For years now, Fox News PR and Fox News reporters have maintained the fiction that the evening Fox lineup (e.g. Sean Hannity, previously Bill O’Reilly, more recently Tucker Carlson) should not be confused with its “hard news” operation. They accuse media critics of intentional blurring the distinction to smear the “real” news operation. (Right Turn has received complaints over the years from Fox execs and at least one Fox “hard news” figure on precisely this point.)
The specious argument overlooks Fox’s intentional blurring of the line (e.g. allowing the Hannitys and Bill O’Reillys to use the Fox logo, sit at a news-like desk and conduct post-debate interviews). It also ignores the degree to which “Fox & Friends” and other Fox daytime programming, not to mention FoxNews.com, regurgitates right-wing falsities (e.g. illegal immigrants are responsible for rampant crime, climate change is not real) and avoids critical analysis (e.g. neglecting to point out that the GOP is misrepresenting its own health-care bill). We are getting down to a very few journalistic exceptions to the Trump cheerleading — most prominently, “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace (who nevertheless is saddled with the least ideologically balanced round-table of all the Sunday morning shows).
Wallace is increasingly at odds with the rest of the Fox News operation, which continues to spin on behalf of the president. You therefore see embarrassing encounters when Wallace is asked to agree with his colleagues’ nonsense. That occurred recently when he took issue with “Fox & Friends” co-host Pete Hegseth’s claim that coverage of the firing of former FBI director James B. Comey was hysterical. “This is a big story. … This is the first time in history that a president has fired an FBI director who was conducting an investigation that was directly investigating him and his associates,” Wallace argued. “It’s a big story, and I think it’s a legitimate story to cover.” There is a real journalist telling the fake Fox News operation that it is wrong and indeed is misleading viewers.
Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano infamously put out the entirely unsubstantiated claim that former President Barack Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower. It was left to Bret Baier to clean up the mess. “We love the judge, we love him here at Fox, but the Fox News division was never able to back up those claims and was never reported on this show.” The “Fox News division” — is that a subset of the entire operation falsely labeled “Fox News”? It was not simply an opinion that Napolitano was advancing, but a baseless lie. It’s the same baseless lie that nighttime hosts continue to argue is an issue for legitimate investigation.
Whether on “Outnumbered,” “The Five” or any of the evening shows, Fox regularly denies climate change, features climate-change deniers and savages those who recognize the scientific consensus on climate change. This again is not an opinion, but a concerted denial of reality, of observable scientific phenomenon. Does the “news division” think this is accurate, truthful journalism?
You also see the bizarre spectacle of Hannity lavishing praise on the president for threatening to end the White House press briefing that Fox News reporters attend. You wonder why Fox reporters don’t object to colleagues supporting curtailment of their access and limitations on the operation of a free press. Does Fox news management advocate ending press briefings? As Fox voices echo the president’s efforts to discredit independent coverage, it becomes an anti-news network, as much a part of the problem of the White House’s dissembling as any White House official on the payroll.
With the departure of credible centrist and conservative voices and professional journalists (e.g. Megyn Kelly, Greta Van Susteren, George Will, Major Garrett), the alternative-reality programming seen in the Fox evening and afternoon lineup and on “Fox & Friends” now overwhelms the rest of the operation. In the firing of Comey, we see Fox coverage devoted to carrying the false Trump narrative (the idea to fire him came from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein) long after every other network had ferreted out the true story. Fox, in short, now is practically indistinguishable from Breitbart — and in some cases, RT. It has become the purveyor of falsehoods and propaganda, not a member of an independent media tasked with holding elected leaders accountable.