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Fox News begins broadcasting on US cable television. Fox News provides 24-hour news programming alongside the nation’s only other such cable news provider, CNN. Fox executive Roger Ailes, a former campaign adviser for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush (see 1968, January 25, 1988, and September 21 - October 4, 1988), envisions Fox News as a conservative “antidote” to what he calls the “liberal bias” of the rest of American news broadcasting. Ailes uses many of the methodologies and characteristics of conservative talk radio, and brings several radio hosts on his channel, including Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, to host television shows. (Jamieson and Cappella 2008, pp. 47; Sherman 5/22/2011) Referring to Ailes’s campaign experience, veteran Republican consultant Ed Rollins later says: “Because of his political work, he understood there was an audience. He knew there were a couple million conservatives who were a potential audience, and he built Fox to reach them.” (Sherman 5/22/2011)
Ailes Planned for Fox News as Far Back as 1970 - Ailes began envisioning a conservative news provider to counter what he considers the mainstream media’s “liberal bias” as early as 1970, when he became heavily involved with a Nixon administration plan to plant conservative propaganda in news outlets across the nation (see Summer 1970). In 1971, he headed a short-lived private conservative television news network, Television News Incorporated (TVN—see 1971-1975), which foundered in 1975 in part because of its reporters and staffers balking at reporting Ailes-crafted propaganda instead of “straight” news. Ailes told a New York Times reporter in 1991 that he was leaving politics, saying: “I’ve been in politics for 25 years. It’s always been a detour. Now my business has taken a turn back to my entertainment and corporate clients.” But Ailes misinformed the reporter. He continued to work behind the scenes on the 1992 Bush re-election campaign, providing the campaign with attack points against Democratic contender Bill Clinton (D-AR) and earning the nickname “Deep Throat” from Bush aides. Though Ailes did do work in entertainment, helping develop tabloid television programs such as The Maury Povich Show and heading the cable business news network CNBC for three years, Ailes has continued to stay heavily involved in Republican politics ever since. Ailes became involved in the creation of Fox News in early 1996 after he left NBC, which had canceled his show America’s Talking and launched a new cable news network, MSNBC, without asking for Ailes’s involvement. Fox News is owned by News Corporation (sometimes abbreviated NewsCorp), an international media conglomerate owned by conservative billionaire Rupert Murdoch. When NBC allowed Ailes to leave, Jack Welch, the chairman of NBC’s parent company General Electric, said, “We’ll rue the day we let Roger and Rupert team up.” Murdoch has already tried and failed to buy CNN, and has already begun work on crafting news programs with hard-right slants, such as a 60 Minutes-like show that, reporter Tim Dickinson will write, “would feature a weekly attack-and-destroy piece targeting a liberal politician or social program.” Dan Cooper, the managing editor of the pre-launch Fox News, later says, “The idea of a masquerade was already around prior to Roger arriving.” Eric Burns, who will work for ten years as a Fox News media critic before leaving the network, will say in 2011: “There’s your answer right there to whether Fox News is a conventional news network or whether it has an agenda. That’s its original sin.” To get Fox News onto millions of cable boxes at once, Murdoch paid hundreds of millions of dollars to cable providers to air his new network. Murdoch biographer Neil Chenoweth will later write: “Murdoch’s offer shocked the industry. He was prepared to shell out half a billion dollars just to buy a news voice.” Dickinson will write, “Even before it took to the air, Fox News was guaranteed access to a mass audience, bought and paid for.” Ailes praised Murdoch’s “nerve,” saying, “This is capitalism and one of the things that made this country great.” (Sherman 5/22/2011; Dickinson 5/25/2011)
Using Conservative Talk Radio as Template - In 2003, NBC’s Bob Wright will note that Fox News uses conservative talk radio as a template, saying: “[W]hat Fox did was say, ‘Gee, this is a way for us to distinguish ourselves. We’re going to grab this pent-up anger—shouting—that we’re seeing on talk radio and put it onto television.’” CBS News anchor Dan Rather will be more critical, saying that Fox is a reflection of Murdoch’s own conservative political views. “Mr. Murdoch has a business, a huge worldwide conglomerate business,” Rather says. “He finds it to his benefit to have media outlets, press outlets, that serve his business interests. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a free country. It’s not an indictable offense. But by any clear analysis the bias is towards his own personal, political, partisan agenda… primarily because it fits his commercial interests.” (Auletta 5/26/2003)
