SAN DIEGO, August 12, 2011 —He meant it as an attack on bad journalism in general, but the recipient was Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday and one of several panelist moderators in last night’s debate between Republican presidential candidates for 2012. The Iowa event (kind of a cartoon before Saturday’s main feature Straw Poll) was co-sponsored by Fox News and The Washington Examiner.
When asked by Wallace about disarray within his own campaign staff, former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich replied, “Well, let me say first of all, Chris, that I took seriously Bret’s injunction to put aside the talking points. And I wish you would put aside the gotcha questions … I’d love to see the rest of tonight’s debate asking us about what we would do to lead an America whose president has failed to lead, instead of playing Mickey Mouse games.”
Wallace defended himself by insisting that the public wants to know about a candidate’s record, but Gingrich would not back down.
Well-intentioned people can argue about the fairness of the question or over the defensiveness of the response. Some will applaud (as the audience did) Newt’s fierce unapologetic willingness to take on today’s media. But if we put some emotion aside for a moment, another golden little nugget of interest gets uncovered. Without a doubt, Gingrich would have given a similar response to any CNN or MSNBC moderator, but the fact that Chris Wallace represents Fox News presents us with an interesting observation. Fox, after all, is frequently accused of being in the tank with conservatives. They are supposedly an organization with strong, right-wing bias and talking points disseminated behind the scenes from the Republican Party.
Larry King once said of Fox, “They’re a Republican brand. They’re an extension of the Republican Party”(Chicago Sun-Times, Jan 17, 1007). He did go on to admit some exceptions such as, Greta Van Susteren.
Actually, there are many exceptions: Geraldo Rivera articulates very liberal policies, mostly on domestic issues. He leans a bit more conservative regarding the war on terror. Bill O’Reilly is an Independent, conservative on some subjects, more liberal on others, such as the death penalty. Chris Wallace is a registered Democrat, but his politics are undetectable while doing an interview. He asks tough questions to Republicans and Democrats alike, last night serving as a great example of the former. Nobody will ever confuse Alan Colmes or Bob Beckel for a conservative. Juan Williams considers himself moderate but expresses many liberal positions on the panel shows. He is still a believer in honest debate and got in trouble with his former employer, NPR, for a politically incorrect statement about airport security.
True, on programs such as Hannity, we often see one liberal with two conservatives on a panel of three, four if you count Sean himself. It would be nice to have it more “fair and balanced” as it once was on the older offering, Hannity and Colmes. Still, there is a difference between hard news shows and news analysis programs. With hard news, Fox can defend its reputation well.
All hosts averaged out, the editorial branch of Fox still tilts to the right. But to say that our other news networks swing vigorously leftward is to make the understatement of the century. By way of example, just take your pick; Bush, Palin, Bachmann, Tea Party, etc. The expressed viewpoints regarding such people are just a tad bit on the unflattering side. Not that these “mainstream” networks view themselves as being too liberal. Generally speaking, their editorial positions would be defended as “the moderate common sense views that any thinking American ought to have.”
Unfortunately, what many fail to remember is that the “middle” keeps moving to the left. The right (with the exception of a few nutcase organizations) tends to stay where it is, but compared to the shifting middle, it looks more and more like “extreme right.” For example, regarding moral standards, what do conservatives believe today that previous conservatives would not have believed 40-50 years ago and most “moderates” would not have believed 20-30 years ago? Some will argue that with certain issues, better and more progressive information has been obtained. Be that as it may, the right is not shifting. The “center” is.
In any event, thank you, Speaker Gingrich for vindicating Fox News. That may not have been your intention, but to any one watching carefully, it was certainly the result. While observing your reaction to Wallace, it was easier to notice all the other tough questions about war, gay marriage, the economy, and the personal (sometimes inconsistent) records of each candidate. Who could have viewed this interaction and then gone away with a notion that Fox News operates under Republican talking points? Such an interpretation would be a talking point of its own.
ALSO BY BOB SIEGEL:
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net. Many comments to posts are discussed by Bob over the air where anyone is free to call in and respond/debate. Call in toll free number: 1-888-344-1170. Read more Forbidden Table Talk in The Washington Times Communities.
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