Can Romney Win Without Fox News?

May 23rd, 2011 at 12:00 pm David Frum | 87 Comments |

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Three take-aways from Gabriel Sherman’s important piece on Fox News and the GOP in New York mag:

1) What Republicans have been producing since January 2009 is a television program, not a political opposition. No rational opposition would have nailed its colors to the mast on the predictably unpopular Ryan budget without the votes to pass it. No rational opposition would have staked everything on defeating Obamacare without the votes to stop it. And no rational opposition would have showcased Michelle Bachmann, Donald Trump, and Newt Gingrich as party leaders. As reckless as these actions were in political terms, they make sense in programming terms. And when the de facto head of your party earns his living as a TV executive – and his most important deputy is a talk-radio host – this is what you get: three years of policy nihilism, three years of repeated self-outmaneuvering on the floor of Congress, and now a presidential campaign that seems intent on identifying the GOP with candidates who repel the voters the GOP most needs to win.

2) According to Sherman, Ailes understands and regrets what he’s done to the GOP. That’s why he shut down Glenn Beck. Why he talks regularly to President George HW Bush. Why Fox’s coverage of Sarah Palin has become noticeably less worshipful since the Tucson shooting. Now Ailes is hunting for a more plausible presidential candidate. Yet his programming instincts over-ride everything. On talk radio and cable TV, confrontation sells. If you are imbued with that idea, it’s hard to resist the thought that confrontation will work in politics too, and that NJ Governor Chris Christie must therefore be the solution. The Ailes mind may be able to think the thought that the GOP needs a softer face. But the Ailes programming instinct cannot accept the thought.

3) Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has been plugging along, off-camera, raising money, building support among business leaders and county party chairs. He has been the unspoken target of Fox’s media campaign since 2009. Romney gets scant attention in the Sherman story, except as an example of a candidate whom Ailes finds “not compelling.” Yet by any conventional definition, Romney is the Republican front-runner. Presumably he has been working hard to woo Ailes, and unsuccessfully. Ailes remains unreconciled. If Ailes throws Fox beyond a credible opponent, say  Tim Pawlenty, Ailes becomes Romney’s most lethal and important enemy. How Romney handles Ailes will tell a lot about whether he has the cunning and the toughness to be a successful president.


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87 Comments so far ↓

  • cheves222

    I think point No. 3 is the most important. I agree Fox has done some pretty unsettling things. Ailes is a smart guy and an astute businessman, if nothing else. So, if Romney can’t figure out how to outsmart someone like him, how will he someone truly evil like Kim Jong il?

  • ottovbvs

    So, if Romney can’t figure out how to outsmart someone like him,

    Are you serious? If Romney looks likely to win the Republican nomination then Fox News and Ailes will treat Romney as the second coming of Jesus Christ (Mormon version). We’re in the run up to an election so Ailes tones down the loony tunes, what an absolutely amazing revelation.

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    [Ailes] talks regularly to President George HW Bush.

    Why? What could they possibly have to talk about? Bush Sr. signed into law modest tax hikes and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He declined to invade Iraq, and his longtime right-hand man on foreign policy, Brent Scowcroft, opposed it.

    Bush Sr. would be a Democrat were he running today, wouldn’t he?

    There used to be this label, “Rockfeller Republicans,” that people used to describe moderate Republicans. Today, we use the term “Democrats.”

    How Romney handles Ailes will tell a lot about whether he has the cunning and the toughness to be a successful president.

    I don’t get that, nor cheves’s argument. With Kim Jong Il, we implement policies designed to affect and mitigate his behavior. Ailes is one megalomaniac who’s destroying his party’s pretense of intellectual seriousness because it makes him a pile of money. And because he’s unserious– in Sherman’s article, Ailes is reported to have thought that Pres. Obama was contemplating setting up his own private police force to go do evil with. Ailes is only two shades less insane than Glenn Beck.

