Tommy Vietor, Cohost of Pod Save America and Pod Save the World and the former NSC spokesman for President Obama urged Joe Biden to learn from the Obama administration’s mistake of treating Fox News like a legitimate news outlet.
Remember the madrassa smear? On his Crooked Media website, Vietor wrote about living through that incident as a spokesman for then-Senator Barack Obama:
I watched my body shiver with rage as a senior Fox News executive told me not to worry about their report that Obama was educated in an Indonesian Madrassa. “Calm down, young man,” he told me. “Fox and Friends is just an entertainment show; it’s not real news.” How any viewer is ever supposed to grasp that distinction when half of the network’s name is literally news remains a mystery to me.
But Fox’s dishonesty and demonizing is only part of the problem for Biden, although that’s awful enough. The other part is the pressure Biden will face to treat Fox like a legitimate news outlet. Vietor warns Biden of the pressure the Obama White House faced to which Biden should not succomb:
[W]e lost our nerve. We were bullied by the Washington axis of media elites (the ones forever spotted in Playbook attending a never-ending book party circle jerk) who play along with Fox’s ridiculous “Fair and Balanced” lie. For example, in 2009, when the Treasury Department made the watchdog who oversaw the 2008 Wall Street bailout available to every network except Fox News, the Washington bureau chiefs of the five TV networks got together and boycotted the interview unless we included Fox, too. Boycotted! The press corps didn’t muster this same principle when Trump singled out news networks for disloyalty, or privileged Fox over all other outlets, or stopped conducting White House press briefings, or called journalists the “enemy of the people.” But when Obama was in office, the DC press corps beat its chest with righteous indignation (from Both Sides, of course) until we agreed to treat Fox as a legitimate news organization.
I think we all know how that Fox never returned the favor and treated Obama with respect. Instead, we got birtherism, "secret Muslim" accusations and racial attacks on Michelle Obama.
Here's Vietor’s prescription:
Approach Fox News with eyes, not arms, wide open. Call Fox what it is: an extension of the Republican Party. Say it often. Repetitive messaging works—just ask Lyin’ Ted and Low-Energy Jeb. Reject the absurd insistence that the network has a “real news” division. Yes, Fox’s decision desk called Arizona and the election for Biden, but those nerds are stuffed in a boiler room while people like Jeanine Pirro and Karl Rove haunt the hallways and rule the airwaves.
Instead, Biden’s team should develop closer ties with progressive outlets like The Nation, The Young Turks, and yes, Crooked Media. Give them scoops and access and grow their audiences and influence the way Trump’s team has nurtured fringe rags like Newsmax and OAN. More importantly, Biden should supersize his White House digital media team.
Vietor also says he’s not against Democrats going on Fox and that he especially enjoys Pete Buttigieg’s appearances. I do, too. I think we need more like that.
Regular readers know I have long thought we need more Democratic pundits willing to confront the network’s propaganda, the demonization and the Trump sycophancy on the air. There’s even evidence that it works. Remember when Democrat Zac Petkanas called out Corey Lewandowski’s “Womp womp?” It got so much attention, along with viral clips of Laura Ingraham likening child detention centers to summer camps, that the network lost advertising dollars and Fox CEO Suzanne Scott told producers to dial down the flaming rhetoric.
Fortunately, as president, Biden does not need to mix it up with Tucker Carlson in order to leave his imprint on Fox News' image. Please, Mr. President-elect, listen to Vietor's voice of experience, let everyone know you are on to Fox's game and never, ever let your guard down with them.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below. I’ll be away from my computer for much of the day but I look forward to reading any comments when I get the chance.
(Biden caricature by DonkeyHotey via Creative Commons license.)