If There Is Any Further Question About Whether Fox Is a "News" Operation

By James Fallows

I will recommend to historians and semioticians very close study of the footage being produced right at this moment, on the Fox "News" Channel, as it covers the vote in the House on the health care reform bill. 


The background footage virtually the entire time is of "Kill the bill!" crowds chanting at the Capitol. "Anchor" woman Megyn Kelly is at this moment breaking the news that Obama's popularity ratings are the lowest of his administration and interviewing an expert on whether this reveals America's recoil at the fundamental "statism" of his world view. Then an on-the-scene interview to confirm that the people who yesterday yelled "nigger" at Rep. John Lewis and "faggot" at Rep. Barney Frank were "an unrepresentative minority" of the protest crowds, and that in fact the typical crowd members would have been "the first to condemn" such harsh terms. Just now going to break, with pan of a huge shouting "kill the bill!" crowd at the Capitol. Seriously, you would think martial law was about to be imposed in DC.

You can agree or disagree about this legislation. But really, you cannot look at this "news" coverage and consider it other than outright political activism. There is nothing wrong with outright political activism. Megyn Kelly is arguably no more partisan on her show than Rachel Maddow is on hers. But not a single person on Earth thinks that Rachel Maddow is a "news" anchor. For the sake of sanity, precision in language, self-respect, and any other desirable quality we can think of, let's drop the pretense about what's coming across on Fox. This surprises even me. Back to C-SPAN. Or, maybe out into the nice sunshine.

(Update: On the other hand, Kelly has Rep. Anthony Weiner on now to challenge part of what she's saying. But her stance - which he nicely skewers -- is as his opponent in debate, rather than as a "news" person. Weiner's performance, from approximately 2:25-2:30pm EDT, is a clinic in how to handle the Fox approach.)

Update #2: At 5:00pm, Fox's Greta van Susteren tells us that the vote is still "too close to call." I'm expecting next to hear from Baghdad Bob

Thumbnail image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/03/if-there-is-any-further-question-about-whether-fox-is-a-news-operation/37795/