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Reported by Nancy - July 30, 2004 -

Fox News staff just can't help it ... some of them are congenitally incapable of being neutral. And the network's policies surely don't help.

Just compare the coverage provided by the 3 national cable news networks (CNN, Fox, MSNBC) who ostensibly covered the DNC tonight.

6pm (EDT): Chris Matthews (MSNBC) had a special panel of Ron Reagan, Dee Dee Myers & David Gergen. They showed some of the DNC events, discussed them, & interviewed people like Harold Schaitberger (International Assoc of Firefighters) & Richard Trumka (AFL-CIO). Lou Dobbs (CNN) also had a special panel -- Roger Simon, Karen Tumulty & Ron Brownstein. They also showed some of the DNC events, discussed them, & interviewed people like Rep Harold Ford, EJ Dionne & Rep Luis Gutierrez. Even the "big 3" broadcast networks provided some coverage during the nightly news. Peter Jennings (ABC) showed an interview he did with Kerry. Tom Brokaw (NBC) did a piece on the importance of spouses. Dan Rather (CBS) did a segment in Boston. All three anchors advised viewers to watch C-SPAN or PBS or their related websites (e.g., Brokaw recommended MSNBC). Brit Hume had his "regulars" -- Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke, Bill Kristol & Mara Liasson. They showed very little of the DNC. Wendell Goler did a segment about the history of "black politics" that included references to Dixiecrats & Al Sharpton. Hume interviewed Jeff Jacoby & Joan Vennochi (columnists from the Boston Globe).

7:00pm (EDT): On MSNBC, Chris Matthews continued with the special panel, again showed some of the DNC events, & interviewed people like Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings & Ed Gillespie. Anderson Cooper (CNN) interviewed Wesley Clark & Howard Dean. On Fox, Shephard Smith did his usual shtick, with reports from the DNC by Martha MacCallum & Major Garrett. Of course, Smith also covered a couple of sport events, scooter races in the Netherlands, kick-boxing orangutans, poisoned baby food (mis-reporting this as "ricin poisoning" even though earlier this morning Fox had reported that it was "contaminated with castor beans"). At 7:50pm (EDT) both CNN & MSNBC covered Mavis Staples singing "America the Beautiful". At 7:52pm (EDT) MSNBC began covering Senator Joe Biden's speech at the DNC. Fox did neither. Fox was too busy covering Paris Hilton's break-up, "outrageous" summer reading lists for students, & plugging their own "American Idol" with a teaser about "what happens to ‘fallen Idols' ".

Bill O'Reilly kicked off his show at 8:00am (EDT) by interviewing Newt Gingrich about what Kerry *must* do tonight -- which of course immediately devolved into Gingrich claiming that Kerry wouldn't be able to do anything. O'Reilly claimed he had a copy of Kerry's planned speech & waved around a bunch of paper -- but to his credit, honored the agreement not to read from it, limiting his remarks to criticism about the length of it. After an obligatory mention of the Lori Hacking case, O'Reilly interviewed Rep Dennis Kucinich at 8:12pm (EDT) & Rep Barney Frank at 8:15pm (EDT). Kucinich was fairly good, but Frank really fought back, catching O'Reilly in a "mistake" when O'Reilly tried to start an argument about gay marriage -- O'Reilly claimed that only 28% of Americans favor "gay marriage" & 31% of Americans favor "civil unions" so that means "most" Americans don't favor either; Frank pointed out that O'Reilly's own numbers show that 28%+31% = 59% of Americans favor one or the other. At 8:28pm (EDT) O'Reilly interviewed Dick Morris [Comment: one of Fox's favorite alleged Dems], who did his usual "I am omniscient" routine. At 8:37pm (EDT) O'Reilly interviewed Howie Carr, a host of a Boston talk radio show & columnist for the Boston Herald [Comment: no surprise here, both the radio show & the Boston Herald are extremely right-wing]. At 8:42pm (EDT), Fox sort of covered Willie Nelson singing at the DNC [Comment: he must be popular with their base] but O'Reilly continued talking with Carr over most of Nelson's performance. At 8:50pm (EDT) -- after several teasers about "some feminists are mad at Fox, & you won't believe why" -- O'Reilly interviewed Elaine Lafferty, of "Ms" magazine. According to O'Reilly's account, "Ms" claims that Chris Wallace made a derogatory remark about Teresa Heinz-Kerry & the magazine is in a snit about it. I didn't see the incident, nor did I read the apparent "Ms" editorial about it, but I can report that O'Reilly did his usual ask-a-question-but-don't-let-the-guest-respond routine. He also got in a few of his usual trademark jabs, calling Laffery (& by extension, anyone critical of Fox for any reason), "demagogues" & "far-left fanatics" [Comment: if Fox critics really are "far-left fanatics" could it be because Fox really is a "right-wing propaganda outlet"?]. O'Reilly ended his hour by reading selected emails from viewers.

