Bill O’Reilly was so sure Fox truly is fair and balanced that he asked Fox host Heather Nauert how many liberal pundits are employed by Fox vs. how many conservatives. While Nauert proudly announced that 19 liberals are on the Fox payroll, she did not want to compare that with the number of conservatives.
On his “Mad as Hell” segment last night, Bill O’Reilly read a viewer letter saying he gets “aggravated” by the liberals on Fox. “Enough already with these smug leftists, ” the viewer wrote.
“‘Fair and Balanced’ is the Fox News motto,” O’Reilly explained. “If the liberal view were not represented, we’d be liars. So that’s ridiculous.”
Notice how O’Reilly never said anything like, “The liberal view is worth getting?”
However, O’Reilly asked his trusty “Mad as Hell” assistant for the segment, Heather Nauert, “How many of our contributors do lean left?”
“We have 19 left-leaning contributors,” Nauert replied.
“Out of how many?” O’Reilly asked.
Oops, wrong question. “Out of quite a lot,” Nauert said emphatically. Then she quickly added, “But a lot of our contributors are military contributors – “
“That don’t have ideology,” O’Reilly interrupted.
Nah, just because contributor Ralph Peters virulently hates President Obama is no reason to count him as anything but neutral.
“We’re just talking about the political ones,” Nauert said. “There are 19 liberals including Bob Beckel who, of course, is also a host here and Evan Bayh, Pat Caddell, James Carville.” She also named some unpaid guests who are liberal. As if there aren’t a zillion unpaid conservative guests. But including Pat Caddell in the total is about as honest as labeling Dick Morris “former Clinton advisor.”
O’Reilly bought it, however. He said, “So we are fairly, in our commentary, balanced. We have much more on the left than say –“ He paused, saying he was “trying to think.” Finally, he gave up. “But 19, OK?"
Putting aside the fact that many of Fox News’ so-called liberals often enable conservatives, let’s take a look at the imbalance that Nauert didn’t want to discuss. On the first page of the list of Fox News “On-Air Personalities,” which covers the last names beginning A-D, I found the following blatantly conservative pundits and hosts:
Dr. Keith Ablow, Fred Barnes, Michael Barrone, Jedediah Bila, Eric Bolling, Tammy Bruce, Gretchen Carlson, Tucker Carlson, Neil Cavuto, Linda Chavez, Monica Crowley, Alphonse D’Amato, Stacey Dash, Steve Doocy. Even Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown is still listed.
On the liberal side: Evan Bayh, Bob Beckel and Alan Colmes.
That’s a ratio of five conservatives to every liberal. If there’s a spate of liberals concentrated somewhere else – on H-L, say - feel free to let me know.
Watch Nauert and O'Reilly try to convince viewers there's a balanced number of liberals on Fox below.
Joseph, you also raise a good point both about Ralph Nader and progressives. Many of them are NOT fans of President Obama. Amy Goodman has made it her career to challenge EVERYONE in office, most notably when she pinned Bill Clinton in a combative 30 minute interview on Election Day 2000. It’s one of the things I admire about her. Larry Bensky has similarly challenged every elected official in his lifetime for any conservative or right wing action they’ve inflicted. Nader is essentially a gadfly at this point, and you’re correct that he’d say a bunch of things about how timid he believes President Obama is about dealing with corporate crime. But Nader would also present a worldview that is literally 180 degrees apart from someone like Neil Cavuto. He’s probably forgotten more about government’s role in a private economy in his lifetime than Cavuto has ever read talking points about. And that’s why they wouldn’t have him on. He’s too unpredictable for them. Much safer to have a Juan Williams or a Dennis Kucinich, where you know they won’t rock the boat all that much.
Again, I’d love to see Bill O’Reilly actually have a real discussion with someone from the left – like Amy Goodman or Larry Bensky. They’d wipe the floor with him on every subject. But it’s clear this kind of thing is NOT what Fox News wants. They want to preach to the choir, not challenge anyone’s expectations. And frankly, it’s clear that Fox News and O’Reilly are simply frightened of being confronted with a real debate. If they truly were “fair and balanced”, they’d have no problem with one.
