Ya can’t make it up. Here’s the breathless headline:
The Making of the Fox News White House
Fox News has always been partisan. But has it become propaganda?
In which writer Jane Mayer — she the author of attack pieces over the years on every conservative from Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Koch brothers and Robert Mercer etc., etc., etc., yada, yada, yada — mounts yet another attack on conservative targets, this one on Fox News, Sean Hannity, and, but of course, President Trump.
Specifically, she says that Fox News “has evolved into something that hasn’t existed before in the United States.” That would be “state TV,” as she quotes University of Virginia professor Nicole Hemmer. It quotes one Joe Peyronnin, a former Fox News president in the nineties and now a NYU journalism professor as saying: “I’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s as if the President had his own press organization. It’s not healthy.”
There is not the slightest sense of irony that in fact Mayer herself, not to mention the New Yorker, the magazine for which she writes, are members in good standing of the Liberal State Media. Which is to say she belongs to the world of liberal cable and broadcast networks, print outlets, all manner of Internet sites and, of course, Hollywood which individually not to mention collectively function as a self-selected version of Pravda (“Truth”), the once-official newspaper of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party. The members of the Liberal State Media have one self-selected job, and one job only: they are in the Liberal Narrative business, relentlessly pushing into the media whatever is the liberal agenda of the day.
All the way back in 1969 then-Vice President Spiro Agnew gave a ground-breaking speech on the problem of the Liberal State Media as it existed in the day — which meant the three broadcast networks and the liberal print outlets. Agnew described the problem this way:
Now what do Americans know of the men who wield this power? Of the men who produce and direct the network news, the nation knows practically nothing. Of the commentators, most Americans know little other than that they reflect an urbane and assured presence, seemingly well-informed on every important matter. We do know that to a man these commentators and producers live and work in the geographical and intellectual confines of Washington, D.C., or New York City, the latter of which (New York Times columnist) James Reston terms “the most unrepresentative community in the entire United States.”
In today’s world the Liberal State Media is run by both men and women and people of all races. Yet the problem is still the same as it was in 1969: they all think the same, and that “same” means they all lean Left.
Which is to say the American Left has its own press operation. And the beauty of it is that it is self-initiating. Examples that Mayer mysteriously ignores?
Recall this Daily Caller story from 2010. The headline:
DOCUMENTS SHOW MEDIA PLOTTING TO KILL STORIES ABOUT REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT
The story by Jonathan Strong says, among other things, this:
It was the moment of greatest peril for then-Sen. Barack Obama’s political career. In the heat of the presidential campaign, videos surfaced of Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, angrily denouncing whites, the U.S. government and America itself. Obama had once bragged of his closeness to Wright. Now the black nationalist preacher’s rhetoric was threatening to torpedo Obama’s campaign.
The crisis reached a howling pitch in mid-April, 2008, at an ABC News debate moderated by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. Gibson asked Obama why it had taken him so long — nearly a year since Wright’s remarks became public — to dissociate himself from them. Stephanopoulos asked, “Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?”
Watching this all at home were members of Journolist, a listserv comprised of several hundred liberal journalists, as well as like-minded professors and activists. The tough questioning from the ABC anchors left many of them outraged. “George [Stephanopoulos],” fumed Richard Kim of the Nation, is “being a disgusting little rat snake.”
In other words their liberal colleague “George” — he the ex-Bill Clinton aide — had betrayed the cause by having the audacity to ask a tough question of the new Liberal State Media hero — Barack Obama. The story went on to say:
Others went further. According to records obtained by The Daily Caller, at several points during the 2008 presidential campaign a group of liberal journalists took radical steps to protect their favored candidate. Employees of news organizations including Time, Politico, the Huffington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Guardian, Salon and the New Republic participated in outpourings of anger over how Obama had been treated in the media, and in some cases plotted to fix the damage.
In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”
In another Daily Caller story by Strong there was this headline:
LIBERAL JOURNALISTS SUGGEST GOVERNMENT CENSOR FOX NEWS
This story said:
The very existence of Fox News, meanwhile, sends Journolisters into paroxysms of rage. When (former Executive Editor of the New York Times) Howell Raines charged that the network had a conservative bias, the members of Journolist discussed whether the federal government should shut the channel down.
“I am genuinely scared” of Fox, wrote Guardian columnist Daniel Davies, because it “shows you that a genuinely shameless and unethical media organisation *cannot* be controlled by any form of peer pressure or self-regulation, and nor can it be successfully cold-shouldered or ostracised. In order to have even a semblance of control, you need a tough legal framework.” Davies, a Brit, frequently argued the United States needed stricter libel laws.
“I agree,” said Michael Scherer of Time Magazine. “[Roger] Ailes understands that his job is to build a tribal identity, not a news organization. You can’t hurt Fox by saying it gets it wrong, if Ailes just uses the criticism to deepen the tribal identity.”
