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Newt Gingrich Offers A Perfect Example of The FOX News Effect

Reported by Ellen - January 14, 2005

There were two excellent interviews on Alan Colmes' FOX News radio show last night. The second one, with Newt Gingrich, offered a perfect example of what's wrong with FOX News.

Gingrich was on to discuss his new book which outlines a number of steps the country ought to take. As expected (by me, anyway), one of those steps is fighting the "secularism" which is the way the right always characterizes the left's efforts to keep church and state separated. Speaking like a page out Bill O'Reilly's talking points (but without the venom), Gingrich first decried Michael Newdow's efforts to have the pledge of allegiance removed from his daughter's school agenda because of the portion which says "one nation under God." Almost worse than Newdow's lawsuit was the fact that two of the appeals judges agreed with him. Colmes politely pointed out that nobody was trying to ban God or the pledge of allegiance, that Newdow didn't want the school, a government entity, leading a recitation.

Gingrich dismissed that notion by saying that it proved his point and that the founding fathers would never have found that distinction. He provided no information, no sources, no quotes to back up that assertion.

Gingrich then moved on to say that Newdow's actions "leads to" the kind of situation that arose in Cupertino, California where a teacher was "barred from using the Declaration of Independence" because it mentioned God. FOX News beat this story into death (and into an afterlife) by promoting it this way, despite the fact that the truth is something different. Colmes pointed out that the Declaration was not banned, that it hangs in the school, that it was the manner in which the teacher in question was using the Declaration that troubled the school. Gingrich said that was not his understanding, though he didn't argue with Colmes who, after all, went to Cupertino just to cover that story.

Comment: This is a perfect example of how a piece of news gets distorted by FOX (and other sympathetic media outlets) then repeated endlessly in the right-wing echo chamber so that it percolates up to the top (if that's how you characterize Gingrich) and becomes "fact" and policy fodder. To my knowledge, FOX never lied outright about the Cupertino incident but set its commentators to spin and spin and spin some more its "meaning" so that now the spin has eclipsed the truth.

Colmes also interviewed Howard Dean last night on both his radio and TV shows. That interview has already been written about by Deborah so I won't rehash it here other than to say that if John Kerry could have offered a tenth of Howard Dean's straight talk and pithiness, I think he might have won the election. The other point to mention is that Colmes allowed or perhaps deliberately tried to bring out the fact that Dean is not a "looney leftie" but a moderate centrist with convictions. It seemed to go over well with the radio audience.

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