Weeks ago, Gawker.com’s “Fox Mole” promised the world all kinds of scoops about the inner working of Fox News: What goes on behind the scenes; what it’s like to work there; the insider’s stuff. At the time, some critics brushed aside the notion that a mole could provide great insight into the workings of Fox News — the product itself, they said, says plenty about what goes on inside.
That very dynamic played out on Wednesday morning, as the network’s morning show, “Fox & Friends,” aired a video titled “Four Years of Hope and Change: Impact of President Obama’s First Term.” Though that title sounds as if it came out of the Obama camp, the four minutes of case-building in the video itself were a doppelganger for a Mitt Romney production.
Complete with drama-heavy soundtrack and high-quality Fox News graphics, the piece left viewers with the notion that the “change” wrought by President Obama was greater unemployment, greater economic dislocation, greater debt, higher food prices, higher gas prices. And nothing but. As I pointed out in a post this morning, this discussion of the president’s impact omitted mention of anything approaching balance, like perhaps a mention of the killing of Osama bin Laden.
As the day progressed, I followed the video. For a while there, I couldn’t find it on the “Fox & Friends” video scroll. But there it was, accessible from FoxNation.com. Something was screwy, but it was hard to figure just what.
Now we know. Fox News executives were preparing to turn their backs on this betrayal of anything approaching “Fair and Balanced.” Later, they issued this statement:
“The package that aired on FOX & Friends was created by an associate producer and was not authorized at the senior executive level of the network. This has been addressed with the show’s producers.” — BILL SHINE, Executive Vice President of Programming
The video is no longer available at FoxNews.com or at FoxNation.com.
The statement answers one question — whether Fox News is standing by the video — even as it raises many others:
1) Are we supposed to believe that the producer was working on his own? The video itself reflects an enormous amount of splicing and searching and cutting and producing, a fact noted by one of the “Fox & Friends” co-anchors this morning. Oh, and it’s about the president of the United States. Such an effort got around the suits?
There’s another point related to the video’s raw ambition. Would a producer really sink hours and hours of tedium into a package of this sort under the notion that it would displease his bosses? Or would he undertake such a heave only if he thought it would send them into fits of Foxical joy?
2) So the senior executive level never “authorized” the video. Does that mean they never viewed it? And what would they have done if they had engaged more thoroughly with the thing? Would they have killed it or just asked the producer to stick a couple of pro-Obama snippets in there for “balance”?
3) What’s the interpretation of Fox News’s claim to have addressed the matter “with the show’s producers.” How do you address what gave rise to this video? Hey guys, next time let’s disguise our intentions a little better.
Read the Fox News statement a few times. The impression it seeks to convey is that this isn’t how Fox News operates. This is a departure from SOP. This isn’t the real Fox News. It’s all an effort to combat the idea that the video is something akin to the network’s errant tweet — an unregulated, impromptu expression of exactly how Fox News feels about politics.
Fox News has piled the depravity high in this episode, from the video itself to the attempt to blame a lowly associate producer. Yet in the end, it did the right thing, however imperfectly. It bailed on a video that bore unfairness in its every second, and it did so in the course of a single day — solid turnaround in the media world. Perhaps its expertise in spotting bias in the media sped things along.