Nothing has underscored Fox News’ disregard for journalistic principles like its feud with Donald Trump. Oh, the network has grumbled about them every now and then but mostly Fox has attempted to deal with Trump as a political colleague and given him a pass on his attempts to manipulate the press, often with vile attacks on Fox’s own Megyn Kelly.
I’ve written repeatedly about Fox’s anemic defense once Trump began attacking. In the immediate aftermath of the first Fox News Republican debate that started it all, CEO Roger Ailes ran from the heat, making the not-very-plausible claim that he had nothing to do with the controversial debate questions. Finally, after several weeks of personal attacks on Kelly, Ailes weakly asked for an apology, saying, “Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should.”
It all came to a head last week when Fox released a statement mocking Trump’s complaints about Kelly moderating the next Fox News debate:
“We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president — a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”
There’s been some debate as to whether or not that was the right tone for Fox to have taken (Trump became so offended, he definitively dropped out of the debate) but what’s indisputable is that Fox was mocking Trump’s political chops. That’s bad enough for a news network. But perhaps worse, the politics seemed to have driven any and all thoughts about journalism out of the picture.
The same mindset was shown during Bill O’Reilly’s jaw-dropping interview with Trump. O’Reilly futilely lectured and cajoled Trump to reconsider his decision by arguing that it would be good for his candidacy. O’Reilly showed almost no concern about Trump’s attempts to dictate to a news network nor about his attacks on Kelly. In fact, O’Reilly urged Trump “to let ‘em have it right between the eyes” if he didn’t like a question.
On today’s Reliable Sources, Mediaite founder Dan Abrams laughably lauded Fox because, in his mind, “Roger Ailes got to stand up to Trump and he got to defend Megyn Kelly.”
Fortunately, later in the show, The Baltimore Sun’s media critic, David Zurawik came out with the truth:
ZURAWIK: Back in August, I started hammering Fox, …saying they should have been much stronger in their defense of [Kelly]. They had the journalistic high ground and Trump was a hot dog and they should have come at him the way they did when Juan Williams was fired by NPR. It was tribal the way they came out in his defense. They didn’t do that.
In fairness, Ailes put out a statement. But they didn’t rally around her that way because they – and I believe it was because they didn’t want to alienate Trump, they wanted him on their other shows for ratings and it was a big mistake. And for Dan and some of these people now to say, “Oh, Ailes made this big statement on behalf of journalism” – no, he should have done it in August, September, October, November and December and shut this guy down.
Host Brian Stelter asked if Ailes shouldn’t get some credit for doing it now.
Short answer: no.
Zurawik: I think now he had no choice and he took the wrong tone. He should have come out, journalistic high ground, saying, “You know what? Remember when Barack Obama said we couldn’t cover events at the White House because we weren’t a journalistic institution? And we fought him?” And by the way, I fought on behalf of Fox for that. “Well, now Donald Trump can’t tell us who our moderators are gonna be.” Same principle, same journalistic principle. He didn’t do it that way. He did it with a snarky, sophomoric, dinky, little doofus remark thing they put out of the press office.
Meanwhile, the Fox/Trump feud continues. As the discussion noted, Fox’s pandering and attacking Trump has not stopped him from driving a wedge through the conservative community that Fox has so long dominated.
Where things stand now, as per Stelter: “Above the surface, there might be sort of a tenuous truce now between Fox and Trump. He was on Fox News Sunday this morning. But under the surface, there is a whole lot of animosity, a lot of bitterness on both sides. And, of course, Trump continues to use Twitter to take swings at the network.”
Watch it below, from the January 31 Reliable Sources.
Ellen, that presumes Fox makes journalism a priority to begin with . . .
I have no idea if this was a one-time thing or it’s the official new slogan since the blow-up with Trump because I almost never make it all the way through a Fox show to the end, but keep an eye out for it.
And btw, nary a discouraging word about Trump was said during the double-length “political panel” of Brit Hume, Steve Hayes (two of the “establishment” types the Trump-lovin’ GOP base has been complaining about), A.B. Stoddard, who seems to be there for her contrarian views about everything, and of course, from perpetual Trump fanboy Charles Hurt of the Wash. Examiner.