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Fair And Balanced? Fox News Refuses To Correct Report About Pulaski, VA Police Department

Reported by Ellen - August 15, 2011 -

On July 29, 2011, Fox & Friends, during their weekly promotion of Judge Andrew Napolitano’s “Freedom Watch” show Freedom File Fridays segment, host Clayton Morris aired a frightening segment in which he likened police in Pulaski, VA to the Gestapo, saying they were “casing through apartment complexes” and breaking down doors in the middle of the night. The only problem? Pulaski police chief Gary Roche says the report was a complete distortion. Despite repeated attempts, Fox News has refused to hear out Chief Roche for his side of the story, much less report it.

Morris introduced the segment with the fear mongering statement: Cops are casing through apartment complexes, using bomb-sniffing dogs… through the wee hours of the morning when you’d least expect it.

Napolitano is a former judge. So you’d think he’d have the integrity and the ability to make sure he gathered and evaluated all the evidence before reaching a conclusion. Sadly, like his Fox News colleague, Jeanine Pirro when she promoted Trump's disgraceful birther "controversy," Napolitano seemed more interested in inflammatory accusations. He told the Fox & Friends viewers, “They’re walking around with dogs in the middle of the night in hallways of private buildings, hoping that the dogs will smell something which will cause the dogs to indicate to the police there’s something going on inside that apartment building, and then the police will break down the door… even though the Constitution says that that would be an unreasonable search and seizure and if they think something’s going on inside that’s criminal, they have to go to a judge and get a search warrant.”

Morris ratcheted up the flame. “That sounds like Nazi Germany, that’s like something the Gestapo would do.”

But Chief Roche says that’s not at all what happened. He says that the apartment manager asked the police to step in after receiving several complaints about suspected drug activity. Roche says he organized what’s called a “K-9 sweep” with other drug and law enforcement agencies in public areas such as hallways, driveways and stairwells. If the dogs smelled something suspicious, the police applied for a search warrant.

A report by Virginia’s WSLS (video below, after the Fox & Friends clip) confirmed Roche's account. It showed Roche saying, “We weren’t going into anybody’s private places with the dogs unless we were authorized… by a search warrant.” The reporter showed three search warrants that were obtained. WSLS also relayed a statement from the apartment complex’s management: The apartments were neither entered without permission nor were any doors broken down.

It's disturbing that Fox aired this report apparently without doing any investigation. But what's far more troubling is the network's refusal to look into the possibility they were mistaken. WSLS’ reporter said she made several unsuccessful attempts to contact Fox and find out where they got the information for their report. Worse, the “fair and balanced” network has refused to respond to calls and emails from Chief Roche. In an email to News Hounds, he wrote:

We contacted Fox that same day (7/29/11) through the “Contact” tab on their web page and explained the errors. We never received a reply. I also tried it through another E-mail route at Fox but the return message I received was, “deleted without being read.” I contacted press people at the state level who called me back and advised that Fox had my office number and they thought that I would receive a call that afternoon. I never have.

The WSLS report has a ring of accuracy. But it’s still possible, of course, that WSLS got it wrong, that Fox got it right and that this was, in fact, an alarming over-reach on the part of the police. But for a news network, especially one that brags about its fairness and balance, to flat-out refuse to investigate evidence about one of their own stories – from a police chief and would-be primary source – after likening the chief’s department to the Gestapo – is shockingly unprofessional. Even for Fox News.

You can contact Fox at friends@foxnews.com or yourcomments@foxnews.com or freedomwatch@foxbusiness.com.

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