Home Store In Memoriam Deborah Newsletter Forum Topics Blogfeed Blogroll Facebook MySpace Contact Us About

One Story, Two Very Different Slants

Reported by Judy - November 30, 2006 -

If there are any doubts that Fox News sells fear, a look at how Fox News and another network covered the same story should dispell them. With video.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., gave a speech in New Hampshire the other night at which he proposed limiting Americans' constitutional right of free speech in order to fight terrorism. Both Keith Olbermann, anchor of MSNBC's "Countdown," and Martha MacCallum, anchor of Fox News' "Live Desk" did stories on the event, which aired less than 24 hours apart. The two stories were as different as night and day.

Olbermann's piece ran Tuesday (November 28, 2006). It noted the irony of Gingrich's making a speech at the Loeb First Amendment Dinner in Manchester, N.H., in which he proposes limiting free speech. Olbermann aired a tape of a portion of Gingrich's remarks and then quoted extensively from the text of the speech as well.

Olbermann's report included the information that Gingrich also proposed re-thinking campaign finance reform and the separation of church and state because he said they allegedly hurt the First Amendment.

Its main focus, however, was Gingrich's desire to alter free speech rights. On tape, Gingrich was heard to say: "My prediction to you is that either before we lose a city or if we are truly stupid, after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech and to go after people who want to kill us to stop them from recruiting people before they get to reach out and convince young people to destroy their lives while destroying us."

Olbermann read other excerpts from the speech in which Gingrich said, "This is a serious long term war and it will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country. It will lead us to learn how to close down every web site that is dang3erous."

For reaction, Olberrmann went to Jonathan Turley, an expert on constitutional law from George Washington University. Turley warned that Gingrich's appeal likely fall on receptive ears among some Americans because fear can be a powerful motivator. "People don't seem to appreciate that you really can't save a constitution by destroying it," he said.

MacCallum's piece, which ran on Wednesday (November 29, 2006) was markedly different. She framed the story with an unrelated event -- the guilty pleas of two Texas men to charges that they tried to join the Taliban by using their ATM cards to send money to a charity. Then she quoted only a brief segment of Gingrich's remarks, the scary part: "We need to get ahead of the curve before we actualy lose a city ... which I believe could happen in the next decade."

For comment, MacCallum turned not to experts on the constitution, but to a former FBI official and a terrorism analyst. Their comments focused almost exclusively on the lack of funds for fighting terrorism and the problems raised for law enforcement by the constitution. MacCallum introduced one of them by asking, "Are we mired in our own muck in terms of our intelligence?"

"We need to get out of our own way. We are defining as civil liberties things that are basic to investigative law enforcement, protecting us against terrorism," said David Katz, a terrorism analyst.

MacCallum never questioned the Gingrich's premise -- that law enforcement lacks the tools for fighting terrorism. She never expressed any doubts about the loss of free speech and how
that would be administered. She never mentioned Gingrich's proposal that web sites that someone deems dangerous (like this one?) should be closed down.

And she totally missed the irony of Gingrich making his proposal at a First Amendment dinner.
But then, that's no surprise.

Here are segments from each story on the same event.