Oliver's Twist

Make a false statement, then use edited footage to support it. Secrets of the noise machine, exposed! Updated!

A video clip of Brigitte Quinn and Judy Bachrach of Vanity Fair is getting a lot of attention over at Oliver Willis, what Mr Bill would probably call one of the "defamation sites". Ms Bachrach has appeared with Ms Quinn before, to discuss such weighty issues as the style sense of candidates' wives. But this time around she had bigger fish to fry. Ms Bachrach employed the activist technique of interview hijacking. The guest simply ignores the questions asked, talks over the interviewer if necessary, and changes the subject to whatever she wants to talk about.

And as for that video clip, there's a twist: it has been cleverly edited to remove all of the preliminaries that show what the topic of the segment was to be. But at J$P we believe in full disclosure:

QUINN: The President getting a head start on tomorrow's festivities. We'll take a look at the grand Presidential party plans....

This doesn't sound much like a segment devoted to discussing armor in Iraq. But we continue with Quinn's introduction:

QUINN: President Bush sworn in for his second term tomorrow, but the parties in Washington already underway. Why wait? The four-day military-themed affair full of candlelight dinners, parties, and no fewer than nine inaugural balls.

What this introduction makes clear is that Ms Bachrach was invited to Fox News Live to talk about the parties, the dresses, the balls--not the war in Iraq. (And by some peculiar coincidental twist, this introduction just happens to be exactly the part that has been cut from Oliver's video clip.) As we see, a guest well-trained in the art of hijacking makes her own rules:

BACHRACH: Something should put a crimp in the plans of the White House to have such a very lavish inaugural at a time of war.
QUINN: Really? Oh, OK.
BACHRACH: Yes, what I've noticed is, the worse a war is going the more lavish the inaugural festivities...

Ms Quinn is a bit surprised by the turn in the conversation, but her guest is not entirely off-topic, so she continues the discussion along this line. Then the hijack begins:

BACHRACH: Have you noticed any peace or any transfer of democracy in Iraq? If you have, you're the first person to have seen it and I'd like to hear about it.

Iraq? Iraq? Where exactly did that come from? The topic was inauguration parties. So Quinn calls her on it:

QUINN: ...Judy, to be honest with you I really didn't want to argue politics with you this morning...

Precisely. The segment was not supposed to be about politics or the war in Iraq. But a determined hijacker is not so easily deterred:

BACHRACH: Oh really? I thought I was allowed to talk about what I wanted to talk about.

Translation: who cares about why I was invited to appear? Do not adjust your receiver; I am controlling this interview. The hijack is complete. The conversation turns to scrap metal and flimsy vehicles. Quinn acts in a thoroughly professional manner in letting the guest have her say and doing her best to get a word in edgewise as Bachrach repeatedly talks over her.

So offering as his "evidence" a doctored clip that omits the introduction (where the topic to be discussed was set) Oliver Willis proclaims:

On Fox News Channel, you're free to speak about the coronation of George W... unless you've got the nerve to criticize Dear Leader. Then you get a Fox News Meltdown.

Now Oliver's criticism automatically becomes gospel in many quarters, no matter how much the factual inaccuracy is pointed out. This is how the noise machine works. But consider that even in this interview, Bachrach was not cut off, or forced to stick to the original topic. What's more, we checked out FNC's coverage later that day, and just between 4:00 and 6:00 pm alone we saw:

Mo Alem (DC Anti-War Network) on Your World with Neil Cavuto
Geraldine Ferraro and Richard Aborn on The Big Story with John Gibson
Shazza Nzingha on The Big Story

Surprisingly enough, each and every one of these guests had "the nerve to criticize Dear Leader", on the FNC airwaves. There were no meltdowns, and they weren't hauled off by some burly security guard. Each said his or her piece. But according to Oliver, these interviews never happened, and never could have happened--because Fox News Channel doesn't permit criticism of George Bush. How can this be?

The answer to that question is inescapable. Oliver is just not telling the truth.

Update: Judy Bachrach tells the Washingtonian that she was promised ten minutes for her interview.
1. There are no 10-minute interviews on Fox News Live. That's longer than the program blocks run! With her interview starting at 11:48 am that would take her beyond the end of the program and through most of the following commercial break.
B. What about the other topics that had been teased earlier, and ran after Bachrach's interview? Are we supposed to forget they existed?
III. When you catch someone in a lie, doesn't that make all their testimony suspect?

posted: Thu - January 20, 2005 at 12:00 AM       j$p  send 

A "doctored" clip? That first sentence you link neither adds nor subtracts from the segment's substance. LOL! You twist yourself into such knots to defend Rupert's cash cow that it defies logic. The Fox anchor jumps all over her for not talking about how purty Bush & Co. look and then resorts to talking points about elections! prayer! to salvage the segment.
January 21, 2005, 2:03:18 AM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
No, she jumps all over her for talking about Iraq in a segment that's supposed to be about inaugural parties and balls. For the guest it's all "Me! Me! I want to talk about what I want to talk about!" Sheesh, lady, then get your own show.
I feel honored that OW himself has stopped by (assuming that it's not a pretender). Still waiting for an explanation of how those interviews I noted made it on the air, considering that you say Fox doesn't permit that sort of thing.
January 21, 2005, 2:09:49 AM EST – Like – Reply

