Fox News Channel controversies

Fox News Channel controversies

Critics of Fox News Channel have accused the network of having a bias favoring the political right and the Republican Party. Fox News has publicly denied such charges,[1] stating that the reporters in the newsroom provide separate, neutral reporting.[2]


Accusations of bias

Political figures

Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean has referred to Fox News as a "right-wing propaganda machine,"[3] and several Democratic Party politicians have boycotted events hosted or sponsored by the network.[4][5] In 2007, several major Democratic Party presidential candidates (Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson) boycotted or dropped out of Fox News-sponsored or hosted debates,[4][5][5][6] forcing their cancellation. The Nevada State Democratic Party had originally agreed to co-host a Democratic debate with Fox News Channel in Reno, Nevada. Despite the opposition of groups like, the party agreed to bring in Fox News in an effort to find "new ways to talk to new people." However, after Fox News chairman Roger Ailes was quoted making a joke involving the similarity of Barack Obama's name to that of the terrorist Osama bin Laden,[7] a firestorm of opposition arose in Democratic circles against the debate. On March 12, 2007, the party announced it had pulled out of the debate, effectively canceling it.[8]

Similar accusations have been levied against Fox News in response to its decision to exclude Republican Texas Representative Ron Paul, who differs from many in the Republican Party on social issues and holds a strong opposition to foreign intervention, and California Representative Duncan Hunter from the January 5, 2008, Republican candidate debate.[9] In response, many individuals and organizations petitioned Fox News to reconsider its decision. When Fox refused to change its position and continued to exclude Paul and Hunter, the New Hampshire Republican Party officially announced it would withdraw as a Fox partner in the forum.[10]

While the network has been criticized for its tendency to support the Republican Party and its interests, David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, has also said, "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we're discovering we work for Fox."[11]

Media figures

CNN's Larry King said in a January 17, 2007, interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, "They're a Republican brand. They're an extension of the Republican Party with some exceptions, [like] Greta van Susteren. But I don't begrudge them that. [Fox CEO] Roger Ailes is an old friend. They've been nice to me. They've said some very nice things about me. Not [Bill] O'Reilly, but I don't watch him."[12]

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Republican and conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg indicated his belief that Fox News was rightward-leaning: "Look, I think liberals have reasonable gripes with Fox News. It does lean to the right, primarily in its opinion programming but also in its story selection (which is fine by me) and elsewhere. But it's worth remembering that Fox is less a bastion of ideological conservatism and more a populist, tabloid-like network."[13]

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has stated that "Fox does tilt right," (although he states this in specific reference to the coverage of the Iraq war, not FNC's coverage in general), but that the network does not "actively campaign or try to help Bush-Cheney."[14][15]

Media watchdogs

Progressive media watch dog groups such as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)[16] and Media Matters for America,[17] have argued that Fox News reporting contains conservative editorializing within news stories. Others have referred to the network as "Faux News",[18] "GOP-TV",[19] "Fox Noise Channel",[20] "Fox Nothing Channel", "Fixed News"[21] and "Cluster Fox."[22] FAIR also asserted that in a study of a 19 week period from January 2001 to May 2001 the ratio of conservative guests to liberals on Special Report with Brit Hume was 50:6, and obtained similar data from other Fox shows.[23] Accuracy in Media has claimed[weasel words] that there was a conflict of interest in Fox News' co-sponsorship of the May 15, 2007, Republican presidential candidates debate, pointing out that candidate and former New York city mayor Rudolph Giuliani's law firm had tackled copyright protection and legislation on the purchase of cable TV lineups for News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, and suggesting that Fox might be biased in favor of Giuliani's candidacy for the Republican Party presidential nomination.[24]

Ownership and management

  • Australian born media mogul Rupert Murdoch is the Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, the owner of Fox News Channel. He has been a subject of controversy and criticism as a result of his substantial influence in both the print and broadcast media. In the United States, he is the publisher of the New York Post newspaper and the magazine The Weekly Standard. Accusations against him include the "dumbing down" of news and introducing "mindless vulgarity" in place of genuine journalism, and having his own outlets produce news that serve his own political and financial agendas. According to the BBC website: "To some he is little less than the devil incarnate, to others, the most progressive mover-and-shaker in the media business."[25]
  • Then-presidential candidate George W. Bush's cousin, John Prescott Ellis, was Fox News' projection team manager during the general election of 2000. After speaking numerous times on election night with his cousins George and Jeb,[26] Ellis, at 2:16 AM, reversed Fox News' call for Florida as a state won by Al Gore. Critics allege this was a premature decision, given the impossibly razor-thin margin (officially 537 of 5.9 million votes[27]), which created the "lasting impression that Bush 'won' the White House – and all the legal wrangling down in Florida is just a case of Democratic 'snippiness'."[28] Others, such as researcher John Lott, have responded that, by this reasoning, Fox News and the other networks were even more premature in initially calling the state for Gore, a call made while polls were still open, and which may have depressed voter turnout for Bush.[29]
  • On January 9, 2010, the son-in-law of News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch and the husband of Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth, Matthew Freud, stated he and other members of the media mogul's family are "ashamed and sickened" by the right leaning tendencies of Fox News in the opening salvo in a bid to displace Roger Ailes, the founder and CEO of Fox News.[30] In the previous Sunday New York Times news story featuring a profile on Roger Ailes, Freud was quoted saying "I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes' horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalist standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to, what you heard was a declaration of war, There are, practically speaking, now two factions inside of News Corp.: Ailes and Fox News, and the Murdoch children – with Rupert caught between them." Although Rupert Murdoch did not respond to the remark directly, a spokesperson for News Corporation put a statement after a Financial Times inquiry claiming “Matthew Freud’s opinions are his own and in no way reflect the views of Rupert Murdoch, who is proud of Roger Ailes and Fox News.”[31] Tim Arango also claims in Murdoch's 2008 biography that he voiced concerns privately to Ailes about his conduct claiming he was purportedly "embarrassed" by Fox News. Murdoch denied that claim.[32]