Jonathan Zasloff, a law professor at UCLA, suggested that the federal government simply yank Fox off the air. “I hate to open this can of worms,” he wrote, “but is there any reason why the FCC couldn’t simply pull their broadcasting permit once it expires?”
And so a debate ensued. Time’s Scherer, who had seemed to express support for increased regulation of Fox, suddenly appeared to have qualms: “Do you really want the political parties/white house picking which media operations are news operations and which are a less respectable hybrid of news and political advocacy?”
But Zasloff stuck to his position. “I think that they are doing that anyway; they leak to whom they want to for political purposes,” he wrote. “If this means that some White House reporters don’t get a press pass for the press secretary’s daily briefing and that this means that they actually have to, you know, do some reporting and analysis instead of repeating press releases, then I’ll take that risk.”
Got all that? The denizens of the Liberal State Media, angry that Fox News was disrupting the Liberal Narrative, wanted the Obama Administration to simply force Fox News off the air altogether.
And then there was this from Mayer:
Disregarding the norms protecting press freedom, he (now-White House Communications Director Bill Shine, a former Fox News co-president) tried to strip the aggressive CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta of his White House pass.
Mysteriously, Mayer seems to have forgotten that Daily Caller exposé of the liberals at “Journolist,” which, again, reported this:
If this means that some White House reporters don’t get a press pass for the press secretary’s daily briefing and that this means that they actually have to, you know, do some reporting and analysis instead of repeating press releases, then I’ll take that risk.
In other words, for Bill Shine to pull the “aggressive” CNN reporter Acosta’s credentials was “Disregarding the norms protecting press freedom…” But when the liberals at Journolist were planning on finding a way to see to it that some Obama White House reporters — read, Fox News reporters — “don’t get a press pass for the press secretary’s daily briefing”? Meaning give Fox the same treatment CNN would later receive? Mayer somehow, some way, just can’t seem to remember that. Which is another way of saying that in the eyes of the Liberal State Media “aggressive” CNN is good when going after Trump, but an aggressive Fox going after Obama is outrageous, a cause to pull press credentials if not force the entire network off the air.
This entire “Journolist” project was, once exposed, a behind the scenes look at just how the Liberal State Media works in pushing the liberal agenda of the moment. And in fact, as Jonathan Strong revealed in yet another Daily Caller exposé:
POLITICAL OPERATIVES ON JOURNOLIST WORKED TO SHAPE NEWS COVERAGE
Despite its name, membership in the liberal online community Journolist wasn’t limited to journalists. Present among the bloggers, reporters and editors were a number of professional political operatives, including top White House economic advisors, key Obama political appointees, and Democratic campaign veterans. Some left government to join Journolist. Others took the opposite route. A few contributed to Journolist from their perches in politics. At times, it became difficult to tell who was supposed to be covering policy and who was trying to make it.”
Added to the revelations about liberal journos plotting and planning Obama White House media strategy, there was this dust-up in 2013 — also during the Obama era. Stories surfaced about how literally incestuous the relationship between the liberal media and the liberal Obama administration really was. The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi wrote it this way:
Media, administration deal with conflicts
The Farhi story recounted multiple specifics of journalists married to this or that Obama official. It said this, in part:
It’s all but a journalistic commandment: Thou shalt not have a vested interest in the story you’re covering. Otherwise, a personal entanglement could color a reporter’s neutrality or cloud public perceptions of fairness. An obvious area of concern: when a journalist’s relatives or spouse is part of the news.
So what to make of all the family ties between the news media and the Obama administration?…
Conservatives have suggested that these relationships may play a role in how the media cover Obama, specifically in their supposedly timid approach to reporting on the White House’s handling of the terrorist attacks last year on American facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The National Review Online recently claimed that such ties amount to professional incest: “The inbreeding among Obama’s court and its press corps is more like one of those ‘I’m my own grandpaw’ deals,” wrote NRO’s Mark Steyn in a posting titled “Band of Brothers.”
Such insinuations make media types bristle. They take exception to the notion that complicated judgments about the news — often made by others within an organization — have anything to do with personal favoritism or familial relationships. The critics, they say, can’t point to any direct evidence that such relationships have affected the amount or tone of their news coverage.
Taken together with the “Journolist” revelations and it is crystal clear that yes, in fact, the real problem in the media today is not Fox News or Hannity or the Fox relationship with the Trump White House. The real problem for the Liberal State Media — for Mayer and her fellow liberal journalists — is the fact that it they are finally being beaten at their own game. Worse still, from their perspective, is that this is being accomplished by a president and his allies who have a serious understanding of just how the Liberal State Media plays the game.
There is not a single thing described in the Mayer piece that has not been done by the Liberal State Media over the decades. Here are a few examples.
