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Fox News Ad Draws Protests

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 18, 2009; 3:06 PM

A provocative full-page newspaper ad from Fox News drew heated reactions from its rivals today and one demand that The Washington Post apologize for running it.

Over photos of protesters gathering for an "anti-tax" rally in Washington last Saturday, the ad asked: "How Did ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN Miss This Story?"

The problem with the ad is that the other networks indeed covered the protest, which -- like similar demonstrations across the country -- were heavily promoted by Fox, especially talk show host Glenn Beck.

The ad appeared Friday in the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, both owned by Fox's parent company, and in The Washington Post.

ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider described the ad as "outrageous and false." NBC spokeswoman Lauren Kapp said that "the facts . . . prove it wrong." CNN spokeswoman Edie Emery called the ad "blatantly false."

Fox News provided more coverage than other news outlets in the run-up to what Beck branded the "9/12" protests, but the other networks hardly ignored the story. ABC, for instance, covered it Saturday and Sunday on "Good Morning America" and Sunday on "World News," along with extensive reports by ABC Radio and the network's Web site. NBC covered it Saturday on "Nightly News" and the next morning on "Today." CBS covered it on the "Evening News." CNN covered the Saturday protests during the 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. hours, as well as on other programs afterward. Correspondents such as NBC's Tom Costello, ABC's Kate Snow and CBS's Nancy Cordes were involved in the coverage.

Fox's view is that the ad refers to the other networks' missing the larger story, not failing to cover the demonstration itself -- although the photos suggest that the headline refers to the protest. "Generally speaking," Michael Tammero, Fox News's vice president of marketing, said in a statement, "it's fair to say that from the tea party movement . . . to ACORN . . . to the march on 9/12, the networks either ignored the story, marginalized it or misrepresented the significance of it altogether."

There is no evidence that The Post asked Fox for any substantiation. Ken Babby, Washington Post Media's vice president for advertising, declined to be interviewed.

In a statement, Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti said the paper "will not reject an advertisement based on its content or sponsor, unless the ad is illegal, false, advocates illegal actions, or is not in keeping with standards of taste. When we do not see anything in a particular ad that is contrary to these standards, we will not place limits on speech or content. That was our review and judgment in this case."

But wasn't this ad arguably false? "Fox News was expressing its opinion on how its competitors covered the story in an ad to promote itself," Coratti said.

ABC's Schneider, however, told the newspaper in a letter that The Post exercised "zero due diligence" in assessing the truth of the ad and that it "should have been rejected according to your professed standards. Now the Post should make it right by apologizing quickly and recognizing that it made a grave error that tarnishes the reputation of five other news organizations."

Beck's World

There is perhaps no greater status signifier, no clearer guidepost of having arrived than to be featured on the cover of Time.


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