Before the last GOP debate, the network's staffers plotted to created the sort of contrived conflict better suited to the Real Housewives of DC than the race for the White House
What do Fox News anchors do just before they moderate a presidential debate? Thanks to Howard Kurtz, the tireless media reporter and critic, we now know the answer. "Hours before last week's presidential debate in Orlando," he writes, the anchors "sat in a cavernous back room, hunched over laptops, and plotted how to trap the candidates. Chris Wallace said he would aim squarely at Rick Perry's weakness: 'How do you feel about being criticized by some of your rivals as being too soft on illegal immigration? Then I go to Rick Santorum: is Perry too soft?'"
Those are bad questions. Why put the emphasis on how Gov. Perry feels, an irrelevance if ever there was one? Why prompt his rival with a phrase as uselessly vague and reductive as "too soft"?
Bill Sammon, managing editor of Fox News, was on hand to critique his staffers, and pronounced his approval, saying, "That's going to get some fireworks going." No surprise that generating conflict is an aim shared all the way up the hierarchy. Along with ratings, it's the driving obsession of almost all cable news pros. But if broadcasters must make substance subservient to "fireworks" I wish they'd produce better explosions. How does Gov. Perry feel about being criticized? "Well, I feel pretty normal getting criticized by these folks," he answered.