  • sparse

    “No rational opposition would have nailed its colors to the mast on the predictably unpopular Ryan budget without the votes to pass it. No rational opposition would have staked everything on defeating Obamacare without the votes to stop it.”

    these events were wonderful showcases for the republican tendency to rally round the flag. is it not an inherent trait of the center-right to have high group cohesion? that there is a high value placed on normative behavior is telling in that regard (family values is an excellent example– all families should resemble a normative nuclear one, compulsive recitation of pledge of allegiance is another tell, although further to the right).

    there may or may not be a horse race, but when it comes down to time to decide, like two magnets pulling each other closer, the fox news line and the republican electorate will coincide. just like in 2008 with mccain, and then palin. it will be romney, i think, just because he is the most electable of the remaining options.

  • nikhil_gupta

    Something that needs to be woven into this narrative is something that you have written about. Alot of insane GOP priorities are just the agenda of relatively wealthy people over the age of 60, the voting base of the party. It just happens that that agenda is radically divergent from the rest of the country.

    • ElizabethBennett

      Then Paul Ryan is to be given even more credit for proposing such a controversial plan that could alienate the GOP base of people over 60 that you describe.

  • Rob_654

    I don’t know – ask the teachers in Wisconsin how effective the Republican Talking Machine has been, or Democrats who where in the Congress just a short time ago and were sent packing.

    While Foxnews has helped make a bit of a mockery in the White House run thus far, I think that they certainly helped the Republicans take back the House and with taking over many States Governors positions and the majority in their Legislatures. Of course we’ll see in 2012 how effective the Talking Machine is when voters go back after seeing with some horror what the GOP is really wanting to do.

    As for Romney, in the end if Romney is the nominee Foxnews will jump on board – they won’t have a choice – but they will likely not be over the top excited about Romney but instead will just be even more hateful about Obama.

  • think4yourself

    I think Roger Ailes is much more dangerous to American than Kin Jong Il.

  • think4yourself

    Frum & Sherman in point one make the argument that if the Republicans were rational, they would have never taken these unpopular positions. I’m not sure I agree. First, if you’re trying to change the dynamic of the conversation, taking unpopular, perhaps wildly exaggerated positions is about negotiating in the long haul. The GOP lost participating in health care by claiming it would kill America rather than negotiating a position in it (something they didn’t need to do because the President negotiated their side for them – if not we might have ended up with a public option). What they got out of it, was a running platform to take back the House.

    If they can replicate that in 2012, perhaps they take the Senate, which changes the dynamic for Obama’s second term and possibly sets up the WH in 2016.

  • Smargalicious

    Most of us hope that anyone will be elected other than the anti-American we have in now.

    God help us.

    • zephae

      And I was almost beginning to miss you Smarg, although I must say you seem to be a bit rusty on your trolling. Maybe it’s just early-week warm-up

      • ottovbvs

        I must say you seem to be a bit rusty on your trolling.

        Definitely not up to his normal standard of stupidity. Perhaps they’ve imposed paycuts in that Republican boiler room he works out of.

  • JimBob

    Fox News is NeoCon central. There’s always Krauthammer, Kristol, Steve Hayes or some other NeoCon hack from the Weekly Standard. on Special Report with Brett Baier Fox News All Stars.

    Brit Hume should have been fired after this performance.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6UO731mEoc

    Fox at its sleaziest

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwo0Iyrh1Zk

  • CentristNYer

    Romney, for all his faults, seems the least damaged and most charismatic of the presumed front-runners. If he doesn’t deflate before New Hampshire, Faux News will quickly get on board with his campaign, realizing that it’s better for them to go into the general with Romney intact than with Romney battered and bruised. They’ll spend from February to the first Tuesday in November rehabilitating his image and every Faux viewer will be able to recite the approved talking points about how Romneycare is different from Obamacare.