Reports, polls, surveys and studies

Polls and surveys

A poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports during September 2004 found that Fox News was second to CBS as the most politically biased network in the public view. 37% of respondents thought CBS, in the wake of the memogate scandal, was trying to help elect John Kerry, while 34% of respondents said they believed that Fox's goal was to "help elect Bush."[37] However, a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling in January 2010 found Fox News to be the only US television news network to receive a positive rating by the public for trustworthiness with results strongly split depending on the political affiliation of the respondents [38] A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press showed "a striking rise in the politicization of cable TV news audiences . . . This pattern is most apparent with the fast-growing Fox News Channel."[39] Another Pew survey of news consumption found that Fox News has not suffered a decline in credibility with its audience, with one in four (25%) saying they believe all or most of what they see on Fox News Channel, virtually unchanged since Fox was first tested in 2000.[40]

According to the results of a 2006 study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism a survey of 547 journalists, found that Fox was most frequently cited by surveyed journalists as an outlet taking an ideological stance in its coverage, and most identified as advocating conservative political positions,[41] with 56% of national journalists citing Fox News as being especially conservative in its coverage of news. Additionally Fox was viewed as having the highest profile as a conservative news organization; it was cited unprompted by 69% of national journalists.[42]

Studies and reports

The “2011 State of the News Media” Report by the Pew Center on Excellence in Journalism found that in 2010, Fox News Channel had average daytime audience of 1.2 million and nighttime viewership of 1.1 million, higher than its cable competitors but down 11% and 9% respectively from 2009. Fox's cumulative audience (unique viewers who watched at least 60 minutes in an average month) was 41.1 million, coming in second to CNN with 41.7 million. For 2010, CNN's digital network continued to lead Fox's digital network online; CNN with 35.7 million unique visitors per month, compared to Fox's 15.5 million. For the first time Fox outspent its competitors, with a total news investment of $686 million. 72% of this investment went to program costs, reflecting their focus on high profile hosts. They also increased their revenues 17% over 2009 to $1.5 billion, well ahead of second-place CNN at $1.2 billion.[43][44]

Content analysis studies

The Project on Excellence in Journalism report in 2006[41] showed that 68 percent of Fox cable stories contained personal opinions, as compared to MSNBC at 27 percent and CNN at 4 percent. The "content analysis" portion of their 2005 report also concluded that "Fox was measurably more one-sided than the other networks, and Fox journalists were more opinionated on the air."[45]

The documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism claims that Fox reporters and anchors, rather than citing an anonymous source in order to advance a storyline, Fox personalities allegedly use the phrase "some people say" to include unattributed conservative opinion and commentary into reports. In the film, Media Matters for America president David Brock noted that some shows, like Fox's evening news program, Special Report with Brit Hume, tend to exhibit editorializing attitudes and behavior when on the air.

A 2006 Univerisity of California, Berkeley study cited that there was a correlation between the presence of the Fox News Channel in cable markets and increases in Republican votes in those markets.[46]

Studies of reporting bias

In a 2006 academic content analysis of election news, Rasmussen Reports showed that coverage at ABC, CBS, and NBC was more favorable toward Kerry than Bush, while coverage at Fox News Channel were more favorable toward Bush.[47]

A study published in November 2005 by Tim Groseclose, a professor of political science at UCLA, comparing political bias from such news outlets as the New York Times, USA Today, the Drudge Report, the Los Angeles Times, and Fox News’ Special Report, concluded "all of the news outlets we examine, except Fox News’ Special Report and the Washington Times, received scores to the left of the average member of Congress." In particular, Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume had an Americans for Democratic Action rating that was right of the political center. Groseclose used the number of times a host cited a particular think tank on his or her program and compared it with the number of times a member of the U.S. Congress cited a think tank, correlating that with the politician's Americans for Democratic Action rating.[48][49]

