Journalistically Speaking, Are Defenders of Fox News ‘Digging Their Own Graves?’

It has been two weeks since White House Communications Dir. Anita Dunn openly criticized Fox News, and inexplicably, the controversy persists.  Of course, the loudest and most frequent complaints about the Obama administration’s concerns over Fox’s objectivity come from the accused.  However, many other media outlets have come to the “victim’s” defense.  In doing so, they may be contributing to their own demise.

Those defending Fox — other than Fox — are going about it in a couple of different ways.  There are those, such as Tim Rutten of the LA Times, who suggests the White House was quite right in their assessment of Fox News, but they were wrong to say it.

Similarly, Clarence Page, someone whom I respect and admire, took issue with the White House in his Oct. 25 Chicago Tribune column:

Surely President Barack Obama and his advisers don’t really think that their feud with Fox News will do anything but enhance the cable network’s viewership. A deeper problem is what the flap reveals about Team Obama, which seems to be more comfortable with campaigning than governing.

Since when did making a handful of statements about an unabashedly biased “news” organization constitute a “feud?”  Please correct me if I’m wrong, but has the administration taken any action against Fox News other than their statements that they’ll view the network as an adversary?

Before you mention the story Fox ran with all weekend — that their pool reporter was intentionally excluded from an interview with “pay czar” Kenneth Feinberg before the other networks came to Fox’s rescue — you should know that Fox’s version of events are highly skewed.

Even more bizarre than Page’s assessment are those who have taken to viewing the administration’s critique of Fox through Fox’s lens.  As Steve Bennen pointed out in his Oct. 22 Washington Monthly post, even National Public Radio’s Ken Rudin has taken to repeating the Fox meme:  That Obama is treating the media like Nixon did, compiling a notorious “enemies list.”

I noted in my Oct 12 post that the Obama – Nixon comparison is ludicrous, but Bennen does a much better job:

Has the Obama White House ordered the Justice Department to spy on Fox News employees? Has the administration ordered the IRS to start digging through Fox News’ books, hunting for irregularities and auditing on-air personalities? Has the president directed thugs to break into Glenn Beck’s psychiatrist’s office?

Of course not, that would be insane. And so is this comparison.

Nixon used the power of the presidency to harass, intimidate, and investigate those who questioned him. It was as scandalous an abuse as the nation has ever seen — the White House used the levers of government to attack independent news outlets.

And what as the Obama team done? They’ve dared to point out a simple reality: an obviously-partisan propaganda outlet in not a legitimate news organization. That’s it…

Interestingly, and quite ironic, is the fact that you need not go back any further than the Bush administration for a proper example of “Nixonian” media treatment.  Glenn Greenwald illustrates the comparison this link-packed paragraph from his Oct. 23 Salon post:

All that hand-wringing rhetoric:  why?  Because the Obama administration threatened to criminally prosecute Fox?  Or because the adminstration surveilled its reporters’ telephone calls?  Or illegally obtained their telephone records?  Or shot missiles at hotels in which they were staying?  Or dropped bombs on their offices?  Or imprisoned them for years without charges?  Or barred Fox reporters from riding on administration planes?  Or conspired to “weed out” any critical voices from being heard on network and cable news programs?   No, those are all things that the Bush administration did to reporters (see the links) — all well above and beyond the numerous, constant rhetorical attacks from the Bush White House on media organizations they perceived to be hostile.

And how did Fox News handle Bush’s media offenses?  Greg Sargent recalled Oct. 26 on his blog, The Plum Line, that when the GOP was calling for the Justice Department to investigate The New York Times during Bush’s tenure, “Fox News repeatedly provided an uncritical forum” for the administration’s complaints.

I understand that journalists hear the White House calling out Fox News by name and perceive it as the small end of the wedge, separating truth seekers from policy makers.  Many are predisposed to be sensitive to government criticism resultant from the previous administration.  But, as Jack M. Balkin illustrated in his Oct. 23 post, journalists weary of the White House’s Fox News criticism are worried about the wrong party in the dispute.

Balkin’s approach is historical in nature, assessing Fox News as “the return of a twenty-first century version of the party presses of the late 18th and 19th centuries.”  The author explains that this new version of the “party press” signals a paradigm shift in American journalism, by which the Fox News model seeks to displace traditional, objective, journalists.