Putting Ideology Over Journalistic Ethics, Practices - Ailes, determined not to let journalists with ethical qualms disrupt Fox News as they had his previous attempt at creating a conservative news network (see 1971-1975), brought a hand-picked selection of reporters and staffers with demonstrable conservative ideologies from NBC, including business anchor Neil Cavuto and Steve Doocy, who hosts the morning talk show “Fox and Friends.” Both Cavuto and Doocy are Ailes loyalists who, Dickinson will say, owe their careers to Ailes. Ailes then tapped Brit Hume, a veteran ABC correspondent and outspoken conservative, to host the main evening news show, and former Bush speechwriter Tony Snow as a commentator and host. John Moody, a forcefully conservative ABC News veteran, heads the newsroom. Ailes then went on a purge of Fox News staffers. Joe Peyronnin, who headed the network before Ailes displaced him, later recalls: “There was a litmus test. He was going to figure out who was liberal or conservative when he came in, and try to get rid of the liberals.” Ailes confronted reporters with suspected “liberal bias” with “gotcha” questions such as “Why are you a liberal?” Staffers with mainstream media experience were forced to defend their employment at such venues as CBS News, which he calls the “Communist Broadcast System.” He fired scores of staffers for perceived liberal leanings and replaced them with fiery young ideologues whose inexperience helps Ailes shape the network to his vision. Before the network aired its first production, Ailes had a seminal meeting with Moody. “One of the problems we have to work on here together when we start this network is that most journalists are liberals,” he told Moody. “And we’ve got to fight that.” Reporters and staffers knew from the outset that Fox, despite its insistence on being “fair and balanced” (see 1995), was going to present news with a conservative slant, and if that did not suit them, they would not be at Fox long. A former Fox News anchor later says: “All outward appearances were that it was just like any other newsroom. But you knew that the way to get ahead was to show your color—and that your color was red.” The anchor refers to “red” as associated with “red state,” commonly used on news broadcasts to define states with Republican majorities. Ailes will always insist that while his network’s talk-show hosts, such as O’Reilly, Hannity, and others, are frankly conservative, Fox’s hard-news shows maintain what he calls a “bright, clear line” that separates conservative cant from reported fact. In practice, this is not the case. Before Fox aired its first broadcast, Ailes tasked Moody to keep the newsroom in line. Early each morning, Ailes has a meeting with Moody, often with Hume on speakerphone from the Washington office, where the day’s agenda is crafted. Moody then sends a memo to the staff telling them how to slant the day’s news coverage according to the agenda of those on “the Second Floor,” as Ailes and his vice presidents are known. A former Fox anchor will later say: “There’s a chain of command, and it’s followed. Roger talks to his people, and his people pass the message on down.” After the 2004 presidential election, Bush press secretary Scott McClellan will admit, “We at the White House were getting them talking points.”
Targeting a Niche Demographic - Fox New’s primary viewership defies most demographic wisdom. According to information taken in 2011, it averages 65 years of age (the common “target demographic” for age is the 18-24 bracket), and only 1.38% of its viewers are African-American. Perhaps the most telling statistics are for the Hannity show: 86% describe themselves as pro-business, 84% believe government “does too much,” 78% are “Christian conservatives,” 78% do not support gay rights, 75% are “tea party backers,” 73% support the National Rifle Association, 66% lack college degrees, and 65% are over age 50. A former NewsCorp colleague will say: “He’s got a niche audience and he’s programmed to it beautifully. He feeds them exactly what they want to hear.” Other polls from the same time period consistently show that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of all news consumers, and one study shows that Fox News viewers become more misinformed the more they watch the network’s programming.