  • Deep South Populist

    Andy Rooney often starts his schitk on 60 Minutes with the questions “Have you ever noticed this…have you ever noticed that…”

    Well, has anyone ever noticed that David Frum never fails to criticize everything about the GOP except their mindless support for Israel and the neocon war agenda?

    The disaster that was the Bush economy wasn’t caused by two unnecessary, unfunded wars; it was caused by the Bush tax cuts, and so on.

    In this case, Frum attacks Fox News and only Fox News, unsurprisingly, for doing what the rest of the mainstream media has done for 60 years: produce laughably biased and one-sided coverage. The New York Times’ Walter Duranty covered for Joseph Stalin the same way non-Fox, Non-talkradio media covers for Obama today.

    David Frum wants a GOP that is an exact clone of the Democrats on every issue except Israel and the neocon war agenda.

    • ottovbvs

      unsurprisingly, for doing what the rest of the mainstream media has done for 60 years: produce laughably biased and one-sided coverage. The New York Times’ Walter Duranty covered for Joseph Stalin the same way non-Fox, Non-talkradio media covers for Obama today.

      …Have you ever noticed how DSP’s responses are almost always a mass of distortions and non sequiturs? One journalist on the NYT sixty years ago is apparently conclusive evidence that the entire mainstream media produces the same ridiculously biased and one sided coverage that Fox News does. BTW at about the same time Kristol and Podheretz pere were dedicated Trotskyites.

  • ottovbvs

    Romney, for all his faults, seems the least damaged and most charismatic of the presumed front-runners.

    I basically agree. He’s the only one who looks like a presidential candidate but to get the nomination he’s going to have to embrace an awful amount of stupidity quite apart from spending vast amounts of time proving Romneycare is a different brand than Obamacare. He also has a lot of financial industry baggage. His candidacy is going to be a virtuoso performance of pretzeldom….Er so Mr Romney do you agree with congressman Ryan that Medicare needs to be ended in it’s present form?

  • Frumplestiltskin

    NY 26 has (D) Hochul presently in the lead over (R) Corwin. If Hochul wins then that, more than anything else, will help ensure a Romney nomination. Because of Romneycare Romney can not be tagged with the Ryan plan. Romney need not say anything but his message will be: vote for me or face the apocalypse as Seniors abandon the Republican party.

    Rob: “While Foxnews has helped make a bit of a mockery in the White House run thus far, I think that they certainly helped the Republicans take back the House and with taking over many States Governors positions and the majority in their Legislatures.”

    Fox news was on the air back in 2006 and 2008 and the Democrats had sweeping wins. I think Fox only preaches to the converted. The recession and very high unemployment coupled with record deficits and a mid term electorate devoid of the youth vote is what helped Republicans. Fox was simply there.

    • ElizabethBennett

      Hochul is running against two Republicans, basically. They are splitting the vote. I don’t think this qualifies as a referendum on the Ryan plan.

  • ottovbvs

    Romney need not say anything but his message will be: vote for me or face the apocalypse as Seniors abandon the Republican party.

    Romney need not say anything when he’s asked whether or not he supports Republican party policy on Medicare. What does he do? Put duct tape across his mouth? He has two choices. Say yes he agrees with Ryan. Or no he does not agree with Ryan and get dumped on by the Republicans and apologise within 24 hours like Newt.

  • Manchurian.Candidate

    Not a chance.

    Fox News controls GOP communications. Read some comments where Fox plans to tone down the crazies. Hello! The Crazies is all they have. Fox created a culture that panders to the proudly to be ignorant extremist.

    Ailes probably decided Pawlenty, not Romney, will win the nomination.

  • indy

    Someday, I hope somebody can explain to me what happened to all the GOP strategists? It’s like all the good ones got ran down by the same beer truck or something.

    • ottovbvs

      It’s like all the good ones got ran down by the same beer truck or something.