Regarding media outlets defending Fox News, Balkin wrote:

…several traditional news organizations, interpreting the Obama Administration’s response to Fox News as an attack on journalism generally, including mid-twentieth century models, have come to the defense of Fox. This is especially ironic given that Fox represents a new partisan model that is attempting to displace and destroy their cherished model of “objective” journalism. Because traditional journalistic organizations have understood the Administration’s push back against Fox an attack on journalism generally, and not as an attack on the newly emerging partisan press, these organizations, by rising to the defense of Fox News are helping to dig their own graves.

In other words, the White House is not the small end of the wedge; rather, Fox news is the wedge, actively seeking to displace the mid twenty-first century journalism while clinging to the notion that they’re a part of it.

I’m inclined to agree with Balkin’s conclusion that the Obama administration is ahead of the curve in their criticism.  Calling out Fox as they have is a sign of forward thinking on the part of the White House, anticipating what may well be the future of news media.  Further, if the administration’s are anticipatory of the future of the medium, that completely sets it apart from the reactionary tendencies of the Nixon administration.  Those defending Fox would be wise to follow the White House”s lead, lest they become obsolete in a new journalistic paradigm in which objectivity is optional.

Finally, in case you have any doubt about the biased nature of Fox News, I invite you to view the below clip from… That is, if you can stomach it.

Image from user, silas216 - by way of


GreenseasKat C.
kathryn cook6 years ago

thanks for this post

Mushtaq M.
Mushtaq M.6 years ago

Yes the White House is right to criticize Fox News, I hope the public remembers the pro stance of this media on attack of Iraq on WMD etc. sic

Shannon S.
Shannon G.6 years ago

Thanks Ch, my husband and I were talking the other night about how we dont have alot to give so we are going to start giving more of our time. I am researching food banks in my area to give something back.

Cindy M.
Cindy M.6 years ago

"There once was a time that you had the ability ot pick yourself up by your bootstraps and tighten the belt when hard times hit."

Yeah; the good old days (aka Great Depression). But then an amazing thing happened: the Great American Middle Class. And a consumer economy grew to become the great USA.

Picking ourselves up by our bootstraps, while nobel, pretty-much brings our economy to a halt. We need to get government, business and individuals buying stuff. Business relies on government and individuals to buy their stuff, which drives business purchasing and investment in new markets. So what we need to do is, raise lower and middle class incomes and increase governement revenue and spending. Also, grow the population, by loosening immigration.

These things (not tax cuts!) grow the economy. Proof of this is in the history books, and it's unambiguous.


Ch Hardy
Past Member 6 years ago

Shannon "You cannot currently send a star to Shannon because you have done so within the last week."

I wish we had more to give and when we do have some to give - we do it and feel great about it. I have an empty grocery bag on my dining room table from the boy scouts looking for food - I will put something in it, not sure what, but something will go in!

Shannon S.
Shannon G.6 years ago

There once was a time that you had the ability ot pick yourself up by your bootstraps and tighten the belt when hard times hit. If you had an extra car, a to big of a house, you could sell it and things wouldnt be so tight. Well...those days are over right? Whos gonna buy your house? So when you talk about people who cant see beyond their own lives to want something better for their less fortunate neighbors it's like a slap in the face-it's not like they dont want to give, it's to the point that they dont have anything more to give. If you think for one second the burdon of all of the changes that this administration is proposing or has done is not going to fall square in the lap of people just like this you are crazy.

Ch Hardy
Past Member 6 years ago

Now Cindy your last comment gave me a good chuckle! Thanks :)

Cindy M.
Cindy M.6 years ago

No prob, Hardy. I'm enjoying it ... and I'm accustomed to laughing alone, frequently. :^)

Plus, this blog is now pretty-well off the radar by now. So I suspect that you, Judith, Northern and I are the only ones reading our comments at this point. So we can we have some fun without too much worrying.



Northern N.
Cam V.6 years ago

CH Hardy I have been watching MSNBC on a dare from another member here and this last week the worm is turning on many of their programs .... they are starting to go after this administration and I think it was ABC or NBC that called them out on lying about the success of the tarp - they have called it a dismal failure .... it would have been whichever channel is not owned by GE who stands to make a lot of money off of this administration ....
The proverbial worm is turning as they say ....

Ch Hardy
Past Member 6 years ago

Cindy your attempt at humor doesnt make anyone laugh with you. But I guess if you dont have anything else better to say - take your best shot, I am thick skinned...