Geoff Nunberg, a professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley and a National Public Radio commentator, criticized the methodology of the study and labeled its conclusions invalid.[50] He pointed to what he saw as a Groseclose's reliance on interpretations of facts and data that were taken from sources that were not, in his view, credible. Groseclose and Professor Jeff Milyo rebutted, saying Nunberg "shows a gross misunderstanding [of] our statistical method and the actual assumptions upon which it relies."[51] Mark Liberman (a professor of Computer Science and the Director of Linguistic Data Consortium at the University of Pennsylvania), who helped post Groseclose and Milyo's rebuttal, later posted how the statistical methods used to calculate this bias pose faults.[52][53] Mark concluded "that many if not most of the complaints directed against G&M are motivated in part by ideological disagreement — just as much of the praise for their work is motivated by ideological agreement. It would be nice if there were a less politically fraught body of data on which such modeling exercises could be explored."[52]

A December 2007 study/examination by Robert Lichter of a self-described nonpartisan media watchdog group, the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that Fox News's evaluations of all of the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates combined was 51% positive and 49% negative, while the network's evaluations of the Republican presidential candidates 51% negative and 49% positive. The study, however, did find that Fox's coverage was less negative toward Republican candidates than the coverage of broadcast networks.[54]

Tests of knowledge of Fox viewers

A 2007 Pew Research Center poll of general political knowledge ("Who is the governor of your state?", "Who is the President of Russia?") indicated that Fox News Channel viewers scored 35% in the high-knowledge area, the same as the national average. This was not significantly different than local news, network news and morning news, and was slightly lower than CNN (41%). Viewers of The O'Reilly Factor (51%) scored in the high category along with Rush Limbaugh (50%), NPR (51%), major newspapers (54%), Newshour with Jim Lehrer (53%) The Daily Show (54%) and The Colbert Report (54%).[55]

A 2010 Stanford University survey found "more exposure to Fox News was associated with more rejection of many mainstream scientists’ claims about global warming, [and] with less trust in scientists".[56] A 2011 Kaiser Family Foundation survey on U.S. misperceptions about health care reform similarly found that Fox News viewers scored lower for factual knowledge than other news viewers.[57] A 2010 Ohio State University study of public misperceptions about the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" found that viewers who relied on Fox News were 66% more likely to believed incorrect rumors than those with "low reliance" on Fox News. [58]

A study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland School of Public Affairs, as published in the Winter 03-04 issue of the Political Science Quarterly,[59] reported that poll-based findings[60] indicated that viewers of Fox News, the Fox Broadcasting Company and local Fox affiliates were more likely than viewers of other news networks to hold three purported misperceptions:[59]

  • 67% of Fox viewers believed that the "U.S. has found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al Qaeda terrorist organization" (Compared with 56% for CBS, 49% for NBC, 48% for CNN, 45% for ABC, 16% for NPR/PBS).
  • The belief that "The U.S. has found Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq" was held by 33% of Fox viewers and only 23% of CBS viewers, 19% for ABC, 20% for NBC, 20% for CNN and 11% for NPR/PBS
  • 35% of Fox viewers believed that "the majority of people [in the world] favor the U.S. having gone to war" with Iraq. (Compared with 28% for CBS, 27% for ABC, 24% for CNN, 20% for NBC, 5% for NPR/PBS)

In response, Fox News frequent guest Ann Coulter characterized the PIPA findings as "misperceptions of pointless liberal factoids" and called it a "hoax poll."[61] Bill O'Reilly called the study "absolute crap."[62] Roger Ailes referred to the study as "an old push poll."[63] James Taranto, editor of, the Wall Street Journal's online editorial page, called the poll "pure propaganda."[64] PIPA issued a clarification on October 17, 2003, stating that "The findings were not meant to and cannot be used as a basis for making broad judgments about the general accuracy of the reporting of various networks or the general accuracy of the beliefs of those who get their news from those networks. Only a substantially more comprehensive study could undertake such broad research questions," and that the results of the poll show correlation, but do not prove causation.[65][66]

PIPA also conducted a statistical study on purported misinformation evidenced by registered voters prior to the 2010 election. According to the results of the study, "...false or misleading information is widespread in the general information environment..."[67] but viewers of Fox News were more likely to be misinformed on specific issues when compared to viewers of comparable media,[68] that this liklihood also increased proportionally to the frequency of viewing Fox News[68] and that these findings showed statistical significance.[69] Media critic David Zurawik pointed to what he saw as weaknesses in the study, such as that certain government agencies are defined as holding the "true" positions on issues and that the study didn't differentiate between the influences of FNC shows as opposed to political ads that aired within shows.[70]

Internal memos and e-mails

Daily memos

Fox News executives exert a degree of editorial control over the content of their daily reporting. In the case of Fox News, some of this control comes in the form of daily memos issued by Fox News' Vice President of News, John Moody. In the documentary Outfoxed, former Fox News employees are interviewed to better understand the inner workings of Fox News. In memos from the documentary, Moody instructs employees on the approach to be taken on particular stories. Critics of Fox News claim that the instructions on many of the memos indicate a conservative bias. The Washington Post quoted Larry Johnson, a former part-time Fox News commentator, describing the Moody memos as "talking points instructing us what the themes are supposed to be, and God help you if you stray."[71]

Former Fox News producer Charlie Reina explained, "The roots of Fox News Channel's day-to-day on-air bias are actual and direct. They come in the form of an executive memo distributed electronically each morning, addressing what stories will be covered and, often, suggesting how they should be covered. To the newsroom personnel responsible for the channel's daytime programming, The Memo is the Bible. If, on any given day, you notice that the Fox anchors seem to be trying to drive a particular point home, you can bet The Memo is behind it."[72][73]

Photocopied memos from John Moody instructed the network's on-air anchors and reporters to use positive language when discussing pro-life viewpoints, the Iraq war, and tax cuts, as well as requesting that the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal be put in context with the other violence in the area.[74] Such memos were reproduced for the film Outfoxed, which included Moody quotes such as, "The soldiers [seen on Fox in Iraq] in the foreground should be identified as 'sharpshooters,' not 'snipers,' which carries a negative connotation."

