Madeline Peltz of Media Matters for America on Sunday published a story regarding Fox News host Tucker Carlson. It reflected poorly on the longtime TV gladiator, so much so that a common description surfaced on social media:
“Hit piece”! Surely this “hit piece” relied on anonymous sources insinuating nasty things about Carlson? Surely this “hit piece” stretched the facts? Surely this “hit piece” drew causal connections between unrelated events? Surely this “hit piece” was 99 percent innuendo?
Actually, the “hit piece” was nothing more than a series of transcripted remarks that Carlson had uttered between 2006 and 2011 in radio discussions with shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge. In one comment, Carlson used an adjectival form of the c-word to describe the daughter of Martha Stewart; in another, he called Britney Spears and Paris Hilton “the biggest white whores in America”; in yet another, he said, “If [Hillary Clinton] could castrate you, she would”; several are too foul for republication in a family newspaper.
So this must be a new brand of hit piece, one in which the journalist simply quotes someone, word for word, over and over again. As Harry Truman said, "I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.”
The “hit piece” hysteria speaks to a larger issue relating to Fox News and accountability. Media Matters was founded in 2004 by David Brock, the conservative turned liberal activist. The idea was complicated: Watch Fox News and other conservative media voices, then write blog posts on particularly incendiary moments. It turned out there were many such moments to highlight. When the content has been particularly noxious, Media Matters has spearheaded pressure on the network’s advertisers, as Glenn Beck can attest.
Fox News and its fans haven’t appreciated this activity, whether it applies to network fare or, as in the case of Peltz’s recent work, the babble of a host years ago on the radio. In fact, Fox News even pursued a legal case against TVEyes, a monitoring services that enables journalists and researchers to document exactly what Fox News broadcasts, around the clock. Maybe they just don’t like the sound of their own voices.