There seems to be a Fox News meme here. Much as Fox loves to attack the Occupy movement and accuse Democrats of playing “class warfare,” at the same time, the network is trying to co-opt the populism and use class warfare against President Obama. You may recall Fox’s attack on President Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard vacation last summer. More recently, the network went after his Hawaiian vacation over Christmas and New Year’s. Yesterday, Fox News Sunday tried to equate Mitt Romney’s role as a venture capitalist/corporate raider to Obama’s role in the Solyndra bankruptcy But, in a twist that could have been engineered by (Fox News contributor) Karl Rove, Fox has taken that a step further by helping 1%-er Romney make Obama’s “elitism” a campaign issue.
On December 30, 2011, supposedly objective America Live hosted a debate about whether or not President Obama is out of touch. It was a classic use of what Jon Stewart called the “Cavuto mark” - where a Republican talking point is camouflaged by phrasing it in the form of a question.
Host Megyn Kelly’s introduction overlooked the irony of a guy like Mitt Romney accusing Obama of being out of touch. She said Romney was “getting a lot of attention today for his latest example of how he says President Obama is out of touch with the struggles of everyday Americans.”
As she spoke, a banner underneath her echoed the sentiment: ROMNEY SAYS PRES OBAMA OUT OF TOUCH WITH EVERYDAY AMERICANS.
She also read a quote from Romney saying, “When the president’s characterization of our economy was, ‘It could be worse,’ it reminded me of Marie Antoinette: ‘Let them eat cake.’”
Again, a graphic on the screen echoed Romney’s words. It spelled out Romney’s quote along with “President Obama & the economy” in big letters at the top. “Mitt Romey (R) presidential candidate” was in much smaller letters at the bottom.
It was up to guest Sally Kohn to make the obvious point that you’d think supposedly “objective” news host Megyn Kelly would have made. “That’s like the pot really calling the kettle black,” Kohn said. She continued, “Mitt Romney is Mr. 1%.” She compared Obama’s wealth - $1.3 million when he ran for office – to Romney’s estimated $250 million to $1 billion. She added that Romney made that money not selling books (as Obama did) “but selling out businesses and shipping jobs overseas. That is out of touch.”
Of course, Kohn was absolutely correct in her description of how Romney acquired his wealth. But rather than acknowledge that, “objective” Kelly said, “Oh, boy!” as if Kohn had just raised a matter of controversy.
Conservative guest Chris Plante ignored Romney’s history to jump on the “Obama is out of touch” bandwagon. And Kelly helped. When Plante sneered that Obama is worth “millions and millions,” Kelly let the viewers know that Obama is “reportedly” worth $7.3 million. Plante went on to make Obama look bad for staying in an “8 million mansion overlooking the ocean in Hawaii,” because he and his wife are “Harvard Law School grads” and for having “a Belgian water dog.” Actually, the dog is a Portuguese water dog and he was a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy. “Who gets a Belgian water dog?” Plante added. “I can assure you Mitt Romney never thought of buying a Belgian water dog. Of course they’re (the Obamas) out of touch.”
As Kohn reiterated her point about the irony of Romney accusing Obama of being out of touch, Kelly made an effort at fairness and balance. “You think that that might be a strategy by Mitt Romney to preempt an attack against him by President Obama that he is out of touch?" Kelly noted that these comments from Romney came shortly after he offered a $10,000 bet at one of the debates. But really, it shouldn’t have been so little so late coming from a supposedly objective host.
Kohn said, “Look, the last time he complained about Barack Obama’s vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, it came out two days later that Mitt Romney was bulldozing his $14 million beachside home in California in order to make it three times bigger (According to the Washington Post, the house was worth $12 million). I mean, come on, the guy is not exactly in touch with the average.” Kohn also reminded viewers of a recent Romney comment in which he had laughed as he said, “I’m also unemployed.”
Kohn went on to say that if politicians are out of touch, there should be campaign finance reform “so that regular people can run for office. I don’t understand why we’re not having that conversation.”
With all due respect to Kohn, who is a terrific spokesperson for progressive values on Fox, I think it’s pretty clear why they were not having that conversation – because there was no political payoff in it for Republicans.
In fact, rather than pick up on Kohn’s point, Kelly pivoted right to that GOP-friendly frame. “How much of this alternatively, as opposed to being a strategy by Romney… is based on a narrative that’s emerged about President Obama over the past few years? When he was running for president the last time, remember how much heat he took because he didn’t eat the Philadelphia cheese steak and instead he liked the arugula lettuce… So is Mitt Romney doing something smart by tapping into a narrative of, ‘The President’s out of touch?’”
The “ROMNEY SAYS PRES OBAMA OUT OF TOUCH WITH EVERYDAY AMERICANS” banner was on the screen again as she spoke.