 40 percent of Fox News stories on Obama in the last six weeks of the campaign were negative. Similarly, 40 percent of Fox News stories on Obama’s Republican opponent, John McCain, were negative.

    On CNN, by contrast, there was a 22-point disparity in the percentage of negative stories on Obama (39 percent) and McCain (61 percent). The disparity was even greater at MSNBC, where just 14 percent of Obama stories were negative, compared to a whopping 73 percent of McCain stories – a spread of 59 points.

    In this case, FOX News stays true to its claim of being fair and balanced.

  5. Tanner,
    So are you saying that Fox is fair and balanced then? Putting all stats aside, would you really be willing to argue that FOX is more fair and balanced than the other networks overall?

  6. Tony,

    I would absolutely say that FOX is more fair and balanced than the other networks. I consider myself an independent and choose not to watch some of the more extreme shows like Hannity, however, I’ve found that FOX News as a whole has a more fair approach to stories than the other networks.

  7. FOX News ratings are soaring because they do not denigrate the like many other TV news organizations do – They are dying, FOX is on fire.

    You want to turn things around, Mr. President? Stop the nonsense and present your case on a news network that really matters.

  8. Just asking,
    I honestly don’t really watch ANY cable news, so i’m only going off of what I’ve heard. I’ve just heard a lot more arguments saying that fox has lost a lot of it’s credibility due to the more extreme personalities it chooses to stand behind by allowing them airtime.

  9. I would have to agree with Tanner. You can’t tell me that CNN and MSNBC aren’t the same way; especially CNN. I would definitely consider that station an “arm of the Democratic party.” Just because FOX is towards the right is the only reason that administration called them out on it.

  10. I am no Fox News fan. Except for Brit Hume, I cannot stand the vast majority of the network’s reporting or commentary, and I get my news these days from a strict diet of NPR, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post. But anyone saying that “nobody misrepresents opinion, or even blatant falsehoods as fact the way FOX News often does” is either unaware of MSNBC (especially Keith Olbermann’s execrable example of hyperbole, opinion journalism, and blatant falsehoods) or is being deliberately disingenuous.

    That said, the White House is right that a lot of people on Fox have a tenuous connection to reality. If only the White House could do such a good job fact-checking themselves. Unfortunately, the unwillingness of the MSM to scrutinize this administration has made Fox, however unlikable its personalities are, a vital part of the journalistic ecosystem. From ACORN to Van Jones to the politicization of the NEA (all real, serious stories which the mainstream Obama-loving media completely ignored), Fox has earned legitimate journalistic prestige for covering stories that *never* should have been broken or followed by an organization as frequently irresponsible as Fox. The irresponsibility of the White House and the MSM are responsible for the continued vitality of Fox News. If they want to make it go away, they both need to clean up their acts and start behaving seriously again.

  11. I will say that overall FOX news is more biased than other networks such as CNN or MSNBC mainly because of anchors like Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. The other anchors are more calm and neutral in their reporting but Hannity, Beck and O’Reilly always attack people and are very opinionated in their reporting.

    BTW the only reason FOX has better ratings is because of these biased anchors. They elicit a lot of emotion from all kinds of people with their strong criticisms and labeling of people (e.g. they always demean the opposition by calling them “liberals” or “extremists” or “radicals”)

  12. Might as well standardize news agencies as well. With this ridiculous privatization of American Industries, and the majority of press slanting leftward, and not being objective at all, Fox has a duty to publish stories. If other news agencies cover one side of the story, then the customers should expect the other side as well. I find it ludicrous that CNN, NBC, Times, as others, have escaped without negative publicity from the White House. I believe that objectivity no longer exists, and the fact that GE owns NBC, and GE’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt is on Obama’s economic advisory board is absurd! NBC is just as bad as FOX, and yet, no negative publicity because of the collusion going on within the White house and NBC.

  13. Well this isn’t a communist country. Being involved with the white house doesn’t make you invincible to criticism. Why ISN’T there negative publicity about NBC? Nothing’s preventing anyone from doing that.

  14. I’m a bit unsure whether I want to jump into the fray here, but here I go anyway. To those who want to argue that Fox is “Fair and Balanced,” can you explain how so? Alternatively, can you explain how CNN or MSNBC are not? A Pew study one positive or negative stories one 2 candidates cannot be used as justification. Would a study pointing out that one candidates poll umbers are down be considered positive or negative? Or would an opponent disagreeing with their opponent be considered positive or negative? My point here is that “fairness” and “balance” are subjective and therefore an invalid measure of objectivity and/or “truth-telling.” A more important trait, in my opinion, is rather whether a news organization is honest. By that I mean, are the stories they report intellectually honest. I would argue that by and large, aside from the errors humans are apt to make, the stories reported from CNN and MSNBC (and most other news organizations whether they be on TV or in print) tend to be intellectually honest. I can not make the same claim about Fox. They don’t intend to report the news, but rather display the news from a conservative ideological viewpoint, even within their “non-opinion” programming. And that is dangerous in my mind, because in order to do so, they often have to ignore or misrepresent the facts of a story.

    Now James, I would urge you to take a deep breath. Because Fox tells you a story is important does not make it so. I wonder whether you are as tough on Fox for the stories they refuse to report on as you are the “MSM” ( a term I loath for it’s oversimplification of the media landscape.) For every Van Jones story (which was NOT the serious story you think it is) there are those of actual events, such as the Gay Rights march on Washington that Fox completely ignored – they just pretended it never happened. So do not for a second believe that Fox is not as selective about what they report, and how they report it, as you perceive the other organizations to be. That should concern you.

    I fear many are giving Fox much more power than they understand. Giving ONE organization the power to tell you what is news and what is not is unbelievably dangerous. I would never argue that CNN or MSNBC or NY Times or the Post or any organization is “the best voice.” Instead, it is the confluence of these groups that ensure we eventually get to the truth. Unfortunately, in my experience, Fox does not strive to tell the truth with intellectual honesty, but rather only the truth as it supports their world view. That is an important and very dangerous distinction.

    I hope this doesn’t turn into a flame war and look forward to other opinions on this topic…

  15. When watching Cable News programs people often make a fatal mistake; they think that “Opinion Programing” and talk shows are news. Glenn Beck, Cambell Brown, Sean Hannity, Anderson Cooper, Dana Bash, Bill O, or any other “News Anchor” that host a talk show are NOT information outlets! They are sharing their opinion on any given subject. People tend to take these figures too seriously. Glenn beck is not a Presidential politics expert he is an ENTERTAINER. He shares his opinions for money, he did the same thing when he worked for CNN. Cambell Brown does the same thing, her opinions are designed to bring in viewers, not to educate the public about what is actually happening. You cant trust a cable news culture that gives more air-time to the “balloon boy” than it does actual stories of human advancement.

    Tom Brokaw, Walter Cronkite, Roger Mudd, Dan Rather. These were news Anchors. These were individuals worthy of the public trust. They reported the NEWS, the FACTS and the things that were relevant to the world. Today’s Liberal media as well as the Conservative media are more concerned with ratings than information. It only makes sense that CNN caters to liberal ideals; there is a strong market for that type of programing. The same goes for Conservative TV. Fox news has a strong following because they are harsh towards the Democratic administration, and Conservatives enjoy that type of programing.

    Watch CNN, MSNBC, and FOX for the entertainment, not the news.

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