While much is being made of Karl Rove's post-election return to the air this week on Fox, I don't think that's really the news that matters these days at Rupert Murdoch's channel.
Reflecting in a way the very post-election GOP malaise that they discussed, both Bill O'Reilly and Rove seemed off their games Wednesday night on "The O'Reilly Factor." Two of the most self-confident blowhards in American media and political life seemed less confident, less energized, less animated than I have ever seen either when it comes to saying bad things about President Obama. It was kind of sad in its own way to see such a flat and empty performance from these two masters of TV rabble rousing (O'Reilly) and propaganda (Rove).
O'Reilly waved around a piece of paper described as "a brand new Fox News poll" purported to show most Americans disagree with Obama on fiscal matters. But his body language suggested that even he didn't believe much in such Fox data anymore. As for Rove, I see him now after his election night meltdown, and all I can think of is a gas bag with a leak as it slowly deflates.
No, the news about Fox News that mattered Wednesday was connected to PolitiFact naming the Mitt Romney campaign ad that said Jeep was going to move production and ship jobs to China "Lie of the Year." Lie of the year, you have to beat out some pretty stiff competition to earn that honor in these crooked times.
And why that matters in any discussion of Fox is that the Rupert-Murdoch-owned channel "fact checked" the ad during the campaign and vouched for its accuracy -- not once but twice. And, furthermore, Fox did it in one instance with Jim Angle, who is part of the news operation not the host of an evening show, doing the vouching. The channel's website describes Angle as "chief national correspondent."
And that cuts to the heart of the lie Fox News tries to sell about its news operation being as journalistically sound and non-ideologically driven as anything on the networks or CNN. Sure, Fox executives have said to me, the prime-time shows have opinion in them -- just like opinion pages in a newspaper. But not our news programs and the reports by our correspondents.
Except, I guess, when it's an election year, and things are going badly for the Republican candidate. Then, you use your chief national correspondent to vouch for the essential accuracy of the ad that is the "Lie of the Year."
For a fuller discussion of Fox's role in helping create an echo chamber for this Jeep-jobs-to-China lie, check out Media Matters. I know it's an ideologically-driven liberal website. I've fought with Media Matters and been denounced by some of the best folks there. But the research and reporting on this matter are detailed and accurate.
And finally, let me suggest you look at Fox's propagation of the "Lie of the Year" in connection with Bob Woodward's report last week of a Fox contributor telling David Petraeus, when he was in command of troops in Afghanistan, that he should run for president if Obama didn't make him chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Fox News chief Roger Ailes, the person whose message the Fox representative was carrying according to Woodward, spun his butt off trying to make it sound like Woodward didn't understand it was all a joke.
But there is nothing funny about a report by one of the nation's finest journalists that shows Fox trying to influence and corrupt the American political system -- just as Murdoch's British properties have been accused of doing in the UK.
Wednesday night, O'Reilly introduced his Rove segment saying, "There's no question that the Republican Party is re-grouping -- or something." He went on to say, "Even the old guard is discouraged by the current status of the GOP."
I don't know about that, but the two "old guard" Fox guys I saw Wednesday night looked pretty discouraged to me. Maybe they're feeling the need to do some "re-grouping" at Fox.
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