“If Fox News wanted a serious progressive candidate’s voice as a counterpoint, they could always call Ralph Nader. I’d love to see Neil Cavuto trying to deal with Nader dissecting him on the air. But it will never happen.”
Dear Kevin: Here’s the REAL reason why — and yes, I AM aware you might disagree with my line of reasoning: back in the summer of 2004, Ralph Nader appeared on Faux Spews Channel to promote his book “The Good Fight”. Here’s what Faux Spews NEVER, EVER revealed: the publisher of this book was none other than — are you ready for this Kevin — HarperCollins, A SISTER COMPANY TO FAUX SPEWS CHANNEL (i.e. they are both OWNED by Herr Goebbels II, i.e. Rupert Murdoch). Ergo, one can safely assume that Nader SOLD OUT to Herr Goebbels II and collected AT LEAST A SEVEN FIGURE ADVANCE FROM HIM!
The problem is there are much, much stronger progressive voices who could make a much more compelling case for a worldview that doesn’t just accept Bill O’Reilly’s precepts. For example, if Bill O’Reilly had Amy Goodman on as a Point/Counterpoint, you might see some interesting exchanges. (Granted, you might also just see dueling talking points…) If O’Reilly had Jeff Cohen on and let him speak, you’d see even more fireworks than the limited delivery Cohen was allowed to do on Fox News Watch 14 years ago. If O’Reilly brought on Larry Bensky as an elder statesman of the left, you’d have a really interesting contrast going there. On the one side, you’d have O’Reilly – a man who has worked to make himself millions of dollars by shouting ill-informed opinions. On the other side, you’d have Bensky – a man who spent his life not trying to make money but trying to educate and inform people. But O’Reilly will never dare have that conversation.
My point is that Fox News pundits have a fundamental disadvantage when faced with people who have done their homework and know their material – it’s the reason Fox News tends to put liberals on the air who are barely versed in the fields they’re discussing. The typical Fox News pundit is either working from a set of Roger Ailes talking points or from their own preset biases, which happen to line up with Ailes’ worldview. Just look at Eric Bolling, for example. I don’t think he needs Roger Ailes to tell him what to think – he already believes it himself. If you stand up such a person with, say, a person like Dean Baker, who can come in with a mountain of economic statistics and discuss the reasons why government spending is a necessary component of a healthy economy, you’ll see the Fox News host quickly resorting to shouting and stonewalling, since they can’t answer the issues being raised.
It’s telling that Fox News hired Dennis Kucinich to be a commentator. Kucinich has always been reliably pliable. He was the internal Democratic option for some progressives in 2004, and he reliably did what the party establishment wanted him to do – he came to the convention and asked for a couple of meaningless planks in the platform. He finishes his time in Congress, and what does he do? He collects a large check from Fox News to tepidly agree with whatever the pundits on the air are spinning each day. If Fox News wanted a serious progressive candidate’s voice as a counterpoint, they could always call Ralph Nader. I’d love to see Neil Cavuto trying to deal with Nader dissecting him on the air. But it will never happen.
I also find it interesting that what’s triggering this discussion is that there are Fox News viewers who can’t even deal with hearing even a moderate-centrist liberal perspective on the air. These guys are so angry and so biased that they only want to hear the Hannity/Limbaugh/O’Reilly version – interrupting them with inconvenient facts just gets them angry.
By the way Heather, the answer to the question of “How many Conservatives are on the roster” is EVERYONE ELSE!
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You do bring up an important qualifier here. Several of the paid “liberal” commentators on Fox News are nothing of the kind. Neither Schoen nor Caddell are liberal by any means. Beckel is a conservative Democrat whose politics match up pretty well with his former candidate, Walter Mondale. (And I note that Beckel and his brother Graham are pretty similar in their politics, although Graham is a LITTLE farther to the right.) Beckel’s usual beef on any Fox News show isn’t about right and left or morals – it’s about party politics. He just doesn’t like Fox News insulting Dems.