Two days after the 2006 election, The Huffington Post reported they had acquired a copy of a leaked internal memo from Mr. Moody that recommended: "…[L]et's be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress." Within hours of the memo's publication, Fox News anchor Martha McCallum, went on-air on the program The Live Desk with reports of Iraqi insurgents cheering the firing of Donald Rumsfeld and the results of the 2006 congressional election.[75][76]

Bill Sammon e-mails

In December 2010, Media Matters for America released a leaked October 2009 e-mail between Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon and the network's senior producers, which seemed to issue directives slanting Fox News' coverage of President Barack Obama's health care reform efforts. In the e-mail, Sammon instructed producers to not use the phrase "public option" when discussing a key measure of President Obama's reform bill, and instead use the terms "government option" or "government-run health insurance", noting negative connotations; Sammon also suggested that the qualifier "so-called" be said before any proper mention of the public option. Another e-mail by Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente accepted Sammon's conditions. Critics claimed that Sammon took advice from Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who appeared on Hannity shortly before the e-mail was written and made the same suggestions in identifying the public option. Critics also noticed that reporters and panelists on Special Report with Bret Baier used the term "public option" before the e-mail was sent, but used the term "government option" immediately afterwards. Sammon, in an interview with Howard Kurtz for The Daily Beast, defended the directive and denied he was trying to skew Fox News' coverage.[77]

Later that month, Media Matters released an e-mail by Sammon from December 2009, in which he pressured Fox News reporters to include the views of climate change skeptics in light of the Climategate controversy.[78][79]

Talking points from Bush White House

While promoting his memoir, What Happened, Scott McClellan, former White House Press Secretary (2003–2006) for President George W. Bush stated on the July 25, 2008, edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews that the Bush White House routinely gave talking points to Fox News commentators — but not journalists — in order to influence discourse and content.[80] McClellan stated that these talking points were not issued to provide the public with news, but were issued to provide Fox News commentators with issues and perspectives favorable to the White House and Republican Party.[80]

McClellan later apologized to Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly for not responding to Matthews' suggestion that "Bill" or "Sean" received the talking points; McClellan said he had no personal knowledge that O'Reilly ever received the talking points. Furthermore he pointed out "the way a couple of questions were phrased in that interview along with my response left things open to interpretation and I should not have let that happen."[81]

Wikipedia edits

In August 2007, a new utility, Wikipedia Scanner, revealed that Wikipedia articles relating to Fox News had been edited from IP addresses owned by Fox News,[82] though it was not possible to determine exactly who the editors were. The tool showed that self-referential edits from IP ranges owned by corporations and news agencies were not uncommon, including from The New York Times.[82] Fox edits received attention in the blogosphere and on some online news sites. Wikipedia articles edited from Fox computers from 2005 through 2007 included Al Franken, Keith Olbermann, Chris Wallace and Brit Hume.[83]

Photo manipulation

Fox News Channel image of Steinberg superimposed on a poodle, and Reddicliffe superimposed on the man holding the poodle's leash
Left: Original photo of Jacques Steinberg. Right: Photo aired on Fox News Channel.
Left: Original photo of Steven Reddicliffe. Right: Photo aired on Fox News Channel.

On the July 2, 2008, edition of Fox and Friends, co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy aired photos of New York Times reporter Jacques Steinberg and Times television editor Steven Reddicliffe that appeared to have been crudely doctored, apparently in order to portray the journalists unflatteringly. This occurred during a discussion of a piece in the June 28 edition of The New York Times, which pointed out what Steinberg called "ominous trends" in Fox News' ratings.[84]

According to Media Matters, the photos depict New York Times reporter Jacques Steinberg with yellowed teeth, "his nose and chin widened, and his ears made to protrude further." The other image, of Times television editor Steven Reddicliffe, had similar yellow teeth, as well as "dark circles ... under his eyes, and his hairline has been moved back."[85]

During the discussion, Doocy called the Times report, written by Steinberg, a "hit piece" ordered up by Reddicliffe.[84] The broadcast then showed an image of Steinberg's face superimposed over a picture of a poodle, while Reddicliffe's face was superimposed over the man holding the poodle's leash.[84]

Times culture editor Sam Sifton called the photo that was aired on Fox "disgusting," and the criticism of the paper's reporting a "specious and meritless claim" while denying that it was a "hit piece."[84]

