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Why Is FOX Frantically Defending Chris Wallace?

Reported by Marie Therese - September 28, 2006 -

Enough already! It's five days later and FOX News can't seem to let go of the Clinton-Wallace interview on last Sunday's FOX News Sunday. The segment - which FOX hyped to the rafters for days ahead of time - garnered Wallace's show its highest ratings ever. However, it would seem that in the eyes of FOX News' management team Chris Wallace's stature as a journalist may have suffered a severe blow as a result. On this morning's FOX & Friends First the hosts did a the latest in a long string of segments that seem like an attempt to rehabilitate Wallace's image.

Brian Kilmeade began the segment by mentioning that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has stated that neither Bush nor Clinton is responsible for 9-11. "Don't blame Bill Clinton, don't blame President Bush for this," Kilmeade said, paraphrasing Giuliani. "Blame the terrorists that did it." Steve Doocy made a point of noting that years ago Rudy Giuliani supported Bill Clinton for President.

Doocy also devoted time to a rehash of comments made by Newt Gingrich on last night's edition of Hannity & Colmes in which Gingrich avowed that Bill Clinton staged the whole episode to energize the Democratic base.

However, it was Brian Kilmeade who brought up the fact that no less a personage that FOX News CEO Roger Ailes felt it necessary to give an interview to the Associated Press in which he vigorously defended Wallace by claiming, in his usual avuncular way, that Clinton's angry response was an "assault on all journalists."

BRIAN KILMEADE: "Perhaps the one person who knows more about politics than Bill Clinton is Roger Ailes, who runs this company. He gave an interview to the AP yesterday and he says Bill Clinton's action was a wild over-reaction to a question. His flipping out was an assault on all journalists, not just Chris Wallace."

STEVE DOOCY: "That's right. Roger said - quote - 'If you can't sit there and answer a question from a professional, a mild-mannered, respectful reporter like Chris Wallace, then the hatred for journalists is showing.' He says that the Democrats are trying to rally their base by going after FOX News."

Doocy went on to read a quote from the AP story made by Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio and Television News Directors Association, in which she stated she knew Wallace's work and that he was a professional who asked tough questions and was not partisan.

LAUREN GREEN: "All you have to do is watch the interview and just watch anything that Chris does and you know that he's very mild-mannered, well-mannered and asks tough but fair questions."

COMMENT

I have a feeling that something else is going on here.

This story deserved one, maybe two, days of commentary by FNC.

However, the deluge of coverage and the massive amount of rehabilitation being done for Wallace and FOX News Sunday suggests that there are other forces at work, perhaps a subtext going on behind the scenes to which the general public is not privy.

Imagine this.

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House.

Senator Patrick Leahy is Senate Majority Leader.

Both leaders have a choice of which news outlets they will favor with interviews.

Just where do you think FOX News Channel will be on that list?

Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and the entire FNC crew are facing the possibility of losing their cozy little deal with the Congress. While they'll still have good old Tony Snow dutifully carrying water for Bush, he might think twice before using tactics like verbally slapping down veteran reporters like Helen Thomas.

Since last Sunday, I'll bet that Roger Ailes has been sitting in his posh FNC office facing the hard, cold reality that, as of November 8th, if there is a Democratic sweep, FOX's days in the sun may be over.

Bill Clinton sent a loud and clear message.

There will be consequences in the future if FOX persists in its overweening, abusive and partisan manipulation of news content.

Perhaps what we are really seeing is the end of the right wing media conspiracy.

If there is a massive Democratic turnover of power in the next two years, FOX News will have to make a critical decision about how it handles itself. Otherwise, instead of being on the Pelosi-Leahy short list, the name "FOX News Channel" will be consigned somewhere below the National Enquirer.