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Fox Defenders in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones over Healthcare Summit Cable Coverage

Reported by Alex - February 26, 2010 -

You gotta hand it to em: people who pimp for FNC have a neck like a jockey’s you-know-whats. The meme infecting some of the more factually challenged members of the rightwing blogosphere is that not only did Fox News Channel’s coverage of yesterday’s Health Care Summit trump that of CNN and MSNBC –but that MSNBC didn’t cover it at all, preferring hockey to healthcare. Funny, I didn’t know Sarah Palin worked for MSNBC! However, they’re wrong: MSNBC did cover the summit, until they broke off for their scheduled Olympics coverage. And I’m not sure how well Fox News’ spinpalooza, featuring sneering hosts and an endless parade of rightwing shills, qualifies as superior coverage of the debate. With video.
Updated (2/26/10 6 PM) at end of post.

First, lets deal with the “MSNBC didn’t cover the summit” lie. MSNBC covered the healthcare summit and then broke off for hockey – because NBC has the contract to cover the Olympics. When the main network doesn’t cover the Olympics in the afternoon, MSNBC and other affiliates do. (H/T JT) I don’t hear the same people complaining about Fox News contributor Sarah Palin “analyzing”the summit on Hannity’s show last night when she apparently hadn’t watched it herself, and had even tweeted her followers to “Drag away from Obamacare mtg today2cheer Red,White&Blue:USA Women's Hockey." (I'll resist the temptation to suggest that some hapless Fox assistant was tasked with inscribing the talking points on her hand before she went on air.)

MSNBC, Fox News and CNN all used the familiar split-screen format, sometimes featuring a network talking head on one side and a summit participant on the other, sometimes highlighting a confrontation at the debate. CNN’s droll Jeanne Moos pointed out afterwards, “When showing confrontation in a split screen, MSNBC put President Obama in a bigger box. FOX put the Republican in the bigger box. CNN gave them equal size boxes.” All three networks also streamed the summit live on their websites.

Now to Fox News Channel’s coverage. According to a report from CNBC, Fox News provided the most uninterrupted coverage before the lunch break, but soon switched to their pundits after reporting that their online poll showed that 90 percent of respondents dismissed the event as "political theater." By mid-afternoon, both FNC and CNN were spending a lot of time with the talking heads. Taking a break from a hectic day, I collapsed on the sofa with a cup of coffee to watch FNC live for 15 minutes, and as I wrote on yesterday’s comment thread, what I saw was even worse than I expected. Megyn Kelly and Trace Gallagher were smirking their way through what Kelly called, in a mocking tone, "Healthcarepalooza" and reading out a selection of messages which were coming in via their on-air "town hall" - all slamming the Democrats, or both parties, but all parroting Republican talking points (scrap the bill and start over, work on it piecemeal, the proposed changes are unconstitutional, seniors are going to suffer, let insurance companies trade across state lines, Americans don’t want this, yadayadayada). Do you mean to tell me that out of the 25,000 comments Gallagher claimed had poured in by then, there was not ONE in favor of the bill, or approving of the summit? After that they had some guy (see update below) on who had attended Pennsylvania townhalls, who also stuck to the anti-healthcare-bill script. Overall it was a disgustingly biased, sneering fifteen minutes. I wrote yesterday that I hoped there would be some balance provided at another time during the coverage. From what I’ve read, and reviewed on video since then, that was a hope in vain. Hey, but who cares, right? When you’re pimpin’ Fox News and the GOP, it’s all good!

Update:The Pennsylvania townhaller interviewed by Kelly turns out to have been a bit more than an average Joe from Bucks County. According to the Philadelphia Enquirer,

Megyn Kelly brought in Robert Mitchell, who said he was from Bucks County, apparently one of the usual run of right-leaning average Joes who get airtime on Fox News as supposedly representing all America. He was identified only as someone who had attended one of Sen. Arlen Specter's contentious health-care town meetings last summer.

Mitchell blasted Eighth District Democratic Rep. Patrick J. Murphy in what sounded like a campaign speech. That turns out to be not so surprising, since Mitchell had been running, until last month, after former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick threw his hat in the ring, for the GOP nomination to oppose Murphy in November. Not mentioning his candidacy was inexcusable by any journalistic standard.

Well, well. What a surprise. Not.

Fox News: Fair and balanced? Where is the balance in this segment?

Or this one, featuring the FNC in-house anti-healthcare-bill M.D., Marc Siegal?