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Fox News Using Audience as a Political Tool

Reported by Judy - July 10, 2006 -

Democrats who appear on Fox News already have to do battle with hostile "journalists" who base their stories on slanted premises, pose unfair questions, and cut off the discussion if it goes against them. Recently, however, the "Dayside" crew has been honing a new tool to intimidate Democratic commentators and guests -- using the studio audience to try to drown out what guests are saying.

Unlike other Fox News shows, "Dayside" has a live studio audience. "Dayside" co-hosts Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick routinely go into the audience and let them ask questions of guests, which, given the nature of Fox News' audience, often are statements in support of President Bush rather than questions seeking more information on the topic.

The two have been using the tactic more and more in the last several months and increasingly they have allowed the audience to interrupt guests. On Monday (July 10, 2006), Huddy and substitute co-host Steve Doocy did a segment reacting to a Time magazine article suggesting Bush has abandoned "cowboy diplomacy." They interviewed Dan Senor, former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and former Texas Democratic Rep. Martin Frost.

Senor admitted there had been a change in tone, but he denied Bush has changed his basic view of dealing with the threat of North Korea. He said this with a straight face and did not change his position even after Fox News played a tape of Bush's 2002 State of the Union message in which he said, "I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons,” even though Bush has done just that.

Martin said Bush had few options for dealing with North Korea because "we have stretched our army to the breaking point because of the way we’ve gotten mired down in Iraq, and that’s limited our options. So it’s no great surprise that the president should be pursuing diplomacy right now. He really doesn’t have too many other options." Still, Frost said he supported some of Bush's actions, such as invading Afghanistan.

When Frost said, "I regret that he has spent five and a half years in office and hasn’t resolved the North Korean situation yet. He's known about it from the very beginning," members of the audience began shouting "come on" and deriding Frost.

Frost, who was not in the studio, continued to talk and later repeated his point about Bush neglecting to deal with North Korea for five and a half years, receiving some of the same treatment from the audience as before. Despite Frost's refusal to back down, the TV audience obviously got the message that Fox News wants it to disregard what he was saying.

Later, two people supportive of Bush were allowed to make comments. Doocy and Huddy did not ask the audience if anyone agreed with Frost.

Democrats appearing on "Dayside" need to be aware of this tactic of undermining what they say. Fox News can claim it was "fair and balanced" by allowing a Democratic and Republican guest to both comment, but what is "fair and balanced" about allowing the audience to disrupt the comments of one side?