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'Live Desk' Follows Script of Fox News Memo

Reported by Judy - November 15, 2006 -

How closely did Fox News reporters follow the script laid out for them last Thursday (November 9, 2006) in that leaked memo obtained by Huffington Post? The evidence from Martha MacCallum's "Live Desk" for that day indicates she is one of the most loyal foot soldiers Fox News has. Updated with video

The memo, by Fox's vice president for news, instructs staff members to be on the lookout for any information from insurgents in Iraq, who, the memo says "must be thrilled" at Democratic victories in last week's midterm elections.

The memo's wording may explain where Martha MacCallum got the idea for her report later that day that insurgents were "cheering in the streets" over the Democratic victories.

During the "Live Desk" show that aired the same day as the memo, MacCallum claimed without
providing any details or sources that there were "some reports of cheering in the streets on the behalf of the supporters of the insurgency in Iraq, that they’re very pleased with the way things are going here and also with the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld."

Then she asked guest Erick Stakelbeck, a terrorism analyst for CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network), "What does the Democratic leadership mean for the war on terror?"

Stakelbeck referred to Palestinians who advised Americans to vote Democratic, but he did not refer to any Iraqi insurgents celebrating a Democratic victory.

Was MacCallum's "source" for the happiness of insurgents in fact nothing more than the morning memo from her boss? We'll never know, but the coincidence is certainly suggestive.

MacCallum's eagerness to follow the company line toward Democrats goes farther than the "cheering in the streets." The memo also includes a reminder, as if a Fox News foot soldier needed one, to keep up the focus on the war on terror. "Just because Democrats won, the war on terror isn't over," it says.

A few hours later, MacCallum aired throughout her show snippets from a documentary shown on Fox News previously called "Obsession: The Threat of Radical Islam." And MacCallum returned repeatedly to the question: "So what does a Democratic victory mean for things like the war on terror abroad and here at home. The terrorists are still training out there so how will Democrats continue to fight?"

And as her guest Stakelbeck opined about the Democrats, the lower-third graphic warned: "Terror Experts: Waiting for Ripple Effect in War on Terror." The chyron re-appeared several times during the hour.

She kept up the focus on the war on terror during the "A-List" segment when she claimed that Democrats don't want the U.S. government to be able to listen to terrorists' phone calls. And she brought in Fox News' John Gibson from the "Big Story," who claimed that lifting habeas corpus was not something over which people should engage in "heavy breathing."

The existence of such a memo giving MacCallum and other Fox News staff their daily marching orders in and of itself is not news. Robert Greenwald's "Outfoxed" documentary on Fox News revealed the existence of many such memo written by Fox Vice President for News John Moody, as producer Jim Gilliam discusses in another Huffington Post piece.

But the partisan tone of this memo goes well beyond those. For example, the memo also portrayed the contest for House Majority leader between Democrats John Murtha and Steny Hoyer as "a former hawk v. a political hack."

Can we imagine the outcry from the right-wing echo chamber had someone at CBS News written a memo referring to Tom DeLay as a "political hack"?

Maybe Fox News will have Bernie Goldberg on to hash that over.