Yesterday Daily Show host Jon Stewart appeared on Fox News Sunday, where he accused the network of taking ideological “marching orders.”
Fox Anchor Chris Wallace took exception to Stewart’s remarks:
STEWART: You can’t understand because of the world you live in that there is not a designed ideological agenda on my part to affect partisan change because that’s the soup you swim in. I appreciate that. I understand that. It reminds me of, you know — you know, ideological regimes. They can’t understand that there is free media other places. Because they receive marching orders.
WALLACE: How do you explain me? Do you think I get my marching orders?
STEWART: I think that you are here in some respects to bring a credibility and an integrity to an organization that might not otherwise have it, without your presence. So, you are here as a counterweight to Hannity, let’s say, or a counterweight to Glenn Beck, because otherwise, it’s just pure talk radio and it doesn’t establish the type of political player it wants to be.
Wallace in particular aside, there’s plenty of evidence that Fox News does deliberately slant its news coverage. For the past few months, Media Matters has released a series of internal emails from Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon that show Sammon pushing the network to take conservative and/or anti-Obama positions. During the 2008 election, Sammon spearheaded the notion on the air that Obama is a “socialist,” even though he privately admitted that the accusation was “far-fetched.” Sammon told Fox employees to refer to the “public option” as the “government option” during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, echoing the advice of Republican pollster Frank Luntz.
Following Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo, Sammon suggested the network focus on the fact that the president hadn’t used the word “terrorism,” even though he had discussed the issue. Sammon urged Fox News employees to present climate change data as controversial. The network’s coverage of the issue is incredibly slanted: 81 percent of Fox News guests oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of greenhouse gases.
One can discern Fox News’ conservative slant merely by watching the network itself, of course. But the leaks offer concrete evidence of how that slant is developed. Stewart pointed out that the end result of all this is that Fox News viewers are consistently the most misinformed — an assertion Wallace didn’t challenge. As Steve Benen points out, that’s because it’s an assertion that happens to be true. When Stewart says the network follows “ideological marching orders,” he’s on pretty solid ground.