In catching Fox chairman Roger Ailes out on his note of advice to President Bush after 9/11, the media reveal less about his bias than their own. Only journalists who consider patriotism “political” would consider Ailes’s note evidence of embarrassing bias.
The note said, according to Bob Woodward’s paraphrase of it (which is possibly dubious, given Woodward’s track record): “The American public would tolerate waiting and would be patient, but only as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible. Support would dissipate if the public did not see Bush acting harshly.”
Even if Ailes sent this message to Bush, which he denies, where’s the conservative bias here? It sounds like clinical communications advice that Ailes could have given during a national crisis to any politician, Republican or Democrat.
The liberal media, simmering at Fox’s success, naturally pounced on Woodward’s account of the Ailes letter to Bush. The New York Times‘s Alessandra Stanley, writing under the phony heading “An Appraisal,” needled Ailes and Fox on the basis of the note (though she doesn’t bother to mention the Washington Post‘s Woodward, referring mysteriously to a “revelation” from a “new book”).
“Ever since Mr. Ailes changed jobs from Republican strategist to news executive, he has demanded to be treated as an unbiased journalist, not a conservative spokesman,” Stanley scoffs. Apparently Ailes can’t make this claim, though Stanley’s boss, Howell Raines, managed to move from the Times‘s stridently pro-Democrat editorial page to the editor’s desk all the while making the claim that he was an unbiased journalist. Liberal Democrats can become “unbiased journalists,” but Roger Ailes can’t?
Stanley wants Ailes to admit that Fox is a “conservative cable news network” because of his Republican past. Okay, then does Stanley also want Raines to admit that the New York Times is a liberal newspaper because of his openly pro-Democratic one?
Liberal journalists demand transparency from everyone except themselves. Ailes’s creed for Fox, “Fair and Balanced,” is an obvious joke to Stanley. But “All The News Fit To Print” isn’t?
Even as liberal journalists maintain that their political biases don’t influence their fairness and balance, they deny that same power of detachment to Republicans.
What really gets Stanley’s goat is that by “tirelessly insisting that all other cable or network news organizations are driven by a liberal bias, Mr. Ailes casts his own network as the centrist voice of reason.” How dare he. Only liberals can describe themselves as the norm of reasonableness.
Stanley writes that even “the most doctrinaire Democrats would concede that there is room in the United States news media for a conservative cable news network.” What a generous concession. Howell Raines and the New York Times are willing to allow Fox to stay on the air! But Fox, according to the subtext of Stanley’s de facto Op-Ed, shouldn’t kid itself it into thinking that is a serious news outlet like the New York Times. No, Fox is just a right-wing playhouse.
Stanley explains Fox’s success in patronizing terms: “Fox News has a loyal base of viewers, mostly white, middle-class, Republican and religious…Its coverage is aggressive, its commentary vivid, and on an average day, a Fox News broadcast is like a hyperbolic big city tabloid…”
What Stanley can’t acknowledge is that many Americans are flocking to Fox because it is more fair and balanced than its counterparts. The stale, out-of-touch liberalism of the other networks, which get their news from the New York Times, has made Fox a reliable refuge for Americans disenchanted with political correctness.
Do the rivals of Fox think that they can climb out of the cellar by publicizing an Ailes note in which he might have given helpful advice to a popular president during a national crisis? If so, that explains why they are in it.
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