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Jon Stewart on Fox News Sunday – Did Chris Wallace Admit Fox Is Not Fair And Balanced?

Reported by Ellen - June 19, 2011 -

There were two big surprises for me in Jon Stewart's lengthy interview on Fox News Sunday today. One was that Stewart revealed he voted for George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis in 1988. The other, more important one was Wallace's comment was that he sees Fox News’ mission as the “counterweight” to the liberal, agenda-driven media. The unedited video of the interview is after the jump.

Wallace spent a great deal of time during the interview trying to prove that Stewart’s attacks on Fox were the result of some kind of ideological agenda on Stewart’s part. Presumably, that was an attempt to discredit Stewart and therefore his criticisms. Unfortunately for Wallace, Stewart parried every one of those thrusts. But what was more telling to me – and I wish Stewart had hit the point more explicitly – was that Wallace never once contended that Fox is really fair and balanced. In fact, rather than defend Fox News’ “fair and balanced” slogan, Wallace argued that Fox is something like an antidote to the liberal agenda of the rest of the media. Wallace said, “I think we’re the counterweight… I think that they have a liberal agenda and I think we tell the other side of the story.” Note that Wallace never said Fox tells the full, fair and balanced story, but, rather, the “other side.” That implies advocacy, does it not?

Wallace made a number of what seemed to me like lame attempts to delegitimize Stewart as a means of legitimizing Fox. For example, after citing what he thought were a number of bottom-feeding shows on Comedy Central, Wallace said, “The next time that you’re haranguing Fox, just remember, that’s where you work.”

Stewart did a great job of pointing out the ridiculousness of the comparisons but he pulled his punches when he could have really gone for the Fox News jugular. He started to do just that early on by bringing up the Bill Sammon emails (I believe that part was edited out of the on-air version) only to be cut off by Wallace.

But Wallace's complaints about programming on Comedy Central were a golden opportunity to make him either defend or denounce the kind of awful things that Glenn Beck has said, or the distortions of Sean Hannity or Megyn Kelly, e.g. In fact, Wallace even hinted he was not too pleased with everything on Fox when he said, “I will defend everything that we put on this show (his emphasis).” For whatever reason, Stewart did not exploit that opening. Maybe Stewart did not want to put one of the more reasonable, fairer and more balanced hosts on Fox in such a tough predicament. I can understand that and it shows what a decent guy Stewart is - but it's the kind of predicament Fox News puts its liberal guests in every day and one that even Wallace tried with Stewart.

But ultimately Stewart totally nailed the real bias of the media and, sadly, it’s not about Fox or politics but the ratings-driven obsession with sensationalism and drama. As a perfect example, Stewart cited how each of the Weiner-hungry cable networks turned away from Nancy Pelosi’s recent news conference on the day of Weiner's imminent resignation when she announced she would only talk about “jobs, about protecting Medicare and protecting the middle class.”

Stewart said, “The embarrassment is that I’m given credibility in this world because of the disappointment that the public has in what the news media does.”


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