Mayer writes: “The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead.” Again, recall that Daily Caller story saying this: “Despite its name, membership in the liberal online community Journolist wasn’t limited to journalists. Present among the bloggers, reporters and editors were a number of professional political operatives, including top White House economic advisors, key Obama political appointees, and Democratic campaign veterans.”
Mayer writes of the relationship between Bill Shine and Sean Hannity this way: “… they are godfathers to each other’s children… they spend their vacations together…. They talked all the time-many times a day.” Not mentioned? That story about the oh-so-close ties between Obama officials and various members of the liberal media — who were also either spouses or siblings. Recall this quote that Mayer ignored: “The inbreeding among Obama’s court and its press corps is more like one of those ‘I’m my own grandpaw’ deals,” wrote NRO’s Mark Steyn in a posting titled “Band of Brothers.”
Mayer writes of “The Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, another conservative Never Trumper…” Ignored completely was the letter awhile back by 37 prominent conservatives in the American Principles Project to the Washington Post, which said in part:
We, of course, respect the right of The Washington Post to employ whatever writers it pleases — even Jennifer Rubin. However, we ask for the sake of intellectual honesty that the Post cease to identify her as in any way “conservative.”… Anyone following Rubin’s writing closely at this point would rightfully find the claim that she is “conservative” laughable. And yet, she is still regularly touted in the media as a conservative voice — and by your own paper as “reporting from a center-right perspective.”… This issue exemplifies why so many Americans — particularly conservatives — hold a high distrust of the media. How can an average reader take the Post’s opinion section seriously when, of its numerous regular columnists, none can be found which defend the policies of our nation’s elected president?
Mayer writes, aghast, of Trump appointees Ben Carson, John Bolton, K.T. McFarland, Heather Nauert, and Sebastian Gorka as having previously been contributors or commentators on Fox. Ignoring that all of these people had substantial careers outside of Fox News before their Fox stints. And quite decidedly ignoring Liberal State Media stars like Jay Carney of Time (who became White House press secretary), Rick Stengel, also of Time (the managing editor) who served in the Obama State Department, and Strobe Talbott, another Time alum who served in the Clinton State Department. Which is to say, there is a long revolving-door history of media figures serving in an administration.
Mayer writes of the Trump-Hannity relationship as if a close relationship between a president and a media personality is somehow new. While she does mention the role of the then-Washington Post publisher Phil Graham in getting Lyndon Johnson on the JFK Democratic ticket in 1960, she ignores the close friendship between JFK and then-Newsweek Washington Bureau chief Ben Bradlee, which Bradlee himself discussed in his memoirs. In other words, if the president is Trump and the media figure is Sean Hannity or Rupert Murdoch — this is somehow terrible. But JFK and his pal Ben Bradlee, or Bill Clinton and his pal CNN president Rick Kaplan? The latter relationship resulting in CNN being dubbed the “Clinton News Network”? No problem. Nary a mention for context here.
Mayer refers several times to the far-left Media Matters, as if the latter were a legitimate source on anything having to do with Fox, Hannity, or Shine. As noted in this 2012 Daily Caller story about Media Matters:
Founded by (David) Brock in 2004 as a liberal counterweight to “conservative misinformation” in the press, Media Matters has in less than a decade become a powerful player in Democratic politics. The group operates in regular coordination with the highest levels of the Obama White House, as well as with members of Congress and progressive groups around the country.
Never mentioned is that Media Matters founder Brock authored a book titled The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine. Notice anything? Yes, indeed. The subtitle of Mayer’s article asks if Fox News “has become propaganda.” And for confirmation she goes to Media Matters — whose founder wrote a book assailing Fox as a “propaganda machine” in — 2012. That would be four years before Donald Trump was elected president. Which is to say, the business of the Liberal State Media attacking Fox as all about being a “propaganda machine” — not to mention going after the Trump White House, Bill Shine, Rupert Murdoch, and Sean Hannity — is not only not new, it long predated Trump’s rise to the White House.
Mayer, in blithely and repeatedly citing Media Matters as a source, also never mentions this Daily Caller story that reveals “Media Matters has perhaps achieved more influence simply by putting its talking points into the willing hands of liberal journalists.”
Liberal journalists like — Jane Mayer? Hmmm. A visit to the Media Matters website finds this admiring headline:
On MSNBC, The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer describes the “incredibly close” relationship between the White House and Fox News
Mayer: “According to a number of critics, [Fox is] the closest we’ve ever had to state news.… People describe it to me as a wing of the West Wing.”
Ahhhh, the Liberal State Media at work. From Mayer at the New Yorker to MSNBC to Media Matters and on into the world of the Liberal State Media’s Liberal Narrative.
Ya just can’t make it up.
Unless, of course, you are a member of the Liberal State Media.