Jon Stewart Challenges Fox News to Correct Its Errors

In the same segment, the comedian apologized for saying its viewers are always found to be the most misinformed


In Jon Stewart's recent Fox News appearance, noted here by my colleague James Fallows, the comedian asserted that the cable news network's viewers are always found by polls to be the most misinformed. As it turns out, that statement is false. Thus a correction on his Tuesday television program:

As you can see, Stewart goes on to allege that Fox has aired numerous glaringly inaccurate segments that it has never bothered to correct. "Fox News is like a lying dynasty," he concludes.

Insofar as I'm aware, there's been no response from the network.

And I submit, apropos the interview that started this whole exchange, that the way Fox News engages its critics is one thing that distinguishes it from a news organization like The New York Times. Fox personalities are willing to participate in arguments about its fairness relative to other media sources. But Fox is unwilling to defend its content against the objective standard of accuracy. (Bill Keller would be perfectly comfortable defending or apologizing for everything published during his tenure. What would Roger Ailes do if forced to answer for the content on Glenn Beck's show alone?)       

Put another way, it is difficult to imagine a figure as prominent as Stewart alleging a whole series of uncorrected New York Times errors without the newspaper responding in some substantive way. This is partly because they've institutionalized an ombudsman who enjoys substantial autonomy. It is also the case that the best "print" publications hold themselves to standards much higher than what passes for kosher on cable news channels. Broadcasting is just a different game.

Of course, this is something most people know intuitively, even if they haven't thought it out explicitly. It would be big news if a major media figure started drawing mocking attention to a long list of glaring New York Times errors that the newspaper hadn't corrected. But it isn't big news when it happens to Fox, mostly because it's a dog bites man story. We don't expect any better.

I'd like to be proven wrong. Perhaps Chris Wallace is preparing a series of corrections or a detailed rebuttal this moment. If not, however, why should anyone trust a network that habitually fails to acknowledge multiple significant errors even when they're specifically highlighted? I am sure some readers will insist that CNN and MSNBC are no better. A list of their uncorrected factual errors is something I'd gladly examine. In the meantime, I'd reiterate my longstanding advice: With few exceptions, television is a shoddy place to get your news. But here I am preaching to the Web-savvy choir.

Image credit: Reuters
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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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