Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Unfair, Unbalanced and Untrue: Fox News Gets It Wrong, Pretty Much Daily

After a month off to plan and deliver my best friend's 50th birthday party and then to celebrate my own completion of a slightly older year, it's time to resume postings here.

There are a number of back-burnered topics to be covered in the next few weeks, but I wanted to start with a long-time favorite to which I have not done justice before: Fox News as the gang that can't shoot straight, with a singular ability to turn almost every story they tell into a hapless fib.

That has been my impression of Fox News for several years. During the administration of G. W. Bush, I generally dismissed Fox News as "state television"--so much did it let Republican conservative ideology muddle anything Fox News tried to present as fact. Given that impression, I would never watch Fox News on purpose. But someone almost always had it on several television screens at the gym where I exercise, thrice weekly when schedule and motivation permit. So I suffered the indecent exposure of Fox anchors and reporters a lot more than I'd like--and ventilated my displeasure more than many other gym rats preferred.

The nadir was probably just over two years ago, when Columbia University allowed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to appear on campus while visiting the U.S. to address the U.N. I really could have cared less about the appearance, or anything the Holocaust-denier had to say. But I was keenly distressed when a Fox anchor interviewed an undergraduate and questioned her patriotism, Joe McCarthy-style, for supporting the university's right to host the harangue and her right to attend it. In my head I could hear Army Counsel Joseph Welch's indictment of such tactics during the Army-McCarthy hearings: "Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

But now I have fresh documentation of Fox News' inability to be accurate--supplied in the latest column by Miami Herald commentator Leonard Pitts Jr.

Pitts acknowledges that in its coverage of the current ACORN controversy, Fox was the first news organization to get it right. But given Fox News' shoddy track record on other topics, Pitts says the ACORN coverage was the exception that proves the rule: Fox News can be counted on for accurate reporting about as often as the proverbial stopped clock that's right twice a day.

Unfortunately, since it is totally unpredictable when Fox News will lapse into accuracy, Fox News can never be relied upon to serve up anything more than right-wing ideology pretending to be fact.

Pitts provides specific examples of five stories between June 3 and July 31, 2009, where Fox News presented as fact claims that simply were not true. The perpetrators were Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Kimberly Guilfoyle. Pitts backs his indictment with research from PolitiFact.com and FactCheck.org. Click on the link to Pitts' column if you'd like the truth.

Pitts' verdict on Fox News is unassailable:

"...'every' news organization from CNN to CBS to Miami's Herald to to L.A.'s Times gets it wrong on occasion, and every single report risks reflecting the biases--political, racial, religious, class, educational, geographical, generational--of the reporter. This will be true until the day the news business is no longer run by human beings.

"But Fox is in a class by itself. In its epidemic inaccuracy, its ongoing disregard for basic journalistic standards of fairness, its demagogic appeals and its blatantly ideological promotions it is, indeed, unique--a news source in name only."

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