CNN founder Ted Turner opened his mouth this week at the National Press Club, and promptly demonstrated why America needs Fox News Channel now more than ever.
Three years after the invasion of Iraq, Turner is still pouting about public displays of patriotism on American airwaves: "I mean, I just really wonder during the, during the last war, you know, what business did it have in the news sets to have the American flag flying in the background. Uh, I mean, it was like the news media covered the Iraq war, at least at the beginning of it, almost as like it was a football game with us versus them."
Funny, I can't recall Turner getting his undergarments in a bunch when CNN chose Saddam Hussein's side and former CNN executive Eason Jordan admitted the global news network had withheld reporting on Baathist atrocities in exchange for inside access and protection of its Baghdad staff. Recall Jordan's confession published in The New York Times after America toppled Saddam's regime in April 2003:
"I came to know several Iraqi officials well enough that they confided in me that Saddam Hussein was a maniac who had to be removed. One Foreign Ministry officer told me of a colleague who, finding out his brother had been executed by the regime, was forced, as a test of loyalty, to write a letter of congratulations on the act to Saddam Hussein. An aide to Uday once told me why he had no front teeth: henchmen had ripped them out with pliers and told him never to wear dentures, so he would always remember the price to be paid for upsetting his boss. Again, we could not broadcast anything these men said to us."
It's fine and dandy for CNN to wave Saddam's flag and carry his blood-stained water. But when Fox News sticks a two-postage-stamp-sized American flag on its screen? Only then will Ted Turner declare that journalism and reportorial objectivity have gone to hell.
But Turner's disdain for putting American citizenship above "citizen-of-the-world" preening isn't peculiar. It's the prevailing attitude in our newsrooms. Remember after the September 11 attacks when Stacey Woelfel, news director at KOMU-TV in Columbia, Mo., directed his staff to "leave the ribbons at home" in order to show viewers "that in no way are we influenced by the government in informing the public"? Or how about when ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider told The Washington Post: "Especially in a time of national crisis, the most patriotic thing journalists can do is to remain as objective as possible. . . . [W]e cannot signal how we feel about a cause, even a justified and just cause, through some sort of outward symbol."
Elite news editors shrug at their reporters' highly politicized activities -- from AIDS fund-raisers to pro-abortion rallies, environmental propaganda and unhinged Bush-bashing (new case in point: New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse's recent moonbatty screed at Harvard University assailing everything from Gitmo to the Mexican-U.S. border fence). But wear a flag pin? Heresy!
When The New York Times blabs classified information about terrorism investigations and is reported to have tipped off FBI investigations of terror charity front groups, ethics mavens yawn. But when Fox News anchor Chris Wallace dares to broach President Clinton's war on terror failures, the mainstream media caterwauling crescendos. When Wallace is derided as a "monkey" for doing his job and Fox News head Roger Ailes' weight is mocked, the civility police in our journalism schools shut their eyes and ears.
When insipid New York Times columnists recycle mediocre columns into their umpteenth books, they score multiple book reviews and fawning magazine covers. When the No. 1 cable talk show host tops the best-seller list (again), crickets chirp. Bill O'Reilly's latest book, "Culture Warrior," is as much O'Reilly's story of success as it is Fox News Channel's. O'Reilly's fight against America-snubbing "secular progressives" is also Roger Ailes'. When The New York Times disparaged O'Reilly's war on the war on Christmas as a manufactured hoax, it was disparaging Fox News Channel's decision to listen to its audience -- and respond.
The liberal media's 10-year allergic reaction to Fox News is triggered by any remotely positive exposure to American values on American airwaves. Well, here's to the next 10 years of giving establishment journalism the hives. Keep Old Glory flying high. It's driving Ted Turner mad.