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Special Report in a Tizzy over Hamas Victory

Reported by Nancy - January 27, 2006 -

As of early Thursday night (1/26) FOX News apparently hadn't yet received talking points from the White House on the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. While official White House statements (to that point) had seemed to be at least trying to be conciliatory & optimistic, anchor Brit Hume, panelists & guests were significantly more hawkish, parroting the official Israeli government line. And then there was Fred Barnes, who can always be counted on for some pompous pontification.

At the top of the hour, Hume announced that the Hamas victory would be a top story, & it certainly was. First up was a report by Jennifer Griffin in Ramallah. While Griffin reported the details of the Hamas victory, FOX showed undated & unidentified videos of violence (bombs, gunfire) as well as similarly undated & unidentified videos of what may or may not have been Palestinians celebrating the Hamas victory. In addition to clips of several Palestinians (e.g., Saeed Zaeda saying the US can do business with Hamas), Griffin showed a clip of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying "Hamas must be stopped!"
Comment: the violent videos were a nice visual touch to remind viewers that Israel officially still considers all of Hamas & most Palestinians to be terrorists.

Then Carl Cameron reported from the White House on President George W Bush's reaction to Hamas's victory. Cameron's report was little more than a stringing together of multiple clips of Bush, a clip of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice commenting on the victory, & a few more undated & unidentified videos of violence. Cameron wrapped it up by saying that for Bush "it's hard to overstate the disappointment" over the victory of "radicals backed by Iran & Syria."
Comment: Again, the emphasis was on Hamas's violence more than anything else.

Next up, Hume interviewed former Ambassador Dennis Ross, a frequent guest on this program who is usually much more measured & diplomatic (pun intended) than he was this time. Hume described the Hamas victory as a "regular mess" but Ross called it a "disaster" & said it "turned the clock back almost 20 years" to the Oslo Accords (1988) which accepted a 2-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. According to Ross, Hamas "rejects a 2-state solution." Hume asked whether Hamas can "moderate that stand." Ross didn't answer directly but said the US "must make it clear we will not deal with a government that promotes terrorism." Hume noted that the Palestinian terrirories deoend on "outside aid" from the US & Europe. Ross said the Palestinian Authority has been receiving "$1 billion a year" & that the EU is the "biggest provider" while the "Arab world provides very little." Hume commented: "Ah, that's typical." Ross said that "they [Hamas] say 'we don't want to deal with Israel,' period" so Hume asked whether the US "should moderate its position at all." Ross was adamant: "No, we have to force them to choose."
Comment: Rather remarkable that Ross would characterize a newly-elected party which has not yet taken office as "a government that promotes terrorism." Hume's "Ah, that's typical" comment was an indication that he was much less in control of himself than he usually is.

The Hamas victory was topic #1 for the "All-Stars" (Fred Barnes, Jeff Birnbaum, Mara Liasson) when it came time for them to bloviate. Hume showed (yet another) clip of Bush commenting on it, then said that Bush "admires the process but not the winners" & asked what Bush's options are now. Barnes jumped right in, saying there are "no good options right now." Hume asked if Hamas has "people who can actually" function as government ministers, & Barnes smugly said Hamas is "not famous for having a pragmatic wing." Hume & Barnes seemed to think this was clever, & bantered a little about an "armed wing," then Barnes said he doubted that Hamas would be able to develop a government "overnight" because it is a "religion-based party" & "they're not gonna flip overnight." Liasson noted that "Palestinian voters clearly thuoght they'd [Hamas] be less corrupt than Fatah" & pointed out that "we know they can run social services" but we don't know if they can handle foreign policy. She also said she thought that if there were "free & fair elections in Egypt or Saudi Arabia" right now, the "results would be the same." Hume asked if it would be "fair to characterize" the Hamas victory "as long-term 'great' short-term 'uh oh' " & Birnbaum said there are "serious lessons for the Bush administration" in this, because the US made "big promises of money" but didn't come through for Fatah; in other words, the US "did not use the leverage it had." Barnes was outraged, & shouted at Birnbaum, "Are you saying this was OUR FAULT?" Birnbaum stayed calm & said "No, but we have to support our friends," giving as an example that the US should "help educate the electorate." Hume asked whether this was a return to "realpolitik" which he described as working with governments that "may be corrupt but they're our friends." Liasson said no, "It's more complicated" & pointed out that "building democracy is not just about elections." Barnes couldn't control his outrage that the conversation has become so reasonable, saying "I don't believe for a minute this was a protest vote" because "Hamas represents the majority opinion among Palestinians. He started shaking his finger (from the camera angle, it wasn't clear if he was shaking it at Liasson or not) & said "Think how great it is that the Israelis have built that fence!"

Comments: Curious that Hume didn't tell Barnes he needed to be "hosed down."

If you'd like to complain to Fox about this, email: special@foxnews.com

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (Hamas's victory, Special Report's treatment of it). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.