By Tracy Rosenberg – published San Francisco Chronicle
The Obama administration has taken a lot of heat recently for declaring war on Fox News, including from Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders. And it’s true that you can’t have presidential staffers ducking press inquiries. But media lies and distortions are another ball game entirely. Let’s look at the record:
— In October 2004, Carl Cameron, Fox News’ chief political correspondent, posted on the Fox News Web site fabricated quotes from Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.: “Women should like me! I do manicures,” and “I’m metrosexual, (Bush) is a cowboy.” Kerry never made those statements. When the inaccuracies were exposed, Fox News took down the story.
Sound like old news? It is, but it is indicative of a pattern of reporting as facts what is not true or never happened. People can have differing opinions about the meaning of what is said. There’s a problem when we’re debating what was said.
— In October 2006: Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” while covering the Mark Foley congressional page sex scandal, labeled the Republican member of Congress at the bottom of the TV screen as “(D-FL)” on three different cutaways to video footage.
— In June, Fox host Bill O’Reilly stated on his Web site that he never called murdered abortion doctor George Tiller “a baby killer” on his “The O’Reilly Factor” program. PolitiFact.com has documented 24 instances since 2005 of O’Reilly referring to the physician as “Tiller the baby killer” on the program.
— In October, “Fox and Friends” anchors Brian Kilmeade and Gretchen Carlson recited as fact a GOP press release reporting Obama administration projections of jobs to be created by the economic stimulus package in the year 2011 as figures for the 2009 year. An onscreen graphic posted during the segment read: “Stimulus Generates Unemployment.”
The story here isn’t the White House war on Fox News, it’s the news channel’s long-running battle with objective reality.
— Fox News made the community organizing group ACORN a household name by manufacturing a voter “fraud” scare, yet not a single voter registered by ACORN was ever found to have cast an improper vote. Fox’s obsession was such that it named ACORN 1,500 times in a three-month period. There is a long tradition of organizations cooking up fake news for political shock value, such as creating imitation newspapers headlining news that hasn’t happened, such as reporting the end of the war in Iraq.
But groups like Code Pink and the Yes Men don’t call themselves news organizations. Fox News should be seen for what it is, not as a news outlet.