Eric Burns and the Cult of Liberal Media - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Eric Burns and the Cult of Liberal Media

It always amazes to see.

As reported in Politico, Quinnipiac University released a poll on Monday that Politico correctly headlined as follows:

Poll: Fox News most trusted network

The story begins:

Fox News has the most trusted network and cable news coverage in the United States, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Monday. But network TV is much less trustworthy than it was in the days of Walter Cronkite, American voters say.

In comparison rankings, 29 percent responded that they trust Fox News the most. CNN follows with 22 percent, CBS News and NBC News are at 10 percent, ABC News at 8 percent and MSNBC at 7 percent.

Bear this in mind as one considers the latest bit of liberal irrationality over in Mediaite this weekend was ex-Fox host Eric Burns, headlined in a story this way:

Former Fox Host: O’Reilly Is Head of a Right-Wing ‘Cult,’ Not Held to Same Standards

The story began this way (bold and link in the original):

Former Fox News Watch host Eric Burns ripped his old network and his old colleague Bill O’Reilly on Reliable Sources Sunday morning, likening Fox News’ viewership to a cult and claiming O’Reilly got a pass from his audience for alleged fabrications due to his charismatic authority in right-wing media.

“The people who watch Fox News are cultish,” Burns said. “For many years conservatives were extremely upset in this country because the only newscasts they had to watch were liberal…they never had their own television station. When they got one, their audience loyalty soared.”

“O’Reilly as the head of the cult is not held to the same standards as Brian Williams, who is part of the larger media culture,” Burns said. 

As the kids say? O…M…G!

I need to begin with the full disclosure drill. Yes, as a member in good standing of the Cult of Fox News I have been a guest on Fox News. Sean Hannity, and somewhere in the long ago Stuart Varney and before that the predecessor to the Glenn Beck era, a show hosted by John Gibson. And every time I appeared I was taken out behind the building to the Fox News Cult Temple for the secret rituals in front of the cult’s High Priest Bill O’Reilly and… wait!… I can’t tell you the rituals or I’d have to leave the cult!

What is one to make of an article like this one in Mediaite? Yes, Eric Burns is talking rubbish. Laughably so, as that Quinnipiac poll illustrates vividly. Let’s start there.

I do not know Bill O’Reilly. But yes, I watch The Factor. And as such I have heard O’Reilly make plain that he is not a conservative but a “traditionalist” and that he has voted across party lines. He is hardly a “right-winger” and makes no bones about the fact that he drives the “right-wing” crazy. As he once said to NPR’s Terry Gross: “I’m not a political guy in the sense that I embrace an ideology. To this day I’m an independent thinker, an independent voter, I’m a registered independent… there are certain fundamental things that this country was founded upon that I respect and don’t want changed.”

In other words? O’Reilly is not the conservative Hannity or any other conservative Fox commentator. He makes no pretense of it. As any regular viewer knows full well. Yet there is former Fox colleague Eric Burns insisting that O’Reilly is “the head of the [Fox News] cult” and that cult is a right-wing cult. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or laugh harder at such blatant nonsense.

Let’s dispense immediately with the sour grapes argument — unless, of course, it counts to know that Mr. Burns was fired by Fox and was not happy. As seen here in the New York Times, and also in New York magazine

In this corner? I would suggest there’s more to this nonsense from Burns than simple sour grapes. People get “fired” in the media all the time. In fact the media is not unlike baseball. Personalities and shows come and go. Superstars emerge. Some burn for a long time — like O’Reilly — while others can fade. Glenn Beck was red hot and then no longer. Some get fired and rehired elsewhere by another team. Still others are the equivalent of those stalwart ballplayers or coaches in the majors who never gain superstardom but show up everyday for work and spend a career doing their jobs. While his ending experience at Fox clearly wasn’t pleasant for Burns, in the world of media it is hardly unusual. There was no dishonor, it is quite clear from the public prints, merely a difference in opinion. This happens.

