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Fox equates apples and oranges on The Grapevine

Reported by Chrish - February 18, 2005

In the Grapevine segment on todays Special Report 2/17, Brit Hume read a short report that likened The Nation's Ian Williams to administration shills Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher, who were paid large sums of tax-payer money by the administration to tout programs dear to the White House.

Mr. Williams, who reports on the UN for The Nation, was said to also be working as a paid media consultant to the UN. (Factoid: The UN employs about 49,000 people.)

First Brit downplayed the propaganda-gate like this: "The liberal Nation magazine has been outspoken in its criticism of columnists Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher for supporting presidential initiatives while working for administration agencies." How's that for spin?!

He continued "But it turns out The Nation's own UN correspondent who has repeatedly defended the UN amid charges of corruption has been working for the UN as a professional media consultant."

A statement from Mr. Williams' website appeared on screen, introduced by Brit this way: "On his website Ian Williams boasts, quote 'For the last five years [I have] played a significant role in training [UN Development Program] Resident Representatives and UN reps in media handling, both at HQ and overseas with a particular emphasis on coaching for interview techniques. The UN's training section also called upon [me] to help with training senior officials at HQ."

If you go to his website , though, you'll see it is written in the third person so Mr. Williams is mischaracterized as "boasting" and the [I have] and [me] are substitutions made by Fox to support their assertion. Going beyond that petty Fox tactic and reading the entire biography one finds that Mr. Williams has a very impressive and wide-ranging resume. Could it be that he's been singled out for smearing/discrediting because of his most recent book, Deserter: George Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans, and His Past ? Or does Fox want its followers to immediately discount the knowledgeable Mr. Williams' defense of the UN in his 'liberal' magazine? (I think it's a daily double!) In either case, there is no evidence or appearance of conflict of interest. (Comment: IMO Mr. Hume is on thin ice here, as he is a "journalist" 4 hours a week and on Sundays is a conservative commentator and defender; all paid for by the same employer.)

This is the second time this week I've seen this "equating" tactic used, although it is not a new one. In their efforts last week to NOT cover the "Jeff Gannon"/James Guckert scandal, Jim Angle (substituting for Brit Hume on Special Report Friday 2/11) did essentially the same thing.

Angle reads: "Critics have accused the White House of granting unusual access to "Jeff Gannon", that reporter who recently resigned as White House correspondent for a conservative website, but the White House clears in other reporters with partisan views as long as they represent a news organization that publishes regularly. That includes Russell Mokhiber, who works for Ralph Nader's Corporate Crime Reporter . Mokhiber recently asked Press Secretary Scott McClellen if president Bush believes the 6th commandment, thou shalt not kill, applies to the US invasion of Iraq? The White House welcomes a wide range of views in the briefing room."

During this segment there appeared a full-face photo of "Gannon" with the words 'questions about Gannon'. and then 'normal procedure'. The photo of Mokhiber, less flattering (darker, face angled from camera) had 'opposing viewpoints' under it the whole time. After his picture was removed all that remained in the graphic was 'equal time'.

Comment: When a story unfavorable to the cause becomes impossible to ignore, Fox distorts it, diminishes it, and then dismisses it. What Fox hasn't touched on in this story would fill a book at this point. To imply that the issue was equal access for different viewpoints is to ignore the pertinent issues about security clearance under an alias, the gay prostitute angle (normally Fox is all over the more salacious angles of a story), the legitimacy of G/G's credentials, the legitimacy of the website... As above, they've managed to spin it into "everybody does it", dismiss the importance of the issue, and, as a bonus, smear a liberal while defending another right-wing sleazeball.

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