There was Tucker Carlson last week on Fox News, escorting NBC News to the woodshed. A frequent target of conservative commentators, NBC News on this occasion had failed to bring home the sexual-harassment story on movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, of Miramax fame. Though NBC News launched an investigation of Weinstein’s allegedly harassing ways via reporter Ronan Farrow, it stopped work on the piece and watched Farrow bolt for the New Yorker, where he produced a damning investigation including three separate accusations of rape.
NBC News President Noah Oppenheim issued a proclamation to colleagues indicating that the network didn’t believe that the story passed editorial muster and argued that Farrow’s work gathered steam once the project landed at the New Yorker. Carlson scoffed. “Oppenheim ought to resign immediately, and if he doesn’t, he ought to be fired immediately by NBC’s parent company, Comcast. News executives are not allowed to tell lies. They are not allowed to participate in coverups,” said the host. “They ought to answer straightforward questions straightforwardly. When they don’t, you know they are corrupt, and that is exactly what NBC News is.”
For all its tremendous shortcomings on Weinstein, NBC News needn’t worry about lowering itself to the ranks of, say, the Daily Caller, which is the online site that Carlson piloted before becoming a prime-time anchor at Fox News in late 2016. Look, for instance, at some of the headlines that substituted for news coverage of the sexual-harassment allegations against Fox News chief Roger Ailes.
“Could This Be The Ulterior Motive To The Gretchen Carlson Lawsuit Against Roger Ailes?” reads a headline on a piece written just days after Gretchen Carlson, then a former Fox News host, filed a suit against Ailes for sexual harassment in early July 2016. The story essentially adopts Ailes’s counterargument against Gretchen Carlson, which is that the host was appreciative of Ailes’s support while she was employed at the network. That narrative didn’t fetch: Later that summer, 21st Century Fox reached a $20 million settlement with Gretchen Carlson that included a genuine apology for her workplace conditions.
Another Daily Caller headline on the matter needs no amplification: “Gretchen Carlson Parlays Sexual Harassment Fame Into Book #2.” Lucky her! There’s more, of course, like the line in one story offering a scoreboard on the events: “So any way you want to cut it — she won.” Okay, sure, Gretchen Carlson got a big settlement. What else did she get? Well, she got sidelined from a profession that she loves — namely, hosting news shows. Some win.
Such coverage complied with Tucker Carlson’s rule when he ran the Daily Caller — “you can’t go after Fox,” he decreed to his underlings, because he was employed at the conservative news network.
There is nary a news organization of which Tucker Carlson can sit in judgment.
On to Jeanine Pirro, the former judge who does a Saturday night program on Fox News. “This week, a real blockbuster, as the curtain goes up on those Trump-hating, Soros-loving, socialist condescending Hollywood glitterati, for their silence, acceptance and coverup of one of their own, serial super-sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.”
Good point there. Hollywood stars were indeed a bit sluggish in condemning the celebrated producer. Everyone, went the mantra, knew about Weinstein’s misconduct, yet somehow no one spoke out.
Kinda like the Ailes situation, in other words. Before he was accused by Carlson, he racked up a number of incidents with other women. Yet after the July 2016 suit, here’s the strong condemnation that came from Pirro: “This is something that is totally inconsistent with the man I’ve known probably longer than most people who work in that building.” So many other Fox News stars joined Pirro in defending Ailes that a rift developed in the organization, with some smart souls staying out of the mix. Eventually the truth came out, Ailes was fired and his supporters were embarrassed.
Yet the very same silence-acceptance-coverup sequence denounced by Pirro vis-a-vis Weinstein took place in the Ailes situation. In fact, we can quite easily retrofit Pirro’s fiery line to the 2016 events surrounding the late Fox News chief: “This week, a real blockbuster, as the curtain goes up on those Trump-loving, Koch-loving, trickle-down moralizing Long Island glitterati, for their silence, acceptance and coverup of one of their own, serial super-sexual predator Roger Ailes.”
There’s more coming right up: Last Thursday afternoon, “The Five,” a roundtable gabfest, kicked off its program with a slamaroo against Hillary Clinton for allegedly dragging her feet in responding to the Weinstein revelations. A chyron struck the theme a little late, “Hillary’s delayed Weinstein response.” “If she’s so sick and appalled by all this, why did she wait a week to say anything?,” asked Jesse Watters. Five days, actually. The former secretary of state declared in a statement that she was “shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein,” among other things.
Oh, Watters: It has been 198 days since your mentor, Bill O’Reilly, was exposed as someone who’d generated multiple settlements regarding sexual harassment. Where is your statement on that matter?
Greg Gutfeld diagnosed the political sickness that allowed Weinstein to prey on women: “He poured money into campaigns, campaigns that offered him the ideal cover for his deplorable behavior. Every pig gets a pass when you’re a progressive,” said Gutfeld. The conservative pigs at his own network managed to do their work for years without impediment as well.
The best hypocritical analysis of the Fox News week came from Gregg Jarrett, who wrote a legal analysis saying that the Weinstein Co. should close down. “The Weinstein Company surely knew it had a sexual predator at the helm, but did little to stop him. Instead, it willingly fostered and sustained an environment that permitted him to continue abusing women.”
Talk about fostering and sustaining — Ailes ran Fox News like a toy castle for two decades, using all manner of legal hardball, intimidation, contract authority and hush-hush settlements to enable his harassing ways with women. And so, again, Jarrett’s words could apply equally to his own workplace: “Fox News surely knew it had a sexual predator at the helm, but did little to stop him. Instead, it willingly fostered and sustained an environment that permitted him to continue abusing women.”
Nothing is ever monolithic at a news outlet that runs 24/7 coverage. Fox News’s own history in sexual-harassment territory has indeed gotten mentions on Howard Kurtz’s show “MediaBuzz” on Sunday; Gutfeld himself made a reference to Fox News last Wednesday; over on Fox Business, Kennedy mentioned the problems at home. “We’ve seen our share of waning titans here at Fox, as the left has gleefully cheered the demise of Bill O’Reilly and the death of Roger Ailes, all while admitting in disgusted hushed tones that people like Weinstein have been serially harassing women for decades.”
The problem? Fox News lives off of seeding news stories with an ideological bent. Sexual harassment, however, doesn’t fit the mold. Sexual harassers are abusive, power-obsessed men first, partisans 1,000th. The absurdity of it all came into focus on “The Five,” as Gutfeld embraced a fantasy that if Clinton had been elected, the groundbreaking New York Times exposé on Weinstein wouldn’t have surfaced, because “they would have stopped the New York Times from running it because he was a friend.”
Right — just the way “they” stopped the New York Times from publishing the March 2015 email story that kicked off a campaign of misery for the longtime pol. Or the way “they” stopped the New York Times from writing about the “inquiry” into her use of email.
In deference to Fox Newsers, it is not easy to slide in disclaimers on live television. It hurts, it’s awkward, and it takes a lot of the oomph out of the outrage directed at Weinstein and the left. So the network should just put a graphic on the screen. Something declaring, “THE COMMENTARY YOU ARE NOW HEARING IS LOADED WITH HYPOCRISY. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE SEE THE ERIK WEMPLE BLOG.”