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The Fox “Grapevine” – Short Attention Span Theater

Reported by Priscilla - May 6, 2008 -

Brit Hume’s first “picking” on last night’s (May 5th) “Special Report” was about (surprise, surprise) the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. The title for the piece was “Wrong on Wright.” Hume noted that “mainstream media coverage of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright has drawn a round of barking from some of their own in-house watchdogs. The Bill Moyers interview of Reverend Wright on PBS drew heavy criticism from viewers.” Hume then added that PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler noted that "inflammatory, and inaccurate, statements that Moyers himself laid out at the top of the program went largely unchallenged... there were not enough questions asked and some that were asked came across as too reserved and too soft… this came across to me more as a conversation among theologians than it did as a truly probing interview with a truly controversial person who had said some truly inflammatory things."

But as I’ve noted before, “The Grapevine” condenses complex issues and statements and reduced them to a thin gruel that is palatable for the Fox audience who have no appetite for complexities. The “pickings” from the “Grapevine” serve to reinforce right wing talking points in the black and white dualities so favored by those for whom the Wright flap is literally a “black and white” issue. The Getler critique was far more nuanced than what was presented by Hume and between the three dots, there was commentary which was far more measured than what was said by Hume.

Getler, himself, admits that the issues were “complex” when he states “most, but not all, of the viewer observations of the Moyers interview with Wright were, as I said above, critical. I had some concerns as well, which I'll get to. But, as readers of this column will have noted, I view many issues as complex as well as controversial, and I thought there were certainly positive benefits for PBS viewers from that interview.” Getler admits that the Wright quotes were repeatedly played. (Comment: it would be interesting to see if Wright was covered more on the network that covers the war in Iraq the least.) In referencing the quotes Getler says that Wright is “seemingly calling on God to damn America.” (Comment: in Fox world, the “God damn” is taken as “gospel”) Getler writes that Moyers’ attempt to provide the answer to the question, “who is this man,” was “worthy” and states that he was “grateful to hear more of the actual sermons and the context from whence some of these inflammatory remarks sprang, and to hear Wright elaborate on these and other things…” (Comment: Fox doesn’t deal in “context.”) Getler devotes an entire paragraph to the “context” from which Wright drew his “God Damn” comment which, in the sermon, was a summary of America’s misdeeds. Getler then states that, given the provocative nature of the remarks that Moyers played at the beginning of the piece, Moyers should have challenged the “inflammatory and inaccurate” statements. Hume’s Getler quote about the “conversation among theologians” ends with the words “inflammatory things” and doesn’t include the rest of the sentence: “and had become deeply inserted into a tight, hard-fought and historic race for the Democratic presidential nomination.”

Comment: Once again, it’s not quite as simple as Fox would have you believe. The Grapevine is all about punchy sound bites that bite Democrats. If Hume were really “fair and balanced,” he’d have a treasure trove of punchy sound bites from McCain’s pastor pals who say wild and crazy things. But Hume’s sour grapes are not given to Republicans. When Getler said that that “most people understand that there is something to gain and to learn from hearing these views first-hand, from not having them reduced to 20-second sound bites, and in an interview setting that does allow a wider context and basis for judgment either way,” he wasn’t talking about “the Grapevine!”