I am a voracious consumer of news of all kinds – and have been such for more than (arrrgh) 50 years. My obsession is not the result of mental illness, although at times I think it could lead to that. As a lifelong civic and political activist and consultant, it is my professional requirement. Every job has its downside.
That long experience allows me to say with some authority that the leftward pro-Democrat lean of most of the east coast elitist press is not new. In fact, conservative viewpoints were almost non-existent in the days when the three major networks – ABC, CBS and NBC – had a virtual monopoly on national news coverage. While the port-side lean of the media was significant in those days, it was not the complete surrender to partisan propaganda that we see today.
I am fully aware that the headline on this commentary will result in reactions as sharply divided as is the nation itself. Liberals – including no few close friends – will see it as an uncritical surrender to conservative orthodoxy. My conservative friends will be praising my devotion to truth.
Those who know me the best, however, will see me for what I have tried to be throughout my life – an objective observer who can make a pretty good case for what I believe. So, I guess it is incumbent upon me to make the case for the headline that brought you into this commentary.
The question to be answered is: Is FOX News fair and balanced as their motto claims, or are they some marginal right-wing propaganda outlet, as the Democrats, the left and CNN/MSNBC accuse on a regular basis?
To determine the answer to that question, we do not – and should not – have to rely solely on our opinions or political biases. We can be objective. And you can even conduct your own empirical research.
In the 24/7 cycle, count the number of anchors and hosts who consistently report anti-Trump stories and pro-Trump stories. (You can do the same analysis for anti and pro reports on Republicans, conservatives and supporters of the President). On FOX, the lineup is mostly pro-Trump – with Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson and Judge Judy consistently proffering the case for Trump. But the anti-Trump standard is held up by such mainstays Shepard Smith and Juan Williams. It is rare to find a program that does not include alternative viewpoints. And even Carlson and Ingraham will have guests on their shows to argue the alternative opinion – even if it is just to verbally browbeat them.
On its website, CNN lists the names and photos of 370 staffers – from hosts, to reporters, to who knows who they are. Most would not be known to the public, but it can be said that it is not even possible to find one recognizable conservative in that panoply of personalities. The closest thing to some objectivity on CNN is the once-a-week Michael Smerconnish – but that’s it.
In promoting their cast, MSNBC offers up a list of their programs. Every one of them represents a strident radical left viewpoint. The network once pointed to conservative talk show host Hugh Hewett as evidence of balance – even though his program had been relegated to 8:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Just this week – June 30, 2018, to be exact – MSNBC quietly canceled that one minuscule example of journalistic integrity.
What about panelists and guests?
FOX, by far, features more analysts representing both viewpoints, creating lively dialogue. In more of a debate style, FOX will often present two spokespersons from each side of the issue – both knowledgeable and articulate.
MSNBC, on the other hand, engages in pure partisan propaganda and almost never presents panelists with a genuine alternative viewpoint. They will routinely offer up six to ten panelists – all of whom regurgitate the same perspective – and usually with the most outrageous emotional intensity.
In a faux attempt at balance, MSNBC will feature a number of false flag panelists – usually identified as “Republican strategists” or some has-been holdover from the Bush administration. However, these apostates never offer a counterpoint, but parrot the same anti-Trump narratives as their hardcore liberal counterparts. CNN also uses some of the same false flaggers, but they do occasionally present guests with a legitimate counterpoint – but rather than setting up a one-on-one debate, they often pit the Republican against a panel of opponents (including the hosts) in what might be called a verbal gang rape.
Now take up your stopwatch and actually time the anti-Trump reports and the pro-Trump reports. Because FOX offers up real counterpoints, it wins hands down in this category. CNN comes in a distant second with about a 75 to 20 ratio of negative-to-positive reports or analyses on Trump, Republicans and conservatives.
The actual figures across the industry, as reported by research organizations, is 88 percent negative on Trump & Co. and only 12 percent positive or neutral. The overall figure is driven up by MSNBC’s almost 100 percent negative rating. Those folks at the NBC Tower in New York have a lock on last place for fairness and objectivity – not only with virtually zero positive coverage of Trump, Republicans and conservatives, but also with the extremeness and mendaciousness of their negative coverage.
It is not only a matter of the number of negative stories presented by CNN, MSNBC and the big three broadcast networks, but how much time they dwell – obsess — on the individual stories. FOX clearly wins in the number of stories reported – and they present more stories that do not directly or indirectly involve Trump – or even politics. That is also true of OAN and Newsy – which provide fairly balanced news coverage apart from their philosophic editorial leans but were not included in my analysis. Yes, there is more to this world than Trump, politics and left-wing orthodoxy.
While FOX may present 15 different stories in a half hour, MSNBC will present 15 talking heads obsessively dwelling on the same story and the same spin – the anti-Trump story of the day. CNN does only slightly better than MSNBC in covering the world of non-Trump news. If your remote is stuck on CNN or MSNBC, you will miss a lot of other important stories. Basically, you will have formed uninformed opinions.
We should also address the claim made repeatedly on CNN and MSNBC that FOX is some outlier right-wing extremist broadcast outlet. That is an odd claim when you consider that FOX pulls an audience larger than CNN and MSNBC combined. For more than 12 years, it has been the top rated cable show – not just in the news category, the overall number one.
In the most recent report, FOX was up 25 percent. The network is number one with 2.8 million prime time viewers, while rival MSNBC takes fourth place with 1.6 million and CNN, with a paltry 930,000, holds ninth place in cable ratings.
Imagine that, ESPN and TBS beat out MSNBC to take second and third place, respectively and poor old CNN is even beat out by the mushy Hallmark Channel. When you look at total daytime viewers, FOX again dominates with 1.7 million viewers to MSNBC’s 909,000 and CNN’s 689,000.
All those personalities that the left hates – Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson – have all reached all time highs in recent month. On the other hand, MSNBC’s top-rated Rachel Maddow has dropped out of the top five.
So, which cable network is really out of the mainstream?
We are a right-of-center nation and it is understandable that the public wants their viewpoints represented in the news – not maligned as the viewpoints of deplorable people, as CNN and MSNBC would have it.
Yes, left-leaning media has been an American tradition throughout my lifetime, but never so biased, so partisan, so vicious and so dishonest as it is today. To find anything comparable you would have to go back to those southern Democrat newspapers during the campaigns of Abraham Lincoln.
Trump is not wrong for calling out major elements of the press for their dereliction of duty and abrogation of their constitutional and moral responsibilities – although he would be better served by making his argument in less bombastic terms.
That is why I say thank God for FOX News (and AON and Newsy) because they bring balance to the overall news coverage. If our news media is to live up to its constitutional responsibility, it must be free of bias. It must give facts apart from opinion – and offer an opinion based on facts. It must not align itself as a partisan communications vehicle for one party or one philosophy. It must live up to its professional ethical responsibility. If such fairness and balance cannot be found in individual news agencies, then we should be thankful that there are others who can provide that ever-present and all-important “other side” of the story. In that, FOX News provides the nation a great service, whether you agree with their conservative leanings or not. By all measures, they are the mainstream of cable news.
So, there ‘tis.