      There’s nothing particularly complicated about it. All the current crop of Republican strategists cut their teeth in the Lee Atwater school of Political Strategy. They identified that to provide cover for the Republican party’s principal goals (protecting big business and the wealthiest people in the country) they could usefully mobilise the great unwashed who nurse all kinds of angers, hatreds and prejudices over a variety of social issues and economic issues (they don’t understand the latter but they sound good). This involved essentially basing Republican party policy on delusions about history, science, economics and international relations. The problem arose that once you let the Morlocks out of the basement and fed them on this stuff you just couldn’t change the story. Take the debt default. I’ve no doubt business and Wall Street is horrified at the prospect of a default but various wingnut loonies are feeding the meme that default is no big deal. The strategists have simply lost control of the situation. It happens in every revolution which this is in a way. Now the Morlocks are out of the basement and sitting in the seats of power. At the moment there are still enough frightened elderly whites to elect them in off years but in presidential years and long term it’s suicidal.

  • armstp

    “Can Romney Win Without Fox News?”

    It is really very sad that you are asking this question? Basically, Frum, you are admitting that FOX is a completely bias “news” (propaganda) organization that is king-maker in the Republican party. I thought there were FCC rules against being a political organization disguised as a news network (although I do not think the FCC regulates cable TV channels).

    I think there are also rules about broadcasting false information. FOX should lose its license on both counts. They are a net negative for America.

    Beyond this, it is a joke that a major “news” organization in this country has all that power to influence one entire side of the political spectrum. It is usually very undemocratic and wrong when it is the other way around and one political party is influence a media network, but here we have the media network influence the political party.

    FOX and Murdoch are destroying and distorting democracy in this country.

    • ottovbvs

      FOX and Murdoch are destroying and distorting democracy in this country.

      Berlusconi-ism without the Bunga Bunga parties.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    otto, here is what he said: “I applaud Rep. Paul Ryan for recognizing the looming financial crisis that faces our nation and for the creative and bold thinking that he brings to the debate. He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control. Anyone who has read my book knows that we are on the same page.”

    He said absolutely nothing. And my point is that if Corwin loses this will satisfy the Republican base. Later on he will come out with his own plan which he will promise is in the spirit of the Ryan plan but won’t be. In other words, he will be classic Romney, he will talk out of both sides of his mouth. And again, people will buy it because they know if they stick with Ryan they will be doomed (if Corwin loses because of Ryan non-care)

    • ottovbvs

      He said absolutely nothing.

      The problem of course is that he’s not going to be allowed to get away with saying nothing. This answer postively invites a supplementary….. Er yes Mr Romney but do you or do you not agree with congressman Ryan’s plan for ending Medicare….or…So you and Representative Ryan are on the sme page and you agree that Medicare in it’s present form needs to be scrapped.

      ADDENDUM. As another thought on this subject. Imagine him giving this answer in a debate with Obama, he’d ridicule him.

  • Carney

    The day of Mitt Romney’s make-or-break health care speech I watched the most-watched program in cable news for the last decade: The O’Reilly Factor.

    The show covered the event by having Laura Ingraham (rather than an actual credible expert on health care or even presidential politics) as the sole guest, who focused solely on horse-race, political motivations, presuming a priori that “RomneyCare” is not merely a political but a policy disaster, and expressing regret that Romney had not repudiated it root and branch. O’Reilly, who can often be a searching questioner of conservative guests and can ask pointed questions from a liberal perspective when he wants to, challenged her vapidity not at all.

    No mention whatsoever of the substance of Romney’s speech. No mention of the “free rider problem” that Romney described (of people who could afford health insurance refusing to buy it in the knowledge that illness or injury will be treated for free at the ER), of the two other options Romney rejected (of retaining the status quo or permitting hospitals to refuse indigent / uninsured patients – as he mentioned the latter is illegal under federal law anyway), or any of the many ways Romney correctly described his approach as being different from Obama.

    It was infuriatingly irresponsible, shallow, and misleading.

