Oliver's Story Gets Two Thumbs Down

Ted Turner, Oliver Willis, and Roger Ebert all have something in common with the Outfoxed gals. They're wrong. Updated!

CNN founder Ted Turner, who had to apologize when he compared Rupert Murdoch to Adolph Hitler, is at it again:
[Turner] followed up by pointing out that Adolph Hitler got the most votes when he was elected to run Germany prior to WWII. He said the network is the propaganda tool for the Bush Administration.

The old mantra revived. Great thinkers like Roger Ebert have insisted that "Fox is a Republican propaganda machine". Of course, the newshounds (another fine product of the Outfoxed cabal) proclaim that Fox is "the propaganda arm of the RNC", an article of faith that informs every paragraph they write.

By an amazing coincidence, Turner's demented remarks came just as Oliver Willis revived a moldy oldy: his tiresome story about how Fox doesn't allow on-air criticism of the Bush administration.

It's hard for any thinking individual to believe, but there are actually people who think this tomfoolery is true. However even the rabidly loony Media Matters declared Fox's coverage of the inauguration to be by far the most balanced of all the news channels. When Brock's Brigade comes up with a finding like that, we decided it was time to put the claims of Turner, Willis, Ebert, and their ilk to the test. Let's look at a 12-hour block of Fox News, from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm, and see how well the arguments of the anti-Fox noise machine hold up.

We went straight to January 25, the date Ted Turner's babblings were reported. As we scanned through our tivo, spinning it into overdrive, it quickly became apparent that the challenge would not be to find counter-examples to Oliver's story. On the contrary, there were so many that we had to restrict ourselves to just live interview guests, and winnow those down to a more practical representative selection.

The fun begins on Fox News Live, where we meet Bob Beckel:

BECKEL: The 30 billion dollars now puts over 300 billion dollars now in Iraq and Afghanistan...I think the real problem for George Bush and Condoleeze Rice, and by the way this debate is not about Condoleeza Rice, it's about Bush foreign policy, is that the American people are beginning to lose support for this war and they expect our troops to come home.

How odd. Brigitte Quinn didn't have a MeltDown (tm Oliver Willis) and nobody cut off Beckel's mic.

A bit later on FNL the Rice nomination was discussed:

SEN JACK REED: I have serious reservations, and I'm really leaning in opposition at this moment.

Of course David Asman interrupted, talked over him, and cut off his mic. Right?

ASMAN: Did you feel the same before Sen Boxer spoke out last week?
REED: I've felt that there were serious questions that have arisen as her tenure as National Security Advisor...It's not just one incident; it's a collection of what she's done...

And he went on. Obviously more GOP propaganda.

On Dayside with Linda Vester, Kamal Nawash was critical of the US handling of the Iraq elections:

NAWASH: The United States must do all it can to make sure Sunis are at the highest levels of government....That's probably one of the only ways we can have peace in Iraq if we have it at all.

Later, Your World with Neil Cavuto gave Avi Cover an opportunity to criticize the administration on the issue of prisoner interrogation:

COVER: The Geneva conventions certainly do apply to the conflict in Iraq; and as to the whether it applies to Abu Zarkhawi...we would maintain that it does. But certainly the convention against torture does...

The next hour finds The Big Story with John Gibson hosting Nita Lowey:

LOWEY: We have a 368 billion dollar deficit this year...we have to be sure that the money is spent wisely. We know that the planning was poor, we know that the execution is questionable, and we need to get some honest information from the White House...

Somehow Mr Gibson didn't get the memo and didn't cut off her mic. The discussion also included Congressman Foley; Ms Lowey got both the first and the last words.

On Special Report with Brit Hume, there is more talk about the deficit from NPR's Mara Liasson:

LIASSON: It's going to be very hard to cut the thing in half unless you do some smoke and mirrors, which is call a lot of things off-budget, which he already has started to do....I think it's going to be very difficult...

Then, on The O'Reilly Factor, the discussion on Iraq funding was weighted against the administration by a factor of two against one:

P.J. CROWLEY: You're going to be seeing 80 billion dollars for one year....We have to look at, what more can our military forces accomplish?
O'REILLY: We just can't keep writing checks, and two more years? Two more years in that country?...There is no excuse for, after two years in that country, having the terrible training that these Iraqis have gotten. That is just a flat-out mistake. All our military analysts here, or most of them, at Fox News, say it. And the President has got to be held accountable...You're giving them a blank check....What have we been doing for 20 months?

