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Cavuto Focuses on Wal-Mart, Not Obama

Reported by Judy - February 10, 2007 -

Fox News' "Cavuto on Business" on Saturday (February 10, 2007) continued the Barack Obama theme started by "Bulls and Bears" but turned the issue of the day not into Obama, but Obama vs. Wal-Mart. With video.

For Neil Cavuto, the most important question to ask about the meaning of Obama's candidacy was not what does it say about race in 21st century, not what does his call for universal health care mean for American business and working people, but, "Bashing Wal-Mart -- Is that a good campaign strategy?" Ask Cavuto asked that loaded question, Fox News displayed a graphic reading (not asking) "Obama V$ Wal-Mart!"

The segment was a re-hash of arguments for and against Wal-Mart's business practices. Chris Kofinis, of wakeupwalmart.com, did a commendable job of making the case that Wal-Mart's business practices are irresponsible because of its preference for products made in low-wage countries like China instead of the U.S., the low wages it pays, and the poor health care plans it offers its workers.

The usual Fox News business toadies -- especially Charles Payne of wallstreet.com -- lept to Wal-Mart's defense, with Payne shrieking that Wal-Street doesn't ship jobs overseas but is the nation's largest employer. Then there was Meredith Whitney, of CIBC World Markets, who claimed that her husband "prays to the Wal-Mart gods" like other Americans who love the company.

More interesting than the standard Wal-Mart arguments were the subtleties surrounding the segment. Take, for example, Cavuto's first question to Kofinis: "We don't know much about where Obama stands on a lot of issues but we do know that he's not a big fan of Wal-Mart. So will being anti-Wal-Mart help or hurt his bid for the nomination?"

The question implies that Obama lacks substance because voters allegedly don't know where he stands and then goes on to claim that he is "anti-Wal-Mart" without offering any information on what he has done to demonstrate that. By phrasing the question that way, Cavuto set up Obama as against something (low prices) rather than for something (fairness to workers, responsible corporations). Rather than being a neutral question, Cavuto's question put the heavier burden on Kofinis -- a typical Fox News strategy for tipping the scales against liberal and moderate guests while seeming to be "fair and balanced."