If anything, that omitted info justifies even more that what Bachrach said was completely justified.
Quinn is talking about the parties and mentioning the candlelight dinners, balls, and parties are part of a 4-day extravaganza. Bachrach notices how she's glorifying the massive celebrations and comments on the cost of the celebrations. Then when you think about the cost of it at this point in time it obviously leads to the question of "Why not spend it in Iraq or for the tsunami efforts?"
With the uncut version it helps to make it look like Bachrach is coming out of nowhere and just attacking Quinn. 
Anyways, I wish I was invited to take part in their festivities in which I am partially paying for...
January 21, 2005, 4:29:05 AM EST – Like – Reply

Thanks to Oliver for hosting the clip, but frankly, *who cares* how he introduces it...The clip stands on its own as an example of typical Fox surliness turned around. It’s amusing to see the attack dogs get attacked themselves for a change.
January 21, 2005, 6:49:59 AM EST – Like – Reply

Much ado about nothing. You might want to be honest about how people are booked for these segments on TV. The conditions for the segment are always stated in advance, and they are sometimes "specific topic" and sometimes "free ranging" (There are gradations, but those are the extremes). Quinn's producer had clearly promised this guest "free range" so for you to now pretend otherwise is disingenuous or underinformed. Blame the producer, not the guest. I explain, you decide.
January 21, 2005, 10:42:01 AM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
I must have missed that news flash about what Quinn's producer "promised". Perhaps you had the green room bugged and overheard the conversation where she was promised "free range" as you call it. If so, let's see the evidence.
January 21, 2005, 10:57:16 AM EST – Like – Reply

Okay, I was a bit too snarky and I apologize for that. Being in the business, I know the ground rules. Bachrach clearly had been granted wide range as she stated, and you will recall, Quinn admitted. That is what I'm referring to specifically...you don't need to be clairvoyant to know that the producer gave more than Quinn expected her guest to use. That kind of screwup usually happens exactly once. 
I wasn't in the green room, but I know how this works and I was sharing with you. Inappropriately snarkylike, of course, for which I'm sorry.
January 21, 2005, 11:02:29 AM EST – Like – Reply

Your transcript is incomplete, but by way of explanation, at one point Bachrach says something very like:
"I thought I was allowed to talk about what I wanted!"
to which Quinn replied something like:
"Well, yes, but..."
Okay, so I can't take you to the producer's phone conversation with Bachrach or her agent, but even if you are not satisfied, I am quite satisfied that that little interjection was a very inside baseball complaint and rejoinder about the conditions for the segment.
January 21, 2005, 11:07:34 AM EST – Like – Reply

And I will drop it after this added note...people often wonder what about these generally verbal agreements keeps guests or hosts from going off the ranch. The answer is that they have historically been self-enforcing. Guests who consistently go outside the limits find themselves not asked to be guests anymore, and many shows blackball other's miscreants. Hosts who don't hold to their end find that guests won't book with them anymore and other guests will "strike" against that host in support. Amazing how powerfully this system works and there is no reason why the viewers should be unaware of these arrangements.
As an example of a guest who did go "off ranch," you might recall the little dustup between Stewart and Carlson on Crossfire. As you will remember, even Begala was trying to remind Stewart that those weren't the agreed to terms. Carlson's anger, although unprofessional, was understandable in that sense. On the other hand and in a way to his credit, Stewart d
January 21, 2005, 11:16:45 AM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
I realize that Quinn permits her to rant on. That is clearly part of the exchange and can be seen in the video clip. It represents Quinn's willingness to let her go off-topic. It doesn't prove that there was not topic at all for the segment. The preliminaries for the interview demonstrate that there clearly WAS a delineated topic to be discussed.
Suppose Ms Bachrach had decided to go off with something like "You shouldn't have all these parties and I'll tell you why. Let's look at projected hoe-handle distribution for fiscal year 2005-2006..." That is perfectly permissible for a guest to do?
Using this interview as proof that Fox doesn't allow criticism of Bush is dishonest and fallacious. What about the interviews that I noted between 4pm to 6pm? How is it that they were permitted? The answer is clear: they weren't off-topic. Bachrach was.
January 21, 2005, 11:21:15 AM EST – Like – Reply

