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'Fox Effect' Blamed for Mess Judy Miller Made at NYTimes

Reported by Judy - October 25, 2005

If the brass at The New York Times is looking for somebody to blame for the mess Judy Miller made of its reporting in the lead-up to the Iraq War, they might consider looking for the guilty party at Fox News.

That's the view of Juan Cole, a University of Michigan history professor who reports on Middle East history, politics, and religion on his respected Informed Comment blog. In an October 24, 2005 entry titled, "Rupert Murdoch and Judith Miller," Cole blamed Murdoch's Frankenstein-style news creation, Fox News, for pulling the Times to the right. Cole wrote that " Rupert Murdoch, and Richard Mellon Scaife, and other far rightwing billionaires have deeply corrupted our information environment. They are in part responsible for what happened at the NYT."

Cole said Murdoch and Fox News attacked The New York times repeatedly between September 11 and the start of the Iraq War. "They stalked the Times," he said. Cole zeroed in on three instances: A September 10, 2002, attack by Bill O'Reilly on a Times story about the denial of visas to young Muslims overseas, in which he said the newspaper's coverage was against Bush's Iraq policy; a summer 2002 attack in which Charles Krauthammer faulted the Times for paying too little attention to the claims of Ahmad Chalabi and others about WMD programs, and an attack by Andrew Sullivan in Murdoch's London Times for the New York newspaper's failure to promote the views of Iraqis in exile on Iraq's nuclear capabilities.

In the face of being accused of "nothing short of treason," Cole argued, "there was every incentive to give Judith Miller her head."

"The NYT had no sources to speak of inside the Bush administration, a real drawback in covering Washington, because it was a left of center newspaper in a political environment dominated by the Right. Miller had sources among the Neoconservatives, with whom she shared some key concerns (biological weapons, the threat of Muslim radicalism, etc.) So she could get the Washington 'scoops.' And her perspective skewed Right in ways that could protect the NYT from charges that it was consistently biased against Bush. Of course, in retrospect, Bush's world was a dangerous fantasy, and giving it space on the front page of the NYT just sullied the Grey Lady with malicious prevarications," Cole wrote.

" ... In essence, Murdoch, Scaife and other far rightwing super-rich propagandists succeeded in maligning the NYT and in pushing it off its liberal perch even further to the Right. In trying to defend themselves from the charge of treason, (former Times editor Howard) Raines and (current editor Bill) Keller fell into the trap of using Miller's shoddy reporting as a rampart. In the end, it was revealed to be not a rampart but a Trojan Horse for the Right."

The rightward-tug that Fox News has on other news organization was given the name the "Fox effect" in Robert Greenwald's Outfoxed movie investigating the reporting practices of the Murdoch creation.

The Fox attacks on The New York Times that Cole delineated did not stop with the outbreak of the Iraq War. They continue on a regular basis. Recently, O'Reilly gave Geraldo Rivera considerable airtime to air his complaint against The Times for its reference to his pushing in front of a rescue worker in order to be filmed helping evacuate someone after Hurricane Katrina. O'Reilly briefly revisited the matter in his Oct. 20 column on www.Foxnews.com. The same day, Brit Hume's "Grape Vine" brought up a Times editorial critical of the trial of Saddam Hussein being run by the Iraq government, in a column headlined, "New York Times Complains." Earlier this month, he criticized the newspaper because Op-Ed columnists said George Bush's inept FEMA director, Mike Brown, was a college roommate of his former boss. Hume, in fact, would have a tough time writing his Grape Vine column were he not able to read the Times, having included items concerning it on Oct. 6, 7, 18, and 24, as well. He referenced the Times nine more times in September. Going back a little farther, Hume rapped the Times also on June 29, 2004, in a column titled "Distorted Times," regarding a headline criticized as inaccurate.

Hume better hope The Times never stops publishing. He might have to come up with an original idea for a column.

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