Fox Fever -- The Latest Pandemic

Larry Elder

11/5/2009 12:01:00 AM - Larry Elder

I spoke at a recent town hall forum. The many issues discussed included the Obama administration's attack on Fox News. Later, one of the audience members came up to me and sneered, "Well, even you must admit that Fox News is biased in favor of Republicans."

Separate the opinion guys from the news deliverers. Does Fox focus on stuff that the others -- MSNBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS -- do not? Yes. Is that stuff more critical of liberals and less critical of conservatives? Yes.

The best gauge is who watches these stations. Fox News Channel, as a percentage of viewers, includes more self-described libs and indies than CNN or MSNBC includes self-described conservatives and indies. Pew Research Center recently studied the cable channels' viewers' politics. CNN? Fifty-one percent liberal, 23 percent independent and 18 percent conservative. MSNBC? Forty-five percent liberal, 27 percent independent and 18 percent conservative. Don't know about the "fair" part, but Fox's audience was the most "balanced," with 39 percent conservatives, 33 percent liberals and 22 percent independents.

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I know from my appearances that the audiences differ -- at least as to the e-mail I receive.

When I appear on Fox, as I did to promote my latest book, "What's Race Got to Do with It," I get mostly approving e-mail. When I get one that disagrees, the writer points out -- using facts, information or analogies -- what, in his or her opinion, undermines my position. But when I appear on Wolf Blitzer's CNN show -- oh, man! Hundreds of hostile e-mails accuse me of everything but the Lincoln assassination. Only rarely, such as when someone took exception to the book's premise -- that white racism no longer poses a potent or even significant factor in America -- does anyone argue intelligently, with facts or information. It's snarl, attack, name-call.

On a recent appearance on Ed Schultz's MSNBC show, I opposed Obamacare -- or tried to, given the host's interruptions. The e-mails I received were unprintable.

The White House loathes Fox News. President Obama pointedly excluded Fox while appearing on ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN. Obama's communications director, on CNN, complained about Fox's year-old coverage of Obama's campaign. But a Pew Research Center study found that during the last six weeks of the campaign, 61 percent of CNN's stories on John McCain were negative, compared with 39 percent on Obama. On MSNBC, 73 percent of McCain stories were negative, while only 14 percent of stories on Obama were negative. But 40 percent of Fox News' stories on Obama and 40 percent of those on McCain aired during the final six weeks of the race were negative. So, of the three major cable news networks, who can legitimately claim to be more "fair and balanced"?

But let's assume, for the sake of argument, Fox News slants toward conservatives. On one side stand conservative talk radio, Investor's Business Daily and some conservative/libertarian publications, writers, bloggers and, yes, Fox News. On the other stand The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and even the news section of The Wall Street Journal, as well as the editorial pages of virtually every big-city newspaper. It includes PBS, NPR, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC. In the 1992 presidential election, for example, almost 90 percent of Washington-based journalists admitted to voting for Bill Clinton for president.

But because Fox News is allegedly biased in favor of conservatives, critics whine like children whose lunch money got snatched. Conservatives have been pummeled for decades. Now that Fox News and conservative talk radio give people alternatives, critics squeal as if being sodomized.

Is Fox skeptical about the "bailout" and Cash for Clunkers or more likely to blame government rather than "greed" for the housing meltdown? Yes. Does Fox appear to focus more on Obama's dithering over his top Afghanistan commander's request for the troops the general thinks necessary to succeed? Yes. The better question is, why aren't the others doing the same thing? The double standards and pro-liberal negligence are mind-boggling. If media malpractice were a crime, many "reporters" would be on death row.

When the Obama administration claimed 640,000 jobs were "saved or created" with $159 billion of the "stimulus," many "news" outlets blithely "reported" this. Do you know that comes to $250,000 per job?!!! And the administration claimed half the jobs were teachers. How many teachers make $250,000 per year? Very little skepticism. Why didn't "journalists" immediately challenge this as a matter of who, what, where, when and why? If George W. Bush had done this (God forbid he'd have supported an $800 billion stimulus package), the mainstream media would have -- and should have -- said, "Why, that comes to $250K per job!!!!!"

But as to Fox News, it's BMW -- bitch, moan and whine. Oh, the humanity!