"That is perfectly permissible for a guest to do?" 
Yes, if that was what was agreed to. When Bachrach complained, Quinn backed down...it took quite a while for them to decide to terminate the interview, which tells me two things. One, Bachrach's understanding of the conditions was nominally correct.
And two, related to
"The point that seems to be overlooked is that using this interview as proof that Fox doesn't allow criticism of Bush is dishonest and fallacious"
I quite agree. You are correct. Fox doesn't like it, but it's not like they totally disallow it, as evidenced by what happened. Holding to the "rules" superseded protecting Bush, at least in the short term.
January 21, 2005, 11:29:03 AM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
"Yes, if that was what was agreed to."
A big IF.
But at least it's clear that criticism of Bush is not verboten on Fox, Mr Willis's inaccurate claims notwithstanding. Thanks for a good discussion.
January 21, 2005, 11:36:03 AM EST – Like – Reply

Not verboten? Well, as long as your shouted down or get your mike cut. It says volumes about Fox that the most ubiquitous liberal is the useless Alan Colmes.
January 22, 2005, 12:32:21 AM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
Well Oliver, what happened in this interview? Was the guest shouted down? Was her mic cut? What happened in the interviews noted by me that appeared between 4 and 6 pm? Were these people shouted down? Were their mics cut?
I mean, you can say over and over that these people are shouted down, their mics are cut, they are hung from the rafters, and vivisected. That doesn't make it so.
January 22, 2005, 1:29:34 AM EST – Like – Reply

No Johnny....that's what they do during Hannity and Billy's shows.
January 22, 2005, 4:26:17 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
So now the allegation has been back-pedalled to this is what happens during two hours of a sixteen-hour broadcast cycle. OK, so cite a few examples within, say, the last three months.
January 22, 2005, 4:31:51 PM EST – Like – Reply

face it dollar-boy
fox is pure Pravda-style Bush propoganda 
arguing otherwise is purely irrational
January 23, 2005, 12:12:00 AM EST – Like – Reply

I will say that I fear that this will be excluded as per your rules, but you really are off the mark with this post and most of the others. The video clip was clear and you, as well as I know, it simply irritated the loyal FNC viewers and staff. When you said that she hijacked the interview, that wasn't fair, the hosts of most of the talk shows on FOX do the same thing and worse to people with dissenting opinions. Don't ever be confused - FOX is headed by Roger Ailes and te network is a cheerleader for the right. Why else would they show ad banners on their site showing people how to order their very own Red State map and free Bush map.
January 24, 2005, 1:13:02 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
1. Why do you start your comment with the straw man about how your message is going to be "excluded" per the rules? What rule would your message violate? This bit of artificial defensiveness is not very convincing.
B. How can the host of an interview hijack it? The host sets the subject matter, not the guest. That's like saying the pilot of the flight to Miami didn't want to go to Cuba so he hijacked it to Miami.
III. So proof of the bias of the network coverage is the fact that the website has run ads for a Red State map? What about the pro-Kerry ads that ran on the website during the election? What do they prove?
4. I don't have a 4.
January 24, 2005, 2:20:18 PM EST – Like – Reply

By not showing the intro to the segment, Oliver is guilty of distorting what happened, period. Whether she had "free range" is basically irrelevant.
January 26, 2005, 6:21:13 PM EST – Like – Reply

She _was_ talking about balls and parties. The angle she chose was the cost involved. That is not off topic. An unusual angle perhaps but not off topic. Off Topic on the other hand is Bush praying for soldiers. That has nothing to do with parties. If anyone strayed off topic here it was the host. Period.
February 7, 2005, 6:44:55 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
Really? Armor in Iraq is on-topic in a discussion of inaugural balls? I don't think so.
February 7, 2005, 7:05:56 PM EST – Like – Reply

Sorry about the repost... 
Well: Cost of a ceremony and where it could be spent better is definetely more on topic than prayers for soldiers. The host was obviously unable to counter "those prayers sure will keep the soldiers warm."
If you are cynical you could even say "Clothes for Ladies or Armor for Vehicles?"
But off topic or not: The point is that cutting off a piece with "I won't talk to you anymore" is not good journalism. Either you manage to take a interview in a direction you want or go with the flow and try to get interesting things out of your partner. No matter what the introduction was. A good journalist would sieze the opportunity to go with the flow in such a case as this. A bad journalist would continue to ask his prepared questions. No matter what the topic is: Ending a discussion with "No we don't want to hear that" is not even bad journalism. Its childish. sorry mate.
February 7, 2005, 7:47:38 PM EST – Like – Reply

And I forgot: It is a admittance of defeat...
February 7, 2005, 7:49:29 PM EST – Like – Reply

Sorry, but just thought about the south park episode with the discussion club.
Cartman always wins the discussions because he says "screw you guys! I'm going home" :D
February 7, 2005, 8:04:37 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
--cutting off a piece with "I won't talk to you anymore" is not good journalism--
mattam, just when I thought you were going to argue logically, you come up with that. Quinn said nothing of the sort.
--Ending a discussion with "No we don't want to hear that" is not even bad journalism. Its childish.--
Um, you're two for two. Again, Quinn did not end the discussion with anything remotely like that. It was something along the lines of "I think we have given you an opportunity to get your point across." Why is it necessary to re-write what people say to make a dubious point?
February 7, 2005, 9:44:49 PM EST – Like – Reply