An article in yesterday's Esquire asks the question early on, "Exactly how difficult was it, though, to determine pretty early on that (Cliven) Bundy and his followers were using the threat of force to back up some terrifyingly misguided beliefs?" The answer is pretty obvious soon thereafter. If anything, the tough thing would have been to miss it. And yet, despite having at least two reporters on scene and nightly chats between Bundy and host Sean Hannity, Fox somehow kept portraying Bundy as a modern-day Gandhi or Thoreau.
Of course, the very fact that Bundy has fought with the federal government for 20 years, has refused to pay grazing fees or move his cattle off federal land and insists that he doesn't even recognize the existence of the federal government at all is kind of a red flag about the guy's credibility. But while Fox News has been painting Bundy as some kind of folk hero, Esquire's Caty Enders went to the Bundy ranch and published an eyewitness report. Let's just say that what she found differs greatly from Fox's "objective" reports that could have been transcriptions from a Bundy press release.
In her Esquire report, Enders discusses her visit last week, i.e. before the New York Times article revealed Bundy's shockingly racist comments. For example, one man who said he was a close Bundy friend and ex-cop told her about a sheriff he knew:
“He got in a bit of trouble,” he chuckles. “He pulled over a carload of illegals one night, didn’t have room to haul ‘em all, so he put a chain around their neck and put a padlock through it, went to the next one, then he chained ‘em to a tree!”
He buckles with laughter as the story heats up. “Then he left ‘em and went to town to get his pickup to haul ‘em all back in. So, you might imagine, that didn’t play well — ha! You’re a young’un, but everything wasn’t against the law, way back when.”
Bundy, meanwhile, addressed the crowd with displeasure:
He reproaches the crowd for failing to follow the word of God – to the letter – which he says is being delivered through him. They failed, for example, to follow his instructions to tear down the toll booths at Lake Mead and disarm the Park Service.
The Esquire article is full of revealing anecdotes like this. It begs the question: how did Fox News miss all this? Enders notes in her piece that a Fox News van had been parked nearby "for days" when she arrived. She also notes that the former cop recommended "a Fox News segment that explains how the government is trying to put people out of work, “’Enemy of the State’, it’s called.” I believe the man was referring to "Enemies of the State" which was an entire Fox News special aired not long ago.
Media Matters wrote yesterday that Bundy's advocacy for state ownership of federal lands is "an issue that conservatives have long been campaigning for but have had difficulty getting voters excited about. -- an issue in line with the land interests of the Koch brothers."
The idea is that once the states gain control of the lands, they can be privatized via sales or leases to people like the Kochs. It just so happens, Media Matters pointed out, "Hannity receives major funding and large ad buys from Koch-affiliated Heritage and Tea Party Patriots. ...Politico reported that Heritage began sponsoring Hannity in 2008 and in 2013 Hannity began advertising for the Tea Party Patriots, 'lending his name to fundraising drives, hosting its leaders on his radio and Fox News shows, and even using the Fox airwaves to promote the Tea Party Patriots website.'"
So clearly Hannity and Fox News execs and their like-minded cronies have a financial incentive to promote Bundy's cause as righteous and even patriotic. And to turn a blind eye to some inconvenient flaws. But I think there's something else at play here, something that peeks out during a close reading of the Esquire article: These folks are Fox's fan base. Like savvy media entity, Fox is playing to its crowd.
Now that Bundy's race comments have forced Fox to abandon him, it will be interesting to see how those fans respond.
These worthless and useless Fox “News” senior producers and producers, Bundy’s buddy Hannocchio, and the rest of the untalented hosts would never have given tax cheat Bundy any air time if Romney was president.
Hannocchio is losing conservative viewers. If Hannocchio continues to bleed viewers, and his ratings suffers he is finished at Fox.
KKKlannity’s distancing himself now from Bundy will be a temporary strain on that bond. It will soon be reinforced when yet another Bundy or Vigilante George Zimmerman crawls out from under his rock.