“The Fox News political and money machine is hard to even categorize. Few reasonable people would call it a journalistic outfit.”
SOURCE: The Progress Report, Center for American Progress, October 20, 2010 (NOTE: Links to sources can be found in the original text.)
The Fox News Factor
At a strategy meeting earlier this month, Delaware GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell reportedly told party insiders skeptical about her campaign that she had Fox News' "Sean Hannity in my back pocket, and I can go on his show and raise money by attacking you guys." The fact that Fox News and its right-wing news personalities favor conservative candidates is not a secret to many people with a cable box, but amidst the current discussion over how big money is influencing this election cycle, Rupert Murdoch's highly rated "news" channel is rarely placed in the discussion. It should be: Fox News, part of the multi-billion dollar News Corporation, uses its $1.21 billion budget to provide a 24-hour propaganda and fundraising outlet for conservative candidates, many of whom confess the channel is their preferred method of "getting their voice out."
The channel hosts or straight-out employs more conservative politicians than any other outlet, and provides a constant stream for their misinformation, which is often abetted by Fox News personalities, many of whom campaign for or advise GOP candidates off the air. The right-wing billionaires who are the financial backbone of the Tea Party movement have a partner in Fox News, which has been instrumental in propagating its message, even hosting live Tea Party rallies from outdoor Fox News studios.
And in recent months, News Corp. has simply handed over millions of dollars to conservative campaign outfits like the Republican Governors Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
GETTING THEIR VOICE OUT: O'Donnell received instruction on how to use Fox News to her political advantage from the master: paid Fox News contributor Sarah Palin. "[O'Donnell] is gonna have to dismiss that, go with her gut, get out there, speak to the American people, speak through Fox News, and let the independents who are tuning into you, let them know what it is that she stands for, the principles behind her positions," Palin explained. Palin herself turned to Fox News during the 2008 campaign after embarrassing interviews with other mainstream outlets, and in the time since, retained Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren's husband as a political adviser.
In fact, every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination that's not currently in office is on the Fox News payroll, with the exception of Mitt Romney, and all but one speak only on that network. According to Media Matters research, these potential candidates made a whopping 269 appearances on Fox News through the end of September. So far this year, none of the potential contenders on the Fox News payroll have appeared on any other television news outlet with the exception of Newt Gingrich. "We have tried to book many of them, but they have always refused, saying they are exclusive to Fox," one rival network staffer told Politico.
This election cycle, numerous Republican congressional candidates have also chosen to "speak through Fox News." For example, Washington Senate candidate Dino Rossi has given at least five interviews to Fox News just in the past month, including having Fox News cameras on the campaign trail with him twice, while giving no interviews to any other national cable news outlet. During these interviews, Rossi has stood up to questioning that can generously described as "helpful" - like this probing question from Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum: "That's a lot of pressure on you, Mr. Rossi. How [are] you holding up under that?" Or this one from Hannity: "So what story is it that you want to tell in this election that's going to make the difference and push you over the top?"
MISLEADING CONTENT: Fox News coverage of this election cycle is no more balanced than its guest list. The list of falsehoods and bogus story lines advanced by the network is too long to catalogue entirely, but just a few examples from recent weeks:
Bill O'Reilly said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) "may have come out of the closet" in support of "socialistic philosophy."
The hosts of Fox & Friends later wondered if a Pelosi speech struck a "socialist tone."
Hannity also opined that House Democrats passed health care reform "with, basically, what I consider to be the moral equivalency of a bribe."
Neil Cavuto asked Republicans to promise to "destroy" health care reform on the campaign trail.
Even ostensible straight news reporters like Carl Cameron assert things like Obama's "liberal agenda caused" an "uproar" in Indiana.
The Fox effect has a real impact on the nation's business, extending beyond elections to the passing of legislation. When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was negotiating to join Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in their attempt to craft an energy bill, the Republican warned Lieberman and Kerry that they needed to get as far as they could in negotiating the bill "before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process," one of the people involved in the negotiations said to The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza.
SHOWING THEM THE MONEY: When conservative politicians appear on Fox News, they don't just get softball questions - they also get money. During his frequent appearances, Rossi was sure to note several times that viewers could visit his website, and that he "needed the help." Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle, another politician who gives interviews almost exclusively to Fox News, explained that she doesn't do interviews with other mainstream outlets because "Well, in that audience, will they let me say I need $25 dollars from a million people go to SharronAngle.com send money?" But on Fox News, when she made a fundraising pitch on Hannity's show, she made $40,000 "before we even got out of the studio in New York."
Fox News has provided tremendous help towards organizing and fundraising for the Tea Party movement as well - Sean Hannity, Greta Van Susteren and other Fox News personalities actually hosted the first tax day Tea Party rallies, in 2009, and just this week have been relentlessly promoting the Tea Party Express campaign bus.
When candidates aren't raising money on Fox airwaves, the parent company is often just forking it over to conservative causes: News Corp. has given repeated donations to the Republican Governors Association and has also given $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is running an aggressive ad campaign against Democratic candidates.
There's a benefit for Fox News in this too - it made $534.8 million in pure profit last year. The Fox News political and money machine is hard to even categorize. Few reasonable people would call it a journalistic outfit. As Center for American Progress senior fellow Eric Alterman wrote, "Fox is something new - something for which we do not yet have a word. It provides almost no actual journalism. Instead it gives ideological guidance to the Republican Party and millions of its supporters, attacking its opponents and keeping its supporters in line. And it does so at a hefty profit, thereby turning itself into the political equivalent of a perpetual motion machine."
I have a word for Fox News, Mr. Alterman, It’s “Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda.”
It’s worked before.