Ailes's Security Concerns Affect Operations, Broadcasting - Ailes is uncomfortable in his office, a second-floor corner suite in the Fox News building at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan. His office is too close to the street for his tastes; he believes that gay activists intend to try to harm him, either by attacks from outside the building or through assaults carried out from inside. He also believes that he is a top target for al-Qaeda assassins. Ailes barricades himself behind an enormous mahogany desk, insists on having “bombproof” glass installed in the windows, surrounds himself with heavily-armed bodyguards, and carries a firearm (he has a concealed-carry permit). A monitor on his desk shows him what is transpiring outside his office door; once, when he sees a dark-skinned man wearing what he thought was Muslim garb on the monitor, he will order an immediate lockdown of the entire building, shouting, “This man could be bombing me!” The man will turn out to be a janitor. A source close to Ailes will say, “He has a personal paranoia about people who are Muslim—which is consistent with the ideology of his network.” A large security detail escorts him daily to and from his Garrison, New Jersey home to his Manhattan offices; in Garrison, his house is surrounded by empty homes Ailes has bought to enhance his personal security. According to sources close to Ailes, Fox News’s slant on gay rights and Islamist extremism is colored by Ailes’s fear and hatred of the groups.
'We Work for Fox' - Sean Wilentz, a Princeton historian and Reagan biographer, will say: “Fox News is totalized: It’s an entire network, devoted 24 hours a day to an entire politics, and it’s broadcast as ‘the news.’ That’s why Ailes is a genius. He’s combined opinion and journalism in a wholly new way—one that blurs the distinction between the two.” Dickinson will write: “Fox News stands as the culmination of everything Ailes tried to do for Nixon back in 1968. He has created a vast stage set, designed to resemble an actual news network, that is literally hard-wired into the homes of millions of America’s most conservative voters. GOP candidates then use that forum to communicate directly to their base, bypassing the professional journalists Ailes once denounced as ‘matadors’ who want to ‘tear down the social order’ with their ‘elitist, horse-dung, socialist thinking.’ Ironically, it is Ailes who has built the most formidable propaganda machine ever seen outside of the Communist bloc, pioneering a business model that effectively monetizes conservative politics through its relentless focus on the bottom line.” Former Bush speechwriter David Frum will observe: “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us. Now we’re discovering that we work for Fox.” (Sherman 5/22/2011; Dickinson 5/25/2011)
Roger Ailes, the founder and chairman of Fox News (see October 7, 1996), makes a joke to an audience of news executives: “It is true that Barack Obama is on the move,” he says. “I don’t know if it’s true that President Bush called [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf and said, ‘Why can’t we catch this guy?’” The joke is a deliberate conflation between the names of presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) and Osama bin Laden. Ailes has Steve Doocy and the other hosts of his network’s morning news show Fox and Friends begin making similar jokes. Fox insiders will later note that while the banter between Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Gretchen Carlson appears to be mostly ad-libbed, it is actually highly structured; Ailes uses the show as one of the primary vehicles to get his daily message into what reporter Tim Dickinson will call “the media bloodstream.” Ailes meets with Doocy, Kilmeade, and Carlson every day before the 6:00 a.m. start; a former Fox News deputy will later say: “Prior to broadcast, Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson—that gang—they meet with Roger. And Roger gives them the spin.” Doocy is the first Fox News figure to publicly state that Obama attended a radical Islamist madrassa as a child, a falsification that begins circulating on the Internet around this same time (see October 1, 2007). (Sherman 5/22/2011)