During the same hour, in addition to covering some of the speeches at the DNC, MSNBC interviewed Wesley Clark, Al Sharpton, Tom Brokaw, Maureen Dowd (The New York Times), Tim Russert, & Hendrik Hertzberg (the New Yorker); while CNN interviewed Mary Beth Cahill, Wesley Clark, some of Kerry's swift boat crew, & Barack Obama. CNN also had a delegate cam on the floor of the DNC, which was an interesting attempt to integrate new technology [Comment: I think the cam was pretty boring, altho it probably will be used to better effect once they get some kinks worked out].

At 9:00pm (EDT), Sean Hannity led off with an interview with Rudy Giuliani (a member of the GOP "Truth Squad" camped out in Boston). This gave Giuliani a chance to hit the GOP themes du jour, including phrases straight from this morning's GOP email -- "consistency", "stay the course" & "stick with it" -- while comparing Bush to Churchill! As if that weren't hilarious enough, Hannity continued to repeat the misinformation that "Edwards is the 4th most liberal Senator" -- go here to see why that is misleading at best, downright false at worst. At 9:10pm (EDT), Hannity interviewed former Senator Gary Hart, leading with a question that was really a statement about (unspecified) polls showing Bush is ahead of Kerry. Hart was able to cite polls showing either Kerry ahead or essentially a dead heat. Alan Colmes piped up that "it's a horse race". At 9:14, a frustrated Hannity interviewed Bill Bennett (former federa; drug czar under George HW Bush) & couldn't contain himself -- unlike O'Reilly, who had earlier *not* read from an advance copy of Kerry's speech because of an "embargo", Hannity read several entire sentences & invited Bennett to comment (which of course he did, negatively). At 9:20pm (EDT), we were spared further H&C follies when Fox (like the other cable news networks) switched to live coverage of the DNC.

During the same 20 minutes, in addition to covering some of the speeches at the DNC, MSNBC interviewed Douglas Brinkley (Kerry biographer), & MO Governor Bob Holden; while Larry King at CNN interviewed Bob Dole, Joe Lieberman, Bob Woodward, & George Mitchell

Beginning at 9:20pm (EDT), Fox, MSNBC & CNN all began covering the DNC live. Brit Hume & his regular panel (Barnes, Kristol, Kondracke & Liasson) talked over the first live speaker (Kerry's son, Andre Heinz); Hume announced who the rest of the speakers would be, ending with former Senator Max Cleland, whom Hume described as having been "severely wounded in Vietnam" [Comment: that's how you describe a man who lost both legs & one arm? "severely wounded"? how about "nearly killed"?]

At 9:35pm (EDT), the DNC showed a bio film on Kerry. MSNBC ran no banner beneath the film, CNN bannered it as "Democratic Party produced film" & Fox bannered it as "Kerry campaign film". The film ran 10 minutes. At 9:45pm (EDT), the Fox panel began critiquing the film, with Hume, Kondracke & Kristol emphasizing that there was little in the film about Kerry's Senate record. [Comment: it was a 10-minute mini-bio, not a 4-hour epic.] At 9:49pm (EDT), the swift boat crews & former Green Beret John Rassman, whose life Kerry saved in Vietnam, took the stage. MSNBC stopped using the crawl at the bottom of the screen; Fox & CNN continued to run the crawl. At 10:07pm (EDT), when Kerry walked onto the convention floor, Hume was the only TV commentator, on any channel, to talk over his entrance. Kerry's speech ended at 10:56pm (EDT) & all 3 cable news networks stayed with the DNC for at least another 6-7 minutes, while Edwards joined Kerry, balloons dropped & the crowd went wild. Beginning at 11:02pm (EDT), the regular Fox panel began critiquing the speech, with intermittent brief segments from reporters on the floor of the convention (Michael Barone, Carl Cameron, Martha MacCallum, Major Garrett).

General Comment: why are Fox's guests -- with some exceptions -- so routinely second-tier? Is it that the A-list people refuse to appear on Fox? Or does Fox largely invite only guests who will tell viewers what Fox wants them to hear? When they can't find "safe" guests, they stick with their own staff, who will obviously toe the line ... or else.