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Dealing with Bad News for Bush

Reported by Judy - September 8, 2004 -

Fox News today (Sept. 8) showed how it plans to deal with any bad news for Bush that might come up in the campaign. The way it covered both Bob Graham's charges about Bush interference in the 9/11 investigation and a Texans for Truth ad about Bush being AWOL show Fox will either mention the charges in a low key fashion or offer what it considers "balanced" coverage by dredging up old news about Kerry to pair with it.

Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade interviewed Democratic Senator Bob Graham from Florida about his new book, Intelligence Matters, in which he discusses a man on the Saudi payroll who aided two hijackers in San Diego. Graham said the "evidence is overwhelming" that the Saudis were involved and that if some information were not classified, he would have had even more proof.

To undercut Graham, Fox played a clip from Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama from yesterday downplaying the book as a money-making effort and a political ploy during an election year. The Shelby's quote did not address the content of the allegations.

The presentation was very brief. No one was brought in during that hour to give an independent evaluation of the book. No one from the White House was interviewed live about Graham's charges. Fox can say it "covered" something negative about Bush, but it did it in the least damaging way possible.

When it came to the Texans for Truth ad mentioned here yesterday, Fox soft-pedaled the criticism even more. It played the ad, but never really got into the issue of Bush's military service as other media did. Nor did Fox News Live anchor Jon Scott bring up the issue of Bush's missing national guard records, which The AP reported on yesterday.

Instead, Fox and Scott paired the Texans for Truth ad with another smear boat ad about Kerry's opposition to the Vietnam War. Smear boat ran first, the AWOL ad second. The discussion was between Larry Gold of Americans Coming Together and Ben Ginsberg, Republican lawyer. It turned into another discussion of 527's, with Ginsberg trying desperately to make the case that the Kerry campaign was behind Texans for Truth. [Who cares? It didn't matter to Bush that the smear boaters were tied to his campaign.] Scott made all the old points about Kerry having brought up his service so the smear boat charges were fair. It was more a discussion about Kerry than one about Bush being AWOL.

The result was that what should have been bad news for Bush today was either buried or turned into an attack on Kerry without ever getting to the issue of Bush's misconduct.

Other media, such as the Chicago Tribune, are picking up on the ad, but the echo from the ad will be muted unless it generates more "free media."

Fox will never give Texans for Truth the same sort of credibility and forum it gave the smear boaters. Democrats who do get the chance to discuss these charges against Bush will have to fight to keep the discussion on Bush, not Kerry. All together now, "It's the Bush, stupid."