Bill O'Reilly, don't you know, is that "conservative" ideologue. That's quite some Bush administration propaganda he's spinning there, isn't it Mr Turner?

The next hour brings us Hannity and Hannity. At least that's how the newspups like to portray it. But here we find an entire segment with Carol Mosely Braun and it's Fox news employee Alan Colmes who, if one actually believed Oliver, was not allowed to speak these words:

ALAN COLMES: Why should we promote somebody who bungled the war, bungled the aftermath, didn't plan well? We're seeing now what she has wrought. Why would we promote that kind of incompetence?
BRAUN: ...The war has been a debacle; Abu Ghraib was a debacle...

But our favorite example of the day occurred during Studio-B with Shepard Smith. Two blocks of this broadcast were combined, with the commercial break dropped, so that FNC could broadcast live Barbara Boxer's Senate comments against the nomination of Condoleeza Rice.

Roughly midway through this segment, we checked to see if CNN was carrying Boxer's statement. How about MSNBC? No, only Fox News Channel, that propaganda arm of the Bush administration, where critics get their mics cut off, saw fit to cut into regular programming, scrap a lucrative ad break, and broadcast nearly ten minutes of her speech. Live.

The newspups claim they watch Fox News "so you don't have to". They document every objectionable syllable spoken and every eyebrow twitched, to concoct a veritable Niagara of unceasing pro-Bush, pro-Republican propaganda. They posted over a dozen articles covering January 25. Let's see how they did:

Fox News Live/Bob Beckel: not reported by the newshounds
Fox News Live/Jack Reed: not reported by the newshounds
Dayside/Kamal Nawash: not reported by the newshounds
Your World/Avi Cover: not reported by the newshounds
The Big Story/Nita Lowey: we have a winner! The newshounds actually mentioned this, in their own inaccurate, biased fashion
Special Report/Mara Liasson: not reported by the newshounds
The O'Reilly Factor/P.J. Crowley: not reported by the newshounds
Hannity and Colmes/Carol Moseley Braun: not reported by the newshounds

And needless to say:

Studio-B/Barbara Boxer live coverage: not reported by the newshounds.

Not reported--even though a day earlier the tail-waggers scolded Fox for giving the President of the United States all of three minutes of live coverage. That was such a journalistic transgression they just had to hammer it, but the Boxer coverage somehow doesn't get a mention.

How does our research square with Roger Ebert's incisive analysis? It doesn't; he gets two thumbs down--way down. And what of Mr Willis's claim that critics of Bush are either shouted down or get their mics cut off? Oliver's story proves to be little more than a fractured fairy-tale.

Update: Mr Willis responds and does himself little good . Some conservatives actually believe Fox News is too liberal! But it's not.

posted: Wed - January 26, 2005 at 03:47 PM       j$p  send 

A transcript is one thing. Those of us who watch Fox every day knows that the liberal position, heck the moderate position, are few and far between amongst all the far right noise. No mention from you about Fox's one opinion only slanted panels, or even Linda Vester's ludicrously stacked studio audience.
January 26, 2005, 6:31:20 PM EST – Like – Reply

hmmmm ... yes, a transcript is one thing.
Very good, Oliver.
Would you care to try the lightning round where scores can increase?
January 26, 2005, 7:27:33 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
Which is it, Mr Willis? You previously claimed that Fox didn't allow criticism of Bush at all. Now you're saying what, they Do allow it, but it doesn't count because they also dare to permit pro-Bush opinion? I mean, please pick a position.
You are right, not one word from me about "Fox's one opinion only slanted panels"...but why would there be? This article addressed your claim that criticism of Bush isn't allowed on Fox. If you want to make a new and different unsubstantiated charge, knock yourself out. I'd be happy to take that on too.
January 26, 2005, 7:39:36 PM EST – Like – Reply

Luther Luscious
I watch Fox, because I find it entertaining.
And I think both you and Oliver are half-right, and that you simply caught Oliver in hyperbole, but that his sentiments are in the right place.
The liberal position (my position) is given time on Fox. And mics only really get cut a whole lot on either O'Reilly or Hannity and Colmes, though both of those shows have been getting better about it lately.
That's not the issue with Fox -- the issue with Fox is that the whole network, from the selection of guests to the hosts to the stories covered to the fact that suicide bombers are now termed "homicide bombers" by management decree ("A Fox news alert! We've now learned that the bombing which killed sixteen was, in fact, a *homicide* bombing!")...
...There's a glow, an "aura" of conservatism that emanates from the Fox network. And you can see this if you talk to most conservatives who watch Fox -- they'll tell you that it feels like they're getting the news from "their
January 26, 2005, 7:50:07 PM EST – Like – Reply