    Even worse was to come a few days later, when they had on Gingrich on Greta van Susteren’s show to explain his “right wing social engineering” remark re the Ryan Plan. As Gingrich tried to get across that he had not applied that label to the Ryan Plan itself but rather to David Gregory’s hypothetical scenario of an effort to ram the plan through against the wishes of the public that would have grown hostile to it for whatever reason, Fox slapped big white text on the screen under Gingrich’s face (not the constant “crawl” at the bottom of the screen either, but bigger text above the crawl): “Gingrich Calls Ryan Plan “Right-Wing Social Engineering”. Basically calling him a flat out liar and undermining what he was trying to say, even shouting him down in a way, as he spoke. Totally outrageous.

    • ottovbvs

      I watched the most-watched program in cable news for the last decade: The O’Reilly Factor.

      What a surprise. Carney is part of O’Reilly’s reliable viewership of around 2-2.5 million.

      It was infuriatingly irresponsible, shallow, and misleading.

      Apparently the nature of O’Reilly’s show comes as surprise to Carney.

    • armstp

      Carney,

      What I would like to hear from O’Reilly and Ingraham is what is their problem with “Romneycare”?

      I would love to hear them explain that simple question. I would frankly like to hear any “conservative” on this FF website explain to us what the problem with “Romneycare” is?

      The reform got almost every single person in the state health insurance and only added less than 1% to the state budget.

      I would bet these morons on FOX do not even know what they are arguing about and cannot even answer the most basic questions about what they argue.

      • ottovbvs

        I would bet these morons on FOX

        To be fair the folks who appear on Fox aren’t morons. They are in it for the money and know exactly what they are doing. Shaking down the suckers like Carney who tune in for their nonsense.

  • LFC

    Now Ailes is hunting for a more plausible presidential candidate. Yet his programming instincts over-ride everything. On talk radio and cable TV, confrontation sells.

    Reminds me of the movie “America’s Sweethearts”, in which anything that makes the news is viewed as good.

    Dave: [watching Eddie and Hector fight] Ooh! This is good! Hit him! Hit him!
    Lee: Who?
    Dave: Anybody!

  • ottovbvs

    As Gingrich tried to get across that he had not applied that label to the Ryan Plan itself but rather to Dick Gregory’s hypothetical scenario of an effort to ram the plan through against the wishes of the public

    Ramming it through? Would all but four Republican congressman voting for a plan that was opposed by every democrat qualify as hypothetical ramming it through in Carney language one wonders?

    • Carney

      “ObamaCare” was the first major piece of social-welfare legislation that was broadly unpopular at the time of its passage into law.

      Complain about the public being ignorant, or misled, or the wonderful benefits and features of the law if you like. The fact remains.

      • ottovbvs

        “ObamaCare” was the first major piece of social-welfare legislation that was broadly unpopular at the time of its passage into law.

        We’re not talking about the ACA but made to look ridiculous Carney changes the subject. And he even lies about that. Medicaid was decidely unpopular when it was passed.

        • Carney

          All right, to directly answer your question, it might, but that would depend on the national mood, and the polled reaction to the Plan. It’s highly unlikely that these days either party would vote for the other party’s major legislative initiative, so failing to line up major support on the other side of the aisle does not really constitute “ramming” or if it does not nearly as much as when public opinion is as against it as it was ObamaCare.

          I was unaware of the unpopularity of Medicaid when it was enacted. Source?

  • Deep South Populist

    Ottovbs,

    The difference between me and you on this issue is that I am willing to admit Fox News is biased while you refuse to admit the truth of the reverse — that non-Fox News media is just as biased.

    If you’d like, one could start from where we are now identifying obviously biased journalists in the non-Fox Media, and then work backwards each decade until we get to Walter Duranty and their other forerunners.

    For example, do you really expect people to believe that Brit Hume is biased while George Stephanopolos, Bill Clinton’s ex-commucation director, provides neutral, balanced analysis from atop the ABC news division? ABC is not Fox.