Author Jerome Corsi, who has published a scathing, and well-debunked, challenge to presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)‘s American citizenship (see August 1, 2008 and After), calls Obama’s birth certificate a “fake” in an interview on Fox News. Corsi tells interviewer Steve Doocy: “Well, what would be really helpful is if Senator Obama would release primary documents like his birth certificate. The campaign has a false, fake birth certificate posted on their Web site. How is anybody supposed to really piece together his life?” Corsi is referring to a scanned digital copy of Obama’s birth certificate (see June 13, 2008), which has been confirmed as true and valid by Hawaiian state officials (see June 27, 2008). Corsi claims, “The original birth certificate of Obama has never been released and the campaign refuses to release it.” Doocy asks if the copy isn’t “just… a State of Hawaii-produced duplicate?” and Corsi responds: “No, it’s a—there’s been good analysis of it on the Internet, and it’s been shown to have watermarks from Photoshop. It’s a fake document that’s on the Web site right now, and the original birth certificate the campaign refuses to produce.” (FactCheck (.org) 8/21/2008)
Fox News commentators mock the idea of using insects to torture prisoners, as was revealed in recently released Justice Department torture memos (see April 16, 2009). Mike Huckabee (R-AR), the former governor of Arkansas and a 2008 presidential candidate who now has his own talk show on Fox, says, “Look, I’ve been in some hotels where there were more bugs than these guys faced.” Huckabee goes on to characterize the Obama administration’s version of prisoner interrogation, saying, “We’re going to talk to them, we’re going to have a nice conversation, we’re going to invite them down for some tea and crumpets.” Huckabee’s fellow commentators Gretchen Carlson and Steve Doocy join in the hilarity. (Media Matters 4/17/2009; Media Matters 4/21/2009)
Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters documents a number of instances where conservative commentators twist the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) into accusations of “calling Americans Nazis” or accusing citizens of being “un-American.” Hoyer and Pelosi wrote an op-ed in USA Today saying that for groups of corporate-sponsored protesters to disrupt and prevent open debate on the topic of health care reform was un-American (see August 10, 2009). Apparently the “Nazi” accusation comes in part from recent allegations by Rush Limbaugh that Pelosi and other Democrats have used Nazi accusations of their own (see August 6, 2009) and have, themselves, adopted Nazi symbology and precepts (see August 6, 2009).
MSNBC's Scarborough - MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, says on his show, “[O]n the left, you’ve got a speaker calling Americans un-American for going to town hall meetings and accusing them of carrying swastikas in there.” Scarborough goes on to say that it is not right to counter right-wing accusations and disruptions “by calling your opponents Nazis.”
Fox News Anchor - Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett says, “First of all, in the beginning, Pelosi sort of suggested that any American citizen who dared voice an objection in a protest is a Nazi, apparently based on one isolated incident.” Former George H. W. Bush speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote that Pelosi called protesters “Nazi-like.”
Wall Street Journal Columnist - Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto echoed Noonan, writing that Pelosi “insinuated that they [protesters] are Nazis,” and added that Nazi analogies are “far more common on the left than the right.” Limbaugh said flatly that Pelosi “is saying the people who oppose this are Nazis.”
Washington Times Op-Eds - The Washington Times says that Pelosi is “misleading” in asserting that protesters were “carrying swastikas.” Instead, the Times writes, “Closer examination [of the protest signs being carried at the town hall forums and rallies] revealed that in every case, the symbol was being used as a warning against the arrogance of power of which Mrs. Pelosi has become emblematic.” Citizen journalist Andrew Breitbart, in a Washington Times editorial, says that Pelosi “blatantly lied and said that the protesters were wielding ‘swastikas and symbols like that.’” The Wall Street Journal called Pelosi “completely clueless” for saying that anyone carried Nazi symbols to protests. Taranto wrote that Pelosi was suffering from “a fevered imagination” in seeing swastikas at protests and rallies. (Media Matters 8/11/2009)
Fox Hosts - Fox News hosts Gretchen Carlson and Steve Doocy tell their viewers that Hoyer and Pelosi called protesters “un-American.” Carlson says, “Some lawmakers are outright canceling the town halls now, and Nancy Pelosi says anyone who speaks out is un-American.” Doocy says moments later: “Of course, going back to Nancy Pelosi saying that apparently the opposing view to her view is un-American, that’s our text question this hour. Is it un-American to debate health care?” (Media Matters 8/10/2009)
Protests of Nazi Rhetoric - The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization, has protested the use of Nazi symbols and rhetoric both by anti-health care reform protesters and by conservative commentators (see August 7, 2009).