It’s interesting that they hired James Carville, but the fact is that they never give Carville any room to do anything but be yelled at by O’Reilly or Hannity. Occasionally, you’ll see a flash of the old Carville, such as when he let her go completely off the deep end in her ranting about a year ago, but most of the time, he’s content to let O’Reilly make all his points and not contest them too hard.
Now, if Fox News wanted to do a REAL point/counterpoint show, I’d be happy to see them do one with Mary Matalin and Carville. Both are career political operators, and neither would take things to a personal level with each other. But you might see an interesting debate. I doubt you’ll ever see that happen on Fox News. But maybe we could see it sometime on CNN’s Crossfire after Carville’s contract expires.
With no liberal guests, they have to have paid semi-Democrats in order to make the “fair and balanced” claim only their fans buy anyway.
And Ellen, you left off one of the best, Doug Schoen, who’s less blatantly nutso than Caddell, but who just the other day was loudly demanding Obama resign because he so clearly isn’t interested in being president anymore. He started off his rant after a classic Lou Dobbs sneer by saying, “It’s worse than that!”
Beckel’s a down-and-out drunk and Caddell has psychiatric issues. But Schoen is apparently entirely sane and sober.
I also noted O’Reilly trying to take a sideways shot at CNN near the end. I think his point was supposed to be that Fox News somehow employs more liberal commentators than CNN and thus provides more of a liberal perspective than CNN. Wisely, he rethought that notion and let go of it before he finished voicing it. Because it’s complete nonsense.
The truth is that CNN employs multiple conservative pundits, like Newt Gingrich (recently of Fox News before he famously refused to back down in the 2012 primaries), and they also employ several less conservative voices. CNN tends, if anything, to be painfully neutral at times. They really do play the game of “let’s hear both sides” at every opportunity, even when common sense will tell the listener that one of these positions is tenable and the other one is bonkers. (Like all the “Birther” arguments – it’s frankly ridiculous to dignify them in that fashion. It’s more reasonable to point out that they are way out in the ether.)
The real point here isn’t the numbers, though. It’s more important to point out WHY Fox News has even the 19 paid liberal commentators on. Is it to allow them a platform to challenge the right wing bias regularly flung at Fox News’ viewers? Is it to allow an open debate between equally considered positions? Of course not. The purpose of having an Alan Colmes or a Joe Trippi on board is to provide an easy liberal punching bag – someone who can try to gently and politely voice some support for the Democrats or President Obama before being shouted down by the other pundits and the host. We’ve seen this countless times, including the entire tenure of Colmes as Hannity’s regular fall guy. Joe Trippi regularly gets brought out to stammer his way through a halfhearted defense of Hillary Clinton or President Obama before getting completely eviscerated by whoever the host is at that moment. Juan Williams regularly gets loudly scolded by Bill O’Reilly and Hannity – although to be fair, O’Reilly occasionally lets him host in his absence. Kirsten Powers is usually employed to provide a liberal voice agreeing with the conservative pundits and thus giving them political cover – as she shamefully did during the misguided programming that happened surrounding the Kermit Gosnell trial last year. And occasionally, very occasionally, you’ll see the token liberal voice actually stand up to the right wing host or pundit for a few moments. Ellen has been admirable in her notations of these brief interruptions in Fox News’ regular programming. But the liberals aren’t being paid to have their own soapbox. They’re paid to be told on-camera that they’re wrong, so that viewers who already are disposed to distrust them will have those feelings validated.
If Fox News was truly interested in hearing a liberal or progressive perspective, they’d have programming that reflected it. At the least, they’d bring on progressive voices that don’t back down just because Hannity or O’Reilly screams at them.
Just out of curiosity, when’s the last time that O’Reilly had Amy Goodman on? When’s the last time that Hannity asked Larry Bensky for his historical perspective on presidential scandals, given Bensky’s background as the gavel to gavel host of the Iran/Contra hearings in the 1980s? When’s the last time that Doug Henwood or Dean Baker or Mark Weisbrot were brought on to any Fox News program to discuss economic policy? When’s the last time that Peter Kornbluh was brought on from the National Security Archive? The answer is NEVER. And that tells you all you need to know about Fox News’ concern about presenting a genuine liberal or progressive perspective.