Give its brown horseshoe couch to Shep Smith. Give its see-through coffee table to the Fox Mole. Break down the rest of the set and auction it off to loyal viewers. Or some variation thereupon.
But whatever you do, FoxNews: Kill “Fox & Friends.”
Yesterday it had to correct a mistake that — wouldn’t you know! — cast President Obama in a less favorable light than the facts warrant. A graphic on the Tuesday morning program indicated that the “real” unemployment rate had ballooned from 7.8 percent to 14.7 percent under the Obama administration, when in fact it had inched from 14.2 percent to 14.7 percent. That the friends on “Fox & Friends” have been faithfully reciting unemployment figures for as long as memory serves added a willful look to the statistical misplacement.
“Fox & Friends,” at this point, knows how to handle corrections and apologies. It’s called practice; Media Matters has cited 11 errors, corrections and apologies that have surfaced on the show. The screwups have a uni-directional grind, including one report that President Obama planned to apologize to Japan for dropping the A-bomb; another that Obama has endorsed the release of the Lockerbie bomber and — oh, what’s the point of detailing any more? The unique contribution of “Fox & Friends” to the history of journalistic error is the conviction and enthusiasm with which they do it.
Earlier this year, Fox News chief Roger Ailes boasted of Fox News’s factual perfection, saying that in “15 years we have never taken a story down because it was wrong. You can’t say that about CNN, CBS or the New York Times.” It remains unclear was just how such a statement squared with the record of “Fox & Friends.” Perhaps the Fox topper places “Fox & Friends” in its own factual accounting program, not lumping it with the rest of the channel’s offerings.
Which would be appropriate, because even by the low standards of informed opinion on cable television, on the Internet and in printed matter, “Fox & Friends” occupies a special wacko cubbyhole. It’s not so much commentary as blind bomb-throwing, morning after morning after morning. Though other Fox programs come under fire for stretching facts and clubbing liberals, “Fox & Friends” spreads guilt by association through the rest of the lineup.
The New York Times poetically summed up the program’s fare:
There are visits from Hooters waitresses on the “Let Freedom Wing” U.S.O. tour, debates about whether parents who give children large allowances create entitlement societies, and outrage-filled segments on the killing of bald eagles. It is a place where Occupy Wall Street protesters bang drums instead of looking for jobs, Transportation Security Administration agents willingly violate grandmothers and toddlers, and the “War on Christmas” never stands at a cease-fire.
The New York Times story noted, as well, that “Fox & Friends” hauls an admirable 6. a.m. audience of 1 million and dominates basic cable from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Whatever. If there’s one thing that Fox News chief Roger Ailes can do, it’s discard a show and create a new and successful one in its wake. Last year, upon the 15th anniversary of Fox, Ailes told the Associated Press:
“I think we do better television than the other guys, and no matter how we do it, they don’t seem to catch up. We seem to out-invent them and think ahead of them, and have better story ideas, better graphics, better on-air talent. We just are better television producers.”
Not just a hollow self-pat on the back: It was Ailes, after all, who reportedly took out a sheet of paper and wrote down “The Five” just weeks before Glenn Beck’s Fox News show was due to go off air. The show that now runs under that title has been on the air for more than a year and is simply killing it. No reason Ailes can’t take out another piece of paper and end the ambient moronism that promises to continue embarrassing Fox News.