Good Willis Hunting

Oliver Willis responds to our criticisms and levels new charges. Does he have the facts, or has he just made himself an easier target?

In Oliver's Story we took Oliver Willis's allegations about Fox News Channel and put them to the test. (His charge was that anyone who dares to criticize the Bush administration either gets shouted down or has their mic turned off.) Our report has been given a lot of attention (thanks, Instapundit!), so much so that Mr Willis himself posted with his response. His initial reaction was to scoff at the use of transcripts:
A transcript is one thing.

That it is. He quickly proceeded to reframe the issue:
Those of us who watch Fox every day knows that the liberal position, heck the moderate position, are few and far between...

Which is a little bit different from his original charge, no? Then he employed a bit of rhetorical slight-of-hand to change the subject:
No mention from you about Fox's one opinion only slanted panels, or even Linda Vester's ludicrously stacked studio audience.

Possibly because the subject matter of the article was Mr Willis's allegation and those of Ted Turner et al, none of whom even mentioned Linda Vester.

It is worth noting that "stacked" is defined as:
To prearrange or fix unfairly so as to favor a particular outcome: tried to stack the jury.

We did request that Mr Willis provide some evidence that Ms Vester's audience was "stacked", but we are shocked--shocked!--that he did not do so. If you get the idea that Mr Willis makes reckless statements without any proof or data to support them, you get the idea. And as our evidence, consider his thoughts on author Ann Coulter:
[Ann Coulter] is a regular guest on Fox News programming (and probably paid by them too).

Really? The Fox News website doesn't list her as a contributor or an analyst. Has she ever been identified on-air as such? Mr Willis should know; he's one of those "who watch Fox every day". Perhaps he's confusing Ms Coulter with Bob Beckel, or Ellen Ratner, or David Corn, who are paid by Fox.

To be fair, he did say "probably". (We wonder why, when it's so easy to verify. Apparently it was "too good to check".) But Mr Willis used no such modifier when he discussed Ms Coulter in the comment threads right here on our site:
...most of the time [Ann] Coulter is on (usually on FOX or on Scarborough on MSNBC), she's alone or with a wimp liberal like Colmes, and even he can deflate her stupidly constructed arguments.

One wonders why the high dudgeon about Coulter, if she is so easily disposed of. But we raised a different question with Mr Willis:

Mr Willis, you keep throwing out "facts" like the above. I'm not saying you're wrong, but again I have to ask where's the evidence? We have seven Ann Coulter on Fox transcripts on this site, and in only one of them is she the solo guest. The other six she is up against one or more others. So where does this "most of the time she's alone" come from?
Again, I say, Coulter is usually given a solo platform or put up against a wimp liberal like Colmes.

Let's go to those transcripts that Mr Willis dislikes so much. Thanks to Highbeam Research (and this week's free access to their online library) we were able to identify all the Ann Coulter appearances on Fox News in their database from February 1999 to January 11 2005. They show Ms Coulter as an interview guest on 67 occasions. And she was the solo guest all of 15 times. That amounts to 22% of her appearances, not what most people would define as "usually". (Of course, Fox often has liberals--excuse me, progressives--on for solo interviews. This does not seem to have engendered any condemnation from Mr Willis.)

And how many appearances where Ann Coulter was paired with one or more opposing guests? The records say: 51. (There was one appearance with Pat Caddell which doesn't fall into either category.) This comes to 76% of the time, and that's not counting that "wimp liberal" Alan Colmes, who according to Mr Willis has no trouble demolishing her arguments. These are interviews where Coulter appeared with opposing guests like Bob Beckel, Susan Estrich, Richard Aborn, Mary Anne Marsh, Vic Kamber, Steve McMahon, Ellen Ratner, Al Sharpton, Lawrence Guyot, Ellis Henican, and numerous others whose views on Fox, according to Mr Willis, are "few and far between".

So Mr Willis's assertions about Ann Coulter prove to be no more accurate than his talk about shouting people down and cutting their mics off. Repeatedly making charges that one cannot prove, charges that are easy targets to shoot down with the merest modicum of research, does not say much for one's credibility. But Mr Willis, who has complained that Fox News is "sloppy", and that Sean Hannity is "fact-challenged", holds himself to a slightly different standard. Evidence? Documentation? Such bothersome trivialities are not for those with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, those who are able to leap to conclusions in a single bound.

posted: Fri - January 28, 2005 at 03:20 PM       j$p  send 

Jeff H
Great stuff. I find it fascinating--disgustingly so, but fascinating nonetheless--that so many liberals show themselves incapable of real perspective on the issue of Fox. It clearly is the closest to "fair and balanced" of any major news source, as shown by ACTUAL RESEARCH. One study I saw put it just barely right-of-center, while all the others (A/C/N-B-C/S; you get my drift) were well to the left.
Keep up the good work.
BTW, how do you get your transcripts? Do you transcribe them from TiVo? Or are they available from other sources?
January 29, 2005, 10:33:06 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
From our tivo to your screen.
January 29, 2005, 10:46:56 PM EST – Like – Reply