9/12 newspaper ad controversy

On September 18, 2009, Fox News Channel took out full-page ads in The Washington Post, the New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal with a prominent caption reading, "How did ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN miss this story?" with pictures of a Tea Party movement protest on the United States Capitol lawn. A still picture in the ad was in fact taken from a CNN broadcast covering the event. The veracity of this ad was called into question on the air by then-CNN commentator Rick Sanchez, along with others pointing to various coverage of the event.[86][87][88] CNN, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, and CBS Radio News provided various forms of live coverage of the rally in Washington throughout the day on Saturday, including the lead story on CBS Evening News.[86][88][89][90]

Fox News' vice president of marketing, Michael Tammero, responded, "it's fair to say that from the tea party movement . . . to ACORN . . . to the march on 9/12, the networks either ignored the story, marginalized it or misrepresented the significance of it altogether."[91]

Obama administration conflict with Fox News

In September 2009, the Obama administration engaged in a verbal conflict with Fox News Channel. On September 20, 2009, President Obama appeared on all the major news programs except Fox News, a snub partially in response to remarks about the President by commentators Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and general coverage by Fox with regard to Obama's Health Care proposal.[92][93] Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace called White House administration officials "crybabies" in response. Following this, a senior Obama adviser told U.S. News that the White House would never get a fair shake from Fox News.[94]

In late September 2009, Obama senior advisor David Axelrod and Roger Ailes met in secret to try and smooth out tensions between the two camps without much success. Two weeks later, White House officials referred to FNC as “not a news network", communications director Anita Dunn asserting that “Fox News often operates as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.”[95][96] President Obama followed with "If media is operating basically as a talk radio format, then that's one thing, and if it's operating as a news outlet, then that's another," [97] and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel stated that it was important "to not have the CNN's and the others in the world basically be led in following Fox."[98]

Within days it was reported that Fox had been excluded from an interview with administration official Ken Feinberg, with bureau chiefs from the White House Pool (ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN) coming to the defense of Fox.[99] One of the major bureau chiefs stated, "If any member had been excluded it would have been the same thing, it has nothing to do with Fox or the White House or the substance of the issues."[100] Shortly after this story broke the White House admitted to a low-level mistake, but that said that Fox had not made a specific request to interview Feinberg. Fox White House correspondent Major Garrett responded by stating that he had not made a specific request, but that he had a "standing request from me as senior White House correspondent on Fox to interview any newsmaker at the Treasury at any given time news is being made."[101]

On November 8, 2009 the Los Angeles Times reported that an unnamed Democratic consultant was warned by the White House not to appear on Fox News again. According to the article, Anita Dunn claimed in an e-mail to have checked with colleagues who "deal with TV issues" and had been told that nobody had been instructed to avoid Fox. Patrick Caddell, a Fox News contributor and former pollster for President Jimmy Carter said he had spoken with other Democratic consultants who had received similar warnings from the White House.[102]

Video footage/crowd size

Comedian Jon Stewart reported on his November 10, 2009 broadcast of The Daily Show that Fox News pundit Sean Hannity misrepresented video footage purportedly showing large crowds on a health-care protest orchestrated by Rep. Michele Bachmann. Stewart showed inconsistencies in alternating shots according to the color of the sky and tree leaves, showing that spliced in the shots was footage from Glenn Beck's much larger 9/12 rally which had occurred two months earlier. Hannity estimated 20,000 protesters were in attendance, the Washington Post estimated 10,000 and Luke Russert reported that three Capitol Hill police officers guessed "about 4,000."[103][104] Sean Hannity apologized to his viewers for the error during his November 11, 2009 broadcast.[105]

On November 18, 2009, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett told viewers that a Sarah Palin book signing in Grand Rapids, Michigan had a massive turnout while showing footage of Palin with a large crowd. Jarrett noted that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate is "continuing to draw huge crowds while she's promoting her brand-new book", adding that the images being shown were "some of the pictures just coming in to us.... The lines earlier had formed this morning."[106] The video was actually taken from a 2008 McCain/Palin campaign rally. Fox senior vice-president of news Michael Clemente issued an initial statement saying, "This was a production error in which the copy editor changed a script and didn't alert the control room to update the video."[106] Fox offered an on-air apology the following day during the same "Happening Now" segment citing regrets for what they described as a "video error" with no intent to mislead.[107]

