Home Store In Memoriam Deborah Newsletter Forum Topics Blogfeed Blogroll Facebook MySpace Contact Us About

Surviving a Scott Interview

Reported by Judy - September 7, 2004 -

Anybody who watches Fox News knows that Democratic guests who appear on Fox shows such as Hannity and Colmes or the O'Reilly Factor need to be prepared for hand-to-hand combat. But even Democrats who appear on Fox's so-called "straight news" shows can expect unfair treatment, although in a more subtle fashion than dished out elsewhere on the channel.

One way that Fox News Live anchor Jon Scott tries to favor Republicans over Democrats is in the phrasing of the questions that he asks them. Interviews today (Sept. 7) with Republican Richard Shelby and Democrat Michael Brown illustrate the point.

Here are the questions Scott asked Shelby regarding Bob Graham's book alleging Bush interference in the 9/11 investigation.

1. "If he's correct, there ought to be a hullabaloo on Capital Hill. What do you make of all of this?" This "question" casts doubt on the allegations by beginning with the red flag "if he's correct" and then ends without trying to steer Shelby one way or the other. Scott has signaled to Shelby that he doesn't believe the allegations, but the question is open-ended without forcing him one way or the other.

2. "Well, he also worked with Porter Goss on the House side in that congressional oversight or congressional inquiry -- Porter Goss now the man nominated to be head of the CIA. One would think if Porter Goss saw a lot of administration stonewalling that that would be big news." This is no question at all, just a statement, but one that Shelby can be expected to agree with. A real softball.

3. "Is that (the school attack in Russia), do you think, going to be bring about even more of a world-wide -- and we're looking at some live pictures of anti-terrorism demonstrations in Russia. I mean the Russians have had their hands full for a while with this Chechnyan thing. But this thing has so appalled the world, with so many hundreds of children dead. Do you think that's going to ultimately make it easier for us to take on al Qaeda, Osama bid Laden, al Sadr and all the rest." Another easy question designed to elicit basic agreement, although Shelby does not entirely agree.

4. "And it just shows the inhumanity of the people who are preaching this kind of jihad." Again, not a question at all, but an invitation for the Republican to identify himself as strong against terrorism by answering with resounding agreement, "Absolutely!"

Here are Scott's questions to Democratic strategic Michael Brown concerning President Clinton and John Kerry.

1. "How's the former president doing? I mean it seems like a tough spot for him to be trying to give campaign advice to Senator Kerry when he's recuperating." Scott appears to be offering the president sympathy, but he really is using the president's surgery to put the Kerry campaign at a disadvantage. Brown has to disagree or else leave the impression that the Kerry campaign really is set back by Clinton's absence from the campaign trail.

2. "All right, so how much is it going to hurt Mr. Kerry's campaign that Mr. Clinton's going to be flat on his back for much of the next two months?" Brown has disagreed with Scott, so Scott comes back with a more direct question. Again, Brown is in the position of having to disagree with Scott to avoid putting the Kerry campaign in a bad light.

3. "I'm certain he can do that. But Michael you know as well as I do that a phone call doesn't do what a personal appearance would do and having Bill Clinton with Senator Kerry at some of these appearances would certainly help the senator's campaign, wouldn't it?" Scott becomes even more direct in his effort to admit that Kerry's campaign has been hurt by Clinton's surgery. Scott's "question" is less a question than a restatement for the third time of his premise that Clinton's surgery is hurting Kerry.

4. "I want to get your response, Michael, to this idea. There are a lot o observers who say that Bill Clinton can't be too enthusiastic about John Kerry's candicacy because if John Kerry wins the presidency this time around he automatically becomes the Democratic nominee four years from now and that puts Hillary Clinton's candidacy eight years down the road. What do you think?" Scott relies on references to amorphous observers to trot out the worn-out theme that the Clinton's don't want Kerry to win and add a new twist: if Kerry doesn't win, it will be Clinton's fault because Clinton was in the hospital and he really didn't want Kerry to win anyway. Brown must disagree.

5. "So Hilllary's not thinking about four years from now as she makes these appearances on behalf of Senator Kerry?" Scott forces Brown to disagree again as he repeats and underlines the message about the Clintons. Note that he refers to the junior senator from New York by her first name only rather than by her title.

Scott asked the Republican four questions that were either open-ended or ones that would allow the Republican to agree with Scott. Agreement is so reassuring, don't you think?

When it comes to the Democrat, Scott asks questions that force Brown to say no, to disagree, and to seem disagree-able. After hearing Brown disagree with three questions, each increasingly hostile, about the Kerry campaign, a viewer might wonder why Democrats are always disagreeing, why are they so negative all the time. The next two questions also require disagreement from Brown. When Brown disagrees to the second one, it looks like Scott is trying to pin him down and Brown is refusing to agree, like a witness who has something to hide.

Scott's questioning styles for Republicans and Democrats are very different, designed to let Republicans answer with moral certitude, such as Shelby's "absolutely." Democrats, meanwhile, have to say no and thus be seen as resisters and negative people.