Fox News’s morning talk show Fox and Friends hosts the Reverend Robert Jeffress, who repeatedly suggests that President Obama is a “secret Muslim” (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, April 18, 2008, and April 26, 2011). Jeffress, the senior pastor of Dallas’s First Baptist Church, tells interviewer Steve Doocy: “Steve, let’s look at what’s really going on here. On the one hand, we have a president who never met a Muslim holiday he didn’t like, or at least wasn’t willing to issue a proclamation for; and on the other hand, here he is refusing to acknowledge publically the most important event in Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Jeffress is referring to Obama’s supposed refusal to acknowledge Easter. “And yet the White House is wondering, why do 20 percent of Americans believe the president is a Muslim? Well, as my kids would say, ‘Duh.’ You know, I mean, it’s actions like these that really make people wonder what it is the president really believes.… I really think, Steve, there’s only one of two explanations. Either he has advisers who are telling him that it’s politically expedient to ignore Christianity and elevate other world religions like Islam. And if that’s the case, Republicans need to pray that those advisers stay in place through the 2012 election cycle. The only other explanation is that there’s something deep within the president himself that will not allow him to issue these public proclamations about Christianity, when he on Easter will issue a proclamation about Earth Day, or he will recognize Muslim holidays. I think either explanation is deeply troubling for Christians.” (Media Matters 4/26/2011; Media Matters 4/27/2011) On the same day, pundits at Fox News and the Washington Times attack Obama’s April 24 attendance of Easter services at Washington’s Shiloh Baptist Church, claiming his choice to attend that church is evidence that he is a “black nationalist” (see April 27, 2011).
During a state Democratic Party convention in San Diego, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) calls Republican legislators “demons.” In response, Fox News talk show host Eric Bolling advises Waters to “step away from the crack pipe,” earning Bolling accusations of employing racist rhetoric against Waters. Waters, an African-American, speaks in support of Democrats retaking the US House of Representatives in November 2012, and says of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA): “I saw pictures of Boehner and Cantor on our screens [at the convention]. Don’t ever let me see again, in life, those Republicans in our hall, on our screens, talking about anything. These are demons. They are bringing down this country, destroying this country, because they’d rather do whatever they can do destroy this president rather than for the good of this country.” After news of Waters’s remarks becomes publicly known on February 15, Brad Dayspring, a spokesperson for Cantor, calls Waters’s rhetoric “sad and unfortunate.” (Fox News 2/15/2012) On February 16, Bolling, the host of Fox News’s The Five, appearing as a guest host on Fox News’s morning show Fox and Friends, responds to Waters’s rhetoric: “What is going on in California? How’s this? Congresswoman, you saw what happened to Whitney Houston (see February 12-13, 2012). Step away from the crack pipe. Step away from the Xanax. Step away from the Lorazepam. Because it’s going to get you in trouble. How else do you explain those kinds of comments?” Co-hosts Steve Doocy and Juliet Huddy laugh uncomfortably at Bolling’s comments; after a commercial break, Bolling modifies his comments by saying he was “kidding about the crack pipe, but obviously the rhetoric, you know.” Doocy immediately responds: “Of course. We knew that.” Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters says Bolling’s rhetoric is “racially charged,” particularly with his reference to Waters smoking crack, a drug stereotypically associated with African-American gangsters and street criminals. Politico notes that there is no evidence crack or any other illegal drug was involved in Houston’s recent death. (Media Matters 2/16/2012; Media Matters 2/16/2012; Politico 2/16/2012) On Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade’s radio show later in the day, guest host Andrea Tantaros, a Fox News commentator, defends Bolling’s racially inflammatory rhetoric. “How is that a racist remark?” Tantaros asks a caller. She goes on to say that Bolling was just joking, and says that “when you inject race into everything, you legitimize when people are actually really genuinely making racist remarks, which Eric Bolling was absolutely not doing.” (Media Matters 2/16/2012) Liberal news blog The Grio calls Waters’s rhetoric “incendiary” and Bolling’s comments “racially provocative and insensitive.” (The Grio 2/16/2012)
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