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Spin AND Damage Control

Reported by Nancy - October 1, 2004 -

FNL this morning (10/1) was in a panic, trying to spin the best possible impression out of Bush's dismal performance in last night's debate.

As newshound judy noted earlier, their prime tactic was brief interviews with various pairs of pro-Bush & pro-Kerry people. Brigitte Quinn interviewed Ron Kaufman (GOP) & Jenny Backus (Dem) at 10:34am (EDT) for 5 mins. Quinn later, at 11:02am (EDT) for 4 mins, interviewed Mort Zuckerman (NY Daily News) & Melinda Hennenberger (Newsweek). I'll post more background info on this morning's guests separately. Every time a guest made even a slightly negative comment about Bush's performance or a positive one about Kerry's, Quinn's next question would try to minimize or spin what had just been said. Quinn also injected herself, at one point asking Hennenberger (in ref to Kerry saying he would bring allies to the table), "Did he name names? I didn't hear it." After Zuckerman said that Kerry "has been all over the place", Quinn commented that nobody said "flip-flop" during the debate [comment: interpreting Zuckerman's statement in terms the average FNL viewer can understand].

When even these unbalanced pairings didn't produce great pro-Bush results, FNL resorted to a one-on-one interview with one of Fox's own: at 10:52am (EDT), Quinn interviewed Eric Burns, host of Fox's "Newswatch", about the media coverage of the debate. Burns tried to calm things down, saying that right now it's all just media spin [comment: irony is, indeed, dead], everyone should "wait a few days" to see if campaign workers are more energized, if campaign contributions increase.

FNL showed a lot of mini-clips from the debate, editing Bush down to a few seconds in a vain attempt to let viewers see only his best statements & not the scowls, smirks, frowns, stumbles & outright anger that he actually displayed. They likewise edited Kerry down to a few seconds, apparently trying to minimize his effectiveness. When that didn't appear to be working, they switched to video clips of Bush & Kerry at the debate, but without audio. When they realized that still allowed viewers to see Bush's dismal performance, they switched to video clips of Bush & Kerry leaving Miami today. They even resorted to a video clip of the back of Kerry's daughter's head, as she was talking on a cell phone -- believe it or not (you couldn't make this stuff up), they showed this at least twice, with Quinn interrupting her Kaufman/Backus interview to describe it for viewers.

At 10:44am (EDT), as they were showing yet more clips of Kerry & Bush leaving Miami, Quinn wondered if the recent hurricanes in Florida & their aftermath may have distracted voters from the debate. [comment: Fox certainly seems to hope so]

One non-debate report deserves brief mention. At 11:08am (EDT), Steve Harrigan filed a report from Baghdad about the US attack on Samarra currently under way. This was in the "Happy Iraq" mode that FNL uses, citing Iraqi "govt" claims that they now control 80% of the city. Harrigan characterized the attack as "cleaning out anti-Iraqi forces" -- despite the fact that the US military has publicly said that the "insurgents" are mostly Iraqi & there are very few "foreign fighters" in Iraq.