What stands out here in these Burns comments — made, take note, on the struggling left-wing CNN — is that if Burns really believes what he is saying here it illustrates in spades just how out of touch with the conservative world this clearly liberal journalist really is. And at this point it is fairly obvious that he is not alone.

Time after time various conservatives — from William F. Buckley in the 1950s to Ronald Reagan in the 1980s to a Ted Cruz or Scott Walker and others today — are portrayed and pilloried as some combination of — if not the whole combination of — “racist, homophobic, sexist, war-monger, mean-spirited and cruel” extremists. Or whatever the epithet or collection of epithets of the moment is at hand for liberals to use. Early in his career, Buckley was often enough called a Nazi. “Cult” was the Burns choice.

It is the telltale sign of what the late Mr. Buckley once called the liberal “mania.” Said Buckley: “Cross a liberal on duty, and he becomes a man of hurtling irrationality.” A point perfectly illustrated by this latest from Eric Burns.

How in the world does it make sense that Bill O’Reilly — quite visibly and openly not a “right-winger” — gets to be the head of a cult of right-wingers? Is all of America a cult of right wingers? Apparently so, if the Burns standards are applied to the results of that Quinnipiac poll. For that matter, how in the world does Fox News get to be a cult — but not liberalism and the liberal media that marinates in said liberalism? 

One of the striking factors of modern American society is the — if you will — “takeover” of various institutions by liberals and liberalism. Government in the Obama era for sure. But beyond that? Academia in many cases is no longer about academics but rather about instilling liberalism in all areas of the academy. Manufacturing so many little liberals. So too has Mainline Protestantism fallen prey to this, choosing liberalism over theology and sending many of its congregants fleeing the pews. The law and law enforcement is frequently no longer about just the law much less “just the facts,” but rather about liberalism first, last, and always. And of course, as Mr. Burns has illustrated, liberalism is a religion in many quarters of the American media. It sank Newsweek (now trodding a comeback trail) as readers fled its insistent left-wingism while editors kept shoveling it into issue after issue, dropping circulation be damned. Time is on the ropes, afflicted with the same disease. MSNBC is busy firing, and there is a lawsuit out there accusing Comcast of having to buy Al Sharpton and give him a show just to guarantee racial, legal, and decidedly leftist peace.

In other words? If in fact “cult” is the right word, that cult is liberalism. The reason for the fury at the success of Fox News — success that Quinnipiac documents — and in this case at the success of Bill O’Reilly — is not because they are in a cult much less leading a cult. The fury is because Fox News, O’Reilly, his Fox colleagues, and for that matter conservatism itself are the “anti-cult.” Willing and all too able to apply different perspectives to the issues of the day other than 24/7 liberalism. Not to mention Fox just reports — gasp — the news! Professionally. Calmly. In “just the facts” style. If the American people — aka consumers of news — believed otherwise, Fox would not be the hands-down network of choice. 

This is why liberalism no matter its venues fights with such — as Buckley called it — “hurtling irrationality.” If one is not content to simply and placidly nod and go along with the latest on the left-wing agenda — Obamacare, nuclear negotiations with Iran, the phony story behind the death of Michael Brown, the idea of white privilege, or some campus demand for sensitivity training (as seen here at — yes — Fox ) or whatever — then be prepared to face the liberal mania. In the case of Fox? It is Fox that has broken the liberal network news monopoly. Thus the mania. And Eric Burns’ silly business about a cult is the least of it. 

To wax Lincolnesque, the world will little note nor long remember what Eric Burns was peddling at CNN. Notably peddling on a show where the host — Brian Stelter — is himself an ex-reporter … of the New York Times. The Times the liberal paper of “record” in the news currently for cropping a former Republican President of the United States out of a front page photo of the march marking the 50th anniversary of Selma.

But one suspects that years from now Americans will not forget the increasingly dismal consequences of this cult of liberalism. A cult whose occasional sheer wackiness Mr. Burns went to great pains to exhibit when he tried to make people believe — really! — that Fox News is a cult and Bill O’Reilly is the cult’s high priest. As that Quinnipiac poll demonstrates — again ? Ya can’t make it up!

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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