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Fox News Plays Up Kennedy's Flaws, Downplays Achievements

Reported by Ellen - August 26, 2009 -

I was not able to get video from Fox News' brief report on Sen. Ted Kennedy's death (by the time I turned on the television, Fox had gone back to a Beck rerun) but Foxnews.com's obituary of Ted Kennedy is far short of a tribute. It omits many of Kennedy's achievements and passions and accentuates his foibles. UPDATED.

The opening sentence was the first clue: "Sen. Edward Kennedy, the longtime Massachusetts lawmaker whose personal tragedies along with his professional triumphs and losses unfolded in the public eye, has died at his home in Hyannis Port after battling a brain tumor."

Compare that to, say, the article in the Wall Street Journal, no liberal rag, and owned by the same parent company as Fox News: "Sen. Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy, a liberal icon and frequent Republican target who was one of the longest-serving and most accomplished lawmakers of the modern era, has died at age 77."

As a matter of fact, it's hard to find many of Kennedy's accomplishments in Fox News' obituary.

The Journal notes, "In nearly five decades in the Senate, Mr. Kennedy fathered legislation that affected millions, education in the 1960s, poverty in the 1970s, disability in the 1980s and education in the 1990s. His longevity helped him build what many consider the most substantial record of achievement of anyone in his famous family, and made him a hero to many Democrats. A frequent nemesis of conservatives, he nonetheless forged friendships and legislative partnerships with many Republicans over the years."

Fox News left out virtually all Kennedy's legislative achievements from its report as well as Kennedy's friendship with Republicans, most notably the extremely conservative Orrin Hatch, with whom Kennedy became especially close. "Fair and balanced" Fox did, however, highlight Kennedy's personal shortcomings.

The Massachusetts Democrat was seen by many as an American version of a Greek tragedy. Born into political royalty, Kennedy's triumphs were often overshadowed by those of his brothers, John and Bobby Kennedy. But nonetheless, the younger Kennedy carved his own political legacy as one of the longest serving senators in U.S. history... The youngest of the nine-sibling Kennedy clan, Teddy had much of his path paved by famous older brothers and father. That created problems as well as opportunities for him.

Predictably, Fox went on to detail every blemish: Kennedy's expulsion from Harvard for cheating (though he was later readmitted after demonstrating good behavior); his misattribution of a quote to his brother, Robert, while eulogizing him; the incident at Chappaquiddick, of course, plus the suspended jail sentence that ensued; his struggle with alcohol that brought forth this description: "through much of the 1980s (Kennedy) was viewed as a playboy with a bottle;" the arrest of his nephew for rape (he was later acquitted) which, Fox noted, "hurt his ability to fight the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas over allegations of harassment by former Thomas aide Anita Hill;" that he had to be taken away on a stretcher from President Obama's inauguration and was too ill to attend his sister's funeral or to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier this month.

All in all, Fox made it sound as though Kennedy's only real accomplishment was being born a Kennedy.

UPDATE: Fox has now switched to continuous coverage of Kennedy's death and they are showing more rounded reports on the air.