Criticisms of pundits

Notable pundits

  • Glenn Beck, the host of an eponymous afternoon commentary show, stated in 2009 that he believes President Obama is "a racist" and has "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture."[108] These remarks drew criticism, and resulted in a boycott promulgated by Color of Change.[109] The boycott resulted in 80 advertisers requesting their ads be removed from his programming, to avoid associating their brands with content that could be considered offensive by potential customers. He later apologized for the remarks, telling Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace that he has a "big fat mouth" and miscast as racism what is actually, as he theorizes, Obama's belief in black liberation theology.[109][110][111][112][113][114][115][116] Glenn Beck left Fox News in June 2011 after 29 months with the network.[117][118]
  • Neil Cavuto, who is also Fox News' vice president of business news and a current member of the network's executive committee, was described as a "Bush apologist" by critics[119] after conducting an allegedly deferential interview with President George W. Bush. Democratic strategists and politicians boycotted Cavuto's show in 2004 after he claimed, on air, that Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was rooting for Senator John Kerry.[120] Cavuto has also received criticism for gratuitous footage and photos of scantily clad supermodels and adult film stars on his show, Your World with Neil Cavuto.[121][122]
  • Alan Colmes is touted by Fox as "a hard-hitting liberal",[123] who was used to counter the conservative opinions of his co-host, conservative talk radio personality Sean Hannity on the political debate program Hannity & Colmes. However, while speaking to USA Today, he said: "I'm quite moderate." He has been characterized by several newspapers as being Sean Hannity's "sidekick."[124] Liberal commentator and Minnesota Senator Al Franken lambasted Colmes in his book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. Throughout the book, Colmes' name is printed in smaller type than all other words to emphasize Franken's belief that Colmes' role was to feebly defend liberal positions, allowing him to be bulldozed by Hannity. Franken accuses him of refusing to ask tough questions during debates and neglecting to challenge erroneous claims made by Hannity or his guests.[124]
  • John Gibson, the former host of an afternoon hour of news coverage called The Big Story, was cited as an example of Fox News blurring the lines between objective reporting and opinion/editorial programming. Gibson angered some people immediately after the 2000 presidential election controversy when, during the opinion segment of his show, Gibson said: "Is this a case where knowing the facts actually would be worse than not knowing? I mean, should we burn these ballots, preserve them in amber, or shred them?" and "George Bush is going to be president. And who needs to know that he's not a legitimate president?"[125] In an opinion piece on the Hutton Inquiry decision, Gibson said the BBC had "a frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Americanism that was obsessive, irrational and dishonest" and that the BBC reporter, Andrew Gilligan, "insisted on air that the Iraqi Army was heroically repulsing an incompetent American Military."[126] In reviewing viewer complaints, Ofcom (the United Kingdom's statutory broadcasting regulator) ruled that Fox News had breached the program code in three areas: "respect for truth", "opportunity to take part", and "personal opinions expressed (in an opinion slot) must not rest upon false evidence." Fox News admitted that Gilligan had not actually said the words that John Gibson appeared to attribute to him; Ofcom rejected the claim that it was intended to be a paraphrase. (See[127]). Gibson has also called Joe Wilson a "liar", claimed that "the far left" is working for Al Qaeda[128] and stated that he wished that Paris had been host to the 2012 Olympic Games, because it would have subjected the city to the threat of terrorism instead of London.[129] Gibson ran a segment on the exchange between Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani at the Republican primary debate on the motives of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The majority of the segment was centered around the 9/11 Truth movement; Gibson said that the movement has "infected" many people "including Ron Paul", though Ron Paul has never subscribed to 9/11 conspiracy theories, and believes that Al-Qaeda perpetrated the attacks. Gibson was also harshly criticized when, on his radio program, he repeatedly mocked Jon Stewart's reaction to 9/11 on The Daily Show. Some allege that this incident lead to his dismissal at Fox.

Discredited military and counterterrorism editor

  • The New York Times ran an article entitled "At Fox News, the Colonel Who Wasn't" by Jim Rutenberg,[133] revealing that Joseph A. Cafasso, whom Fox had employed for four months as a Military and Counterterrorism Editor, had bogus military credentials. Cafasso makes a 15 second appearance making pronouncements about the religious biases behind the Fox News reporting in Outfoxed.

Other criticisms

Criticism of media coverage

  • Outfoxed, a documentary film on Fox News by liberal activist Robert Greenwald, makes allegations of bias in Fox News by interviewing a number of former employees who discuss the network's practices. For example, Frank O'Donnell, identified as a Fox News producer, says: "We were stunned, because up until that point, we were allowed to do legitimate news. Suddenly, we were ordered from the top to carry [...] Republican, right-wing propaganda", including being told what to say about Ronald Reagan. The network made an official response[134] and claimed that four of the individuals identified as employees of Fox News either were not employees (O'Donnell, e.g., worked for an affiliate over which Fox News claims to have no editorial authority) or had their titles inflated.[135]
  • CNN founder Ted Turner accused Fox News of being "dumbed down" and "propaganda" and equated the network's popularity to Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1930's Germany, during a speech to the National Association of Television Program Executives.[136] In response, a Fox News spokesperson said "Ted is understandably bitter having lost his ratings, his network, and now his mind. We wish him well." The Anti-Defamation League, to whom Turner had apologized in the past for a similar comparison, said Turner is "a recidivist who hasn't learned from his past mistakes."[137]
  • Progressive media watchdog group Media Matters criticized Your World with Neil Cavuto for its focus on soft news stories. The show is targeted for its gratuitous footage and photos of scantily clad supermodels and porn stars.[138]

