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I just love Fox News

By Michael M. Bates
web posted May 12, 2008

In fact, I don't really love Fox News.  I do, however, love saying that I just love Fox News.  Simply expressing that view is enough to drive many liberals to rabid, foaming at the mouth frenzy.  I mean, even more than their typical rabid, foaming at the mouth frenzy, which is not inconsiderable.

That's because Fox News has a reputation, primarily among people who've dwelled too long on college campuses, for being dreadfully, unashamedly, intolerably conservative.  Or, as they are wont to label anything deviating one iota from the prescribed liberal line, fascist.

Which is mildly amusing as a Fox News mainstay, Bill O'Reilly, is deemed by at least a few conservatives as not very conservative.  In her book Slander, Ann Coulter – she of the long blond hair and short skirts – takes O'Reilly to task for his opposition to the death penalty and support for gun control.  Add to that his all too eager acceptance of the global warming hysteria and his belief that poor little Elian Gonzalez deserved dispatch to the Castro Brothers' prison known as Cuba, and you've got a guy Jeremiah Wright might find adequate.

My own beef with O'Reilly and the Fox News Channel is of more recent vintage.  Last year, Fox intended to carry a debate of the Democratic presidential candidates.  Co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute, the event was abandoned when Senators Clinton and Obama, along with John Edwards, declared they wouldn't show up.  The tone was set by a statement Edwards issued: "We believe there's just no reason for Democrats to give Fox a platform to advance the right-wing agenda while pretending they're objective."

Newsday columnist and occasional Fox contributor Ellis Henican, a liberal, thought the candidates' decision was wrong.  "If you can't handle the people at Fox News Channel, it makes people wonder if you can handle the Iranians, the North Koreans, the Chinese, the Russians and maybe even the Canadians," he observed.

Yet the two remaining Democratic contenders have shunned the Fox News Channel all this time.  Hillary Clinton generously agreed to an interview on O'Reilly's program recently.  You'd have thought he struck gold.  Clips of the interview were made available to other news outlets.  The interview or parts of it were repeatedly shown on Fox.  Quite a coup, obviously.

If I were O'Reilly, I wouldn't have given Mrs. Clinton the publicity.  I'd have told her, "Look, you refused to debate on this network.  You've consistently refused to appear on our programming and you and your campaign have frozen our reporters out as much as possible.

"Now you need Fox more than we need you.  Down on advertising dollars and engaged in crucial contests in some relatively conservative states, you want free air time to convey your message to a large audience.  Get lost.  And have a nice day."

Mr. Obama broke his own boycott by appearing on "Fox News Sunday" recently.  More than two years ago, he promised host Chris Wallace he'd appear on the program.  772 days later, he finally did.  Again, I would have told the senator to hit the bricks.

Predictably, some liberals got their undies in a twist over the Clinton and Obama appearances.  It "legitimized" Fox News, they complained.

The reality is the Fox News Channel isn't all that conservative.  It may appear that way because other networks tilt so far to the left.

In their 2004 study, "A Measure of Media Bias," professors Tim Groseclose of UCLA and Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Missouri examined several news sources, including the three network's news shows, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Drudge Report, CNN's "NewsNight" with Aaron Brown, and Fox News' "Special Report."

Using meticulous qualitative analysis geared to estimated ratings from the respected Americans for Democratic Action, the researchers determined – surprise, surprise – that the measured media outlets are liberally biased.  Said one of the authors:  "I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican.  But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

Moreover, the study found that Fox News' "Special Report, "while right of center, was closer to the center than any of the three major networks' evening news broadcasts."  Other analyses of Fox have arrived at similar conclusions.  Fox News can justly be reckoned conservative only because so many competitors are playing deep in left field.

One of the other admirable features of the network is the comeliness of its distaff staff.  They may have a monopoly on the lip gloss, but that's OK.  Despite its deficiencies, the Fox News Channel is still a breath of fresh air.  I don't love it.  But I do like it a lot. ESR

This Michael Bates column appeared in the May 8, 2008 Reporter Newspapers.






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