    • armstp

      DSP,

      The problem with people like you who claim the MSM is “liberal” is that you have a very broad definition of liberal, that basically incapsulated all kinds of stuff. Your definition of liberal is basically anything that you do not believe in.

      The difference with FOX is that they actively promote a political party. I do not know any other network that does that. Even MSNBC does not. Sure they have some very “liberal” opinion shows at night (4 hours), but they also have the right-leaning Joe Scarborough for 3 hours every morning. I would like to see FOX News have three hours of a “liberal” show every morning. The MSNBC opinion shows have also been about the most critical of Obama at times. I have rarely ever seen anyone on FOX be critical of their GOP buddies. In addition, the broader NBC family is very conservative. CNBC is entirely conservative and corporate NBC is not particularly liberal.

      • Deep South Populist

        armstp,

        I said non-Fox media is biased not liberal. I take everything on Fox News with as much salt as I take anything else.

    • ottovbvs

      The difference between me and you on this issue is that I am willing to admit Fox News is biased while you refuse to admit the truth of the reverse — that non-Fox News media is just as biased.

      No, the difference is I’m in contact with reality whereas you’re just trotting out Republican boilerplate that’s been a commonplace since at least the time of Nixon. You accuse Stephanopolous of being biassed but that’s just another smear. Would you like to provide some examples of where he’s shown blatant bias against Republicans at ABC whereas Hume was notorious for his biassed reporting (as you admit). The fact you had to dredge up Duranty from 60-70 years ago provides ample evidence of the weakness of your argument.

      • Deep South Populist

        What you call the “Nixon boilerplate” which itself is a boilerplate response was a collection legitimate complaints by Nixon of unfair coverage.

        • ottovbvs

          Yeah the media got Nixon completely wrong. The only president ever forced to resign from office.

    • Watusie

      DSP, the difference between you and everyone else is that your position is simply indefensible.

      Here is a thoroughly researched and lovingly detailed report of the bias at FOX News – and it just begins to scratch the surface.
      http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1067

      Now then – where is your evidence for George Stephanopolos’ bias, and its official sanction from the top brass at ABC?

      • Deep South Populist

        You mean other than he oversaw communications and messaging for a Democrat president?

        • ottovbvs

          You mean other than he wrote speeches for a Democrat president?

          Was he employed by ABC when he was writing these speeches? Of course you can produce zero evidence to back up your assertion so invent stuff. Have you ever noticed DSP invents stuff? According to your logic Bob Gates and John Huntsman are closet Democrats.

          UPDATE: now DSP changes the wording on me, he can’t even keep his inventions straight.

        • Watusie

          Put up or shut up.

      • ottovbvs

        To be fair DSP admits Fox is completely biassed, you’d have be fairly stupid to deny it, the problem arises from his claim that the rest of the media is biassed against Republicans when in fact it bends over backwards to practice equivalence no matter how looney the Republican propositions being advanced. For example a few weeks back they gave a lot of airtime to Ryan and I never saw a single serious challenge to his assumptions or numbers which were largely bunk and some of which were withdrawn within hours.

      • Carney

        Spend a little time at the Media Research Center.

        Along with highlighting individual stories they do bread and butter research like comparing minutes of favorable vs. unfavorable stories given to GOP vs. Dem prez nominees, frequency of use of terms like far right vs. far left, willingness to prominently (or at all) mention the party of politicians caught in scandal, surveys of the political opinions and votes of journalists, etc.

        It’s pretty overwhelming. And the Dems smugly know it too. That’s why Obama himself addressed them at the WH Correspondents’ Dinner, saying “You all voted for me.”

        • armstp

          Carney,

          Are you joking? The Media Research Center run by L. Brent Bozell III?

          That website is a joke. That guy has no credibility. His sites have no crediblity. He is just another smear professional on the far-right.

          “According to Media Transparency, Bozell helped orchestrate the smear campaign directed at the opposition to Clarence Thomas’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 1991. During the 2004 elections Bozell launched a 2.8 million dollar campaign to discredit[6] the “liberal media”.