Criticism of ethics

  • During the Terri Schiavo case in early 2005, most of the commentators on Fox News — Sean Hannity, Brit Hume, Bill O'Reilly, Neil Cavuto, and John Gibson — called for her feeding tube to be reinserted. Progressive media watchdog Media Matters for America (MMFA) criticized Fox for their coverage of the affair,[139] saying that Fox took sides by referring to it as "Terri's Fight."[140] It also noted that Fox generally failed to disclose Schindler family spokesman Randall Terry's anti-abortion activism as the head of Operation Rescue. When O'Reilly's stated that "the battle over Terri Schiavo's life came down pretty much along secular-religious lines. Roman Catholics and other right-to-life-based religions generally wanted Ms. Schiavo to live", Media Matters noted that although evangelical Christians had been closely divided on the issue of removing Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube, both Catholics and non-Evangelical Protestants were overwhelmingly in favor of doing so.[141][142] When Gibson's offering the suggestion that the "political divide" was "Republicans stand for parents' right and life, and Democrats have sided for [a] questionable husband and dying", MMFA noted that in fact, a majority of Republicans also supported removal of the feeding tube.[141][143] When Democrats provided the media with a memo written by staffers of Republican Senator Mel Martinez suggesting ways in which the Republicans could use the issue for political gain, Fox News personalities suggested that Democrats might have forged the memo. Senator Martinez later admitted that someone on his staff had written it,[144] and MMFA noted that Hume did not later mention that he had suggested an alternative possibility.[145][146]
  • Carl Cameron, chief political correspondent of Fox News, authored a bogus "news article" on the Fox News website in October 2004. It contained three fabricated quotes attributed to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Fox News retracted the story and apologized, calling it a "jest" that became published through "fatigue and bad judgment, not malice."[147]

Criticism of individuals

  • Media Matters contends that Fox specializes in "political sabotage" by putting up moderate-to-conservative "Democrats" as token liberals against more staunchly conservative Republicans. It cites the following people as examples of this:
    • Pat Caddell[148] – called the Democratic party a "confederacy of gangsters" and defended conservative writer Ann Coulter when she said she could not talk about former Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards if a homophobic epithet she used was off-limits.[149]
    • Susan Estrich[150] – known for her opposition to liberal Democrats and support for the Democratic Leadership Council, and once told Sean Hannity that she was his "biggest liberal friend."
    • Zell Miller[151] – a frequent guest on Fox News and a major critic of the Democratic Party. Miller spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
  • Another allegation of Fox's critics is that it sometimes ridicules protesters, especially ones for liberal causes. For example, during the 2004 Republican National Convention, Bill O'Reilly referred to some of the protesters as "terrorists" (though he added, "most protesters are peaceful").[152][153] Fox News online columnist Mike Straka referred to anti-war protesters at the September 24, 2005, march in Washington, D.C. as "jobless, anti-American, clueless, smelly, stupid traitors" and "protesters from hell."[154][155]'
The Fox News report on Malmö was replayed on Swedish television, here on SVT1.
  • Iranian-Swedish newspaper commentator Behrang Kianzad wrote in the Expressen newspaper that "there are lies, damned lies and Fox News",[156] in response to a Fox News story about allegedly Muslim violence in the city of Malmö, Sweden. The report focused on the borough of Rosengård where two out of 1,000 school students were ethnic Swedes.[157] Kianzad wrote that rock throwing against police, firefighters and ambulance personnel happened "not just in Rosengård and not as a Muslim custom."[156]
  • In August 2006, two Jordanian-Arab freelancers who were working for Fox News as producers, resigned from the network, citing its coverage that month of the Israel's conflict with the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. Their resignation letter read in part: "We can no longer work with a news organization that claims to be fair and balanced when you are so far from that...Not only are you Fox News an instrument of the Bush White House, and Israeli propaganda, you are war mongers with no sense of decency, nor professionalism."[158]
  • On January 19, 2007, reports and commentary by Fox News personalities featured an anonymously sourced article in the conservative web magazine Insight that claimed that associates of Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton had discovered that Senator Barack Obama had attended a "Muslim seminary" as a child in Indonesia. The term "Muslim seminary" refers to a specifically religious form of madrassa (school). It was determined within days that Obama had instead, as he had said in his memoirs, attended first a Catholic and then a modern public elementary school. The latter was, as Obama had written, "predominantly Muslim" (as Indonesia is predominantly Muslim), and not a seminary of any kind.[159] On January 31, 2007, the Washington Post suggested that because of FNC's reporting of the Insight article, Obama had "frozen out" the network's reporters and producers while giving interviews to every other major network. After the incident John Moody, a vice president at Fox, wrote to staff: "For the record: seeing an item on a website does not mean it is right. Nor does it mean it is ready for air on FNC. The urgent queue is our way of communicating information that is air-worthy. Please adhere to this."[160]
  • In March 2007, the Democratic Party in Nevada pulled out of a planned debate to be hosted by Fox. Its spokesmen cited a joke by Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, which hinged on President George W. Bush confusing the names of Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden, as evidence that Fox News is biased against the party. Fox News chairman David Rhodes responded to the cancellation by saying that the Democratic Party is "owned by" (which had created a petition against the debate).[161][161]
  • On May 25, 2008, Fox News political contributor Liz Trotta stated on the air, while talking about the presidential election, "And now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, uh Obama. Well, both, if we could."; she then laughed. She apologized for the remark on-air on Fox News the next day, saying, "I am so sorry about what happened yesterday and the lame attempt at humor."[162] Trotta and Fox News were criticized for the remark by The New York Times editorial board and others.[163]
  • In June 2007, when Louisiana Democratic Congressman William J. Jefferson was indicted on corruption, racketeering, and bribery charges, Fox News ran a video of Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers, also black. Conyers criticized the network for "a history of inappropriate on-air mistakes" and the network's "lackluster" apology (which did not name him),[164] and a second, more specific apology was issued.[165] In November 2006 Fox News had aired footage of then-Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (also black) while talking about Sen. Barack Obama.[166]

Fox News responses

In June 2004, CEO Roger Ailes responded to some of the criticism with a rebuttal in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal,[167] saying that Fox's critics intentionally confuse opinion shows such as The O'Reilly Factor with regular news coverage. Ailes stated that Fox News has broken stories harmful to Republicans, offering "Fox News is the network that broke George W. Bush's DUI four days before the election" as an example. The DUI story was broken by then-Fox affiliate WPXT in Portland, Maine, although Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron also contributed to the report and, in the words of National Public Radio ombudsman Alicia C. Shepard, Fox News Channel "sent the story ping-ponging around the nation" by broadcasting WPXT's coverage.[168] WPXT News Director Kevin Kelly said that he "called Fox News in New York City to see if we were flogging a dead horse" before running the story, and that Fox News Channel confirmed the arrest with the campaign and ran the story shortly after 6 p.m.[168]

Upon the release of Outfoxed, Fox News issued a statement[134] denouncing, Greenwald and The New York Times for copyright infringement. Fox dismissed their judgments of former employees featured in the documentary as the partisan views of disgruntled workers who never vocalized concern over any alleged bias while they were employed at the network. Ailes also shrugged off criticisms of the former Fox employees by noting that they worked in Fox affiliates and not at the actual channel itself. Fox News also challenged any news organization that sought to portray Fox as a "problem" with the following proposition: "If they will put out 100 percent of their editorial directions and internal memos, Fox News Channel will publish 100 percent of our editorial directions and internal memos, and let the public decide who is fair. This includes any legitimate cable news network, broadcast network, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post."

Former Fox News personality Eric Burns has suggested in an interview that Fox "probably gives voice to more conservatives than the other networks. But not at the expense of liberals." Burns justifies a higher exposure of conservatives by saying that other media often ignore conservatives.[169]

See also


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  140. ^ John Gibson's and Fox News' description of Schiavo case: "Terri's Fight", Media Matters for America, March 29, 2005
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  142. ^ Poll: No Role for Government in Schiavo Case, ABC News, March 21, 2005
  143. ^ Only on Fox: John Gibson suggested that "Republicans stand for parents' rights and life, and Democrats have sided for questionable husband and dying", Media Matters for America, March 23, 2005
  144. ^ Allen, Mike (April 7, 2005). "Counsel to GOP Senator Wrote Memo On Schiavo". The Washington Post. 
  145. ^ After GOP source of Schiavo memo was confirmed, Hume, Kristol failed to acknowledge their roles in suggesting Democrats had authored it, Media Matters for America, April 8, 2005
  146. ^ Dissecting a right-wing smear: How conservatives used trumped-up evidence to blame Democrats for Schiavo memo, Media Matters for America, April 7, 2005
  147. ^ Trail Tales: What's That Face?,, October 1, 2004
  148. ^ "Who is Pat Caddell?". , Media Matters for America, September 16, 2004
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  150. ^ "Hannity & Colmes substitute host Estrich: progressive standard-bearer?". . Media Matters for America, June 9, 2004
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  153. ^ O'Reilly, Bill (August 26, 2004). "Small Minority of Protesters Can Cause Big Trouble". Fox News.,2933,130209,00.html.  by Bill O'Reilly,, August 26, 2004
  154. ^ Fox & Friends' Kilmeade called G8 protesters "morons without jobs," insisted new Goldberg attack book not skewed, Media Matters for America, July 6, 2005
  155. ^ Grrr! Protesters From Hell by Mike Straka,, September 27, 2005
  156. ^ a b Expressen: Räven går i Rosengård Behrang Kianzad
  157. ^ Harrigan, Steve Swedes Reach Muslim Breaking Point Fox News, November 26, 2004
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  160. ^ "Obama's Grudge Factor". Washington Post. 2007-01-31. Retrieved 2007-01-31. 
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  162. ^ Fox analyst apologizes for Obama assassination joke, Michael Calderone, Politico, May 26, 2008
  163. ^ Assassination Humor? Fox Crosses a Line
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  165. ^ "Fox News apologizes again for tape goof". 
  166. ^ "Fox News' African-American elected official mix-up not its first". Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  167. ^ (The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corporation, which also owns Fox News) Elite, Arrogant, Condescending; The L.A. Times' editor is terrified of Fox News. How pathetic. by Roger Ailes, OpinionJournal, Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2004
  168. ^ a b Alicia C. Shepard, "A Late-Breaking Campaign Skeleton," American Journalism Review, December 2000
  169. ^ Eric Burns: Fox News Does Not Air 'Irresponsible Right-Wing Ranting'

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