"... and that you simply caught Oliver in hyperbole, but that his sentiments are in the right place."
Oliver Willis: Fake, but Accurate!
January 26, 2005, 7:54:13 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
Hah! I had to laugh at that, BumperStickerist!!
January 26, 2005, 8:02:41 PM EST – Like – Reply

A transcript is one thing. Nicely worded oliver. So if the transcripts proved your point would they only be "one thing". I find it interesting that while avoiding the real information and when faced with facts you then move on to the 'spirit' of fox news.
If the liberal position was few and far between, there wouldnt be so much transcript. But alas, there is. 
Maybe if they quoted more of Democratic spokesman "Sheets" Byrd, they would have an even keel more suitable to your tastes?
January 26, 2005, 8:43:01 PM EST – Like – Reply

Shoba Vakkalagadda
I agree with the person who said it is an issue that there ia a "glow" of conservatism at Fox. But why is it that as soon as Fox came on the scene, it was picked on for having it? When all along the elite media had an aura of liberalism and the viewers had to put up with it for LONG time until Fox came along in 1996. I think Fox's editorial stance is definitely on the right, but overall their news coverage is fair and balanced. They make a genuine attempt to provide fair and accurate coverage more so then the other networks. I not only get the same information I hear from other networks, but I'll get additional information about the story.
January 26, 2005, 8:52:18 PM EST – Like – Reply

Charlie (Colorado)
Oliver Willis ... thinking person.
Oliver Willis ... thinking person.
Why am I having such trouble putting those two concepts together?
January 26, 2005, 9:09:58 PM EST – Like – Reply

What I find strange is that Oliver is hung up about transcripts. You mentioned TIVO which is not transcripts but the actual shows. I think Ollie is having a major disconnect because he is so very very wrong.
January 26, 2005, 10:53:53 PM EST – Like – Reply

It's very simple: any network that gives ann coulter airtime is a right-wing nutjob propaganda network.
If you can't see this for yourself, then God Help You. You're going to hell.
January 27, 2005, 6:22:54 AM EST – Like – Reply

Yeah... but you know, it's only fair. It only means that the evidence has been building up, and that the Bush administration now faces cricicism even from "their own".
That's what it means. 
January 27, 2005, 6:54:59 AM EST – Like – Reply

If the legacy media represented the conservative case as well as Fox presents the liberal one, there wouldn't even be a Fox News.
Ponder that, Filet O'Fish.
January 27, 2005, 9:04:33 AM EST – Like – Reply

12 hours is not a very impressive sample size. Sure, it allows some criticism of the President, especially on a war/occupation that is losing popularity with the general population. A more impressive and convincing sample would be to see how much criticism of Bush was allowed on a range of issues between the conventions and the election compared with John Kerry.
January 27, 2005, 9:59:54 AM EST – Like – Reply

It's very simple: any network that gives ann coulter airtime is a right-wing nutjob propaganda network.
I'm sure Ann has never appeared anywhere but Fox News.
Allowing two hosts on a news opinion show to work for a campaign they are paid to give opinions on = no problem.
Ann Coulter allowed a segment, which is quickly rebutted by someone of equal stature from the left = Rightwing Propaganda. 
*Dr. Evil*
January 27, 2005, 10:36:27 AM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
I think a range of 12 hours is a tad bit better than posting a 4-minute video clip and using THAT as your sample size! And the minute you say "sure it allows some criticism", you are saying that Oliver Willis is wrong, Turner is wrong, etc.
I respectfully disagree with your contention that we need to look at the entire convention-election period "to see how much criticism of Bush was allowed". First, such a charge is automatically rendered suspect, given that the one we just addressed has been proven fallacious.
The burden of proof is on the accuser; even so we had no trouble demonstrating at least to your satisfaction that Mr Willis et al were wrong. Now if the accusation is going to morph into something involving a different time period, I think it's about time that the accuser be made to pony up with the proof.
January 27, 2005, 10:46:41 AM EST – Like – Reply

jodm: For the record Ann Coulter has often appeared on the other cable networks. 
And surprise of surprises, after her book "Treason" was released, Annie actually once guested on the Today Show on NBC and defused the perky Katie Couric!
So I guess NBC is also a right-wing nut job.
January 27, 2005, 11:40:29 AM EST – Like – Reply

Now the studio audience is stacked? Yes, I'm sure that the flunkies desperate to fill up the audience for a basic cable show are very concerned about whether any lefties make it in...
Could have, you know, something to do with the fact that FANS of Fox tend to skew right and would be most interested in being in the audience.
But nah, I'm sure it's the former.
January 27, 2005, 12:08:01 PM EST – Like – Reply

By the way Coulter/Couric was for the release of Slander.
January 27, 2005, 12:14:04 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
Ira, you make an excellent point that demonstrates how the anti-Fox noise machine works. Mr Willis makes a charge that the audience is "stacked". And what is the evidence of that charge? What does he have that shows they select audience members based on their political affiliation? Do they ask them their party when they request tickets? Do they demand to see a voter registration card before they get in the studio? Or in Oliver's World is merely making the charge evidence in itself?
January 27, 2005, 12:39:49 PM EST – Like – Reply

FOX's Vester on her "fair and balanced" audience: "Maybe some of the Democrats ... aren't as loud"
And most of the time 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.
January 27, 2005, 2:06:16 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
v. stacked, stack·ing, stacks
v. tr.
To prearrange or fix unfairly so as to favor a particular outcome: tried to stack the jury.
Evidence, please.
Also, I note this from the (gasp!) newshounds:
--One of the Newshounds walked past the Fox News building on Monday. While standing on the sidewalk, a Fox News employee approached her and asked her if she wanted to be in the audience for Linda Vester's Dayside program.--
That's some heavy political screening process they use!
January 27, 2005, 2:09:20 PM EST – Like – Reply

So Oliver, are you going to support your assertions with facts, or just more hand-waving?
January 27, 2005, 2:13:06 PM EST – Like – Reply

red meat for the faithful
January 27, 2005, 2:43:33 PM EST – Like – Reply

Yes 12 hours is a small sample, I remember hearing that during the election FOX news criticized president bush about 2-5 percent more than the other networks...dont remember the exact stats, but there was a study done about the media coverage of both candidates. And what it seemed to show was not that FOX was PRO-Bush, but rather that the other networks was ANTI-BUSH, and that fox by actually being even keeled seems to the Liberal media to be Conservative.
January 27, 2005, 3:07:51 PM EST – Like – Reply

Alan Colmes is a "Wimp Liberal"? Psssst…Ollie…if you were to anoint Alan as the leader of your party you guys might actually have a friggen chance. And then you wonder why you have your asses handed to you in one election after another. If your party were to employ some of Alan’s fine qualities, such has using carefully constructed arguments based on fact to prove certain points, you guys might actually be able to win an election. But instead you construct straw men and engaged in knee-jerk anti-Bush BS backed up by nothing and continue to lose. It’s hard for me to believe after all that has happened in American politics in the last ten years that the hard left libs still haven’t “gotten it,” and yet here we are. Maybe after another shellacking in 2006 you’ll get it, I doubt it, but there’s a chance.
January 27, 2005, 3:40:48 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
--most of the time Coulter is on (usually on FOX or on Scarborough on MSNBC), she's alone or with a wimp liberal--
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?
January 27, 2005, 7:59:56 PM EST – Like – Reply

I like her on Bill Maher when she is up against 3 liberals.
January 27, 2005, 8:38:17 PM EST – Like – Reply

Alan Colmes: the favorite pundit of the right. He's the Washington Generals to Hannity's Globetrotters. I think Hannity is scum, but he beats the hell out of Colmes.
Again, I say, Coulter is usually given a solo platform or put up against a wimp liberal like Colmes. She couldn't survive against someone like Carville/Begala. She couldn't even deal with a competent reporter.
January 28, 2005, 12:15:19 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
--Again, I say, Coulter is usually given a solo platform--
And I say the moon is made of green cheese. And I have as much evidence to back up my claim as you have for yours.
January 28, 2005, 12:30:39 PM EST – Like – Reply

Rob Thrasher
How dare you interject the facts into this article! It is hurtful and not nice. Anybody who doubts this should do their own little experiment. Tape the news coverage on all the major networks and watch as the heard uses the same talking points ALL DAY long. Then watch Fox News. By actually stating both sides of the story, i.e. Iraq, that does bring them further right. Right to the middle. Anybody who is still rational about their political stance will see the light. The great part is that as Fox draws middle of the road and righters, the mainstream will continue to go 'lefter' and 'lefter' as that is the small niche audience they will continue to draw. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
February 12, 2005, 10:30:26 AM EST – Like – Reply