          Bozell’s August 29, 2004, column[7] on the eve of the Republican National Convention attempted to smear John Kerry by accusing him of “soldier-smearing”, for having reported, during his 1971 Congressional testimony, on atrocities being committed in Vietnam.”

          “The Media Research Center provides Bozell with a platform from which to bash the arts and popular culture. Recently (1996) Bozell has been part of the drive to eradicate PBS.”

          He is just another unethical swift-boater. He does no credible research and just makes stuff up.

          The MRC and Liberal Media Bias: Creating Their Own Enemy

          It’s an Orwellian irony: Conservative pundits can only justify their overwhelming domination of the news media if they can prove that Liberal Media Bias exists. Right-wingers need not present an opposing point of view as long as Liberal Media Bias ensures that left-wing thought is well represented.

          Fox balances ABC. Rush balances CBS. The Wall St. Journal balances NBC. It’s only fair – but only if you can prove that Liberal Media Bias is alive and well.

          Enter the Media Research Center, Brent Bozell’s media hit squad for the right, running on a healthy dose of Scaife money and lucre from other conservative cash cows. Bozell (Bill Buckley’s nephew) has been charged with what may be the most important job in conservative circles ­ verifying that Liberal Media Bias exists, and therefore vindicating the overwhelming amount of conservative punditry that we are subjected to daily.

          How does MRC do it? Their website is full of the old conservative standbys: anecdotes about biased journalists, particularly those of the TV-celebrity type; quotes taken out of context purporting to show Liberal Media Bias; silly “Viewer Polls” that are designed to show off the good common sense of MRC acolytes.

          But MRC also loves to put a pseudo-scientific patina on their findings. Thanks to the Nexis news database, MRC can gather “data” that they can then “analyze” using strict “methodologies” that lead to “objective” conclusions about the media.

          MRC’s latest study is draped in this pretense of scholarship. “Burying the Liberal Label on Network News” (released last week) revels in its methodological soundness; apparently, we are supposed to be impressed by the academic tone of the study. Right-wing pundits will undoubtedly quote it ad nauseum over the next several months.

          On closer inspection, however, this report does nothing more than expose MRC’s talent for partisan sophistry and sloppy research.

          At the beginning of “Burying the Liberal Label,” MRC juxtaposes their past work against a study by Stanford linguist Geoffrey Nunberg. Nunberg was compelled to take a look at the media after reading Bernard Goldberg’s “Bias,” a book MRC lauds for its exposure of liberal tendencies in network television news.

          Nunberg compared the total number of times that a politician’s name was used in several different newspapers to the number of times it was used near the label “conservative” or “liberal” (he admits that it was easier for him to check newspapers than network broadcasts, and that television may be different than newspapers, but probably not by much).

          To his surprise, liberal politicians were much more likely to be labeled than conservatives. This, of course, flies in the face of every bit of “research” the MRC has conducted.

          “Burying the Liberal Label” is essentially a rebuttal to Nunberg. But rather than follow his example and compare the number of times a politician is labeled to the number of times she is not, MRC instead decided to count up the total number of “liberal/conservative” labels on the three network evening newscasts.

          The results? Big surprise – a “conservative” label is used much more often than a “liberal” label: 992 to 247. Numerical proof that here must be Liberal Media Bias. Q.E.D. So there.

          By this logic, if Brent Bozell bought a new fishing pole, took it down to the lake, and caught three bass and one sunny, he would say that the pole was three times more biased toward catching bass. It wouldn¹t occur to him that maybe there were more bass in the lake.

          A much more plausible explanation for the greater use of the “conservative” label would be that conservatives get a lot more airtime on the networks than liberals do. In fact, Nunberg’s study suggests just this: his five liberal politicians got considerably fewer mentions, even in “liberal” newspapers, than his five conservatives did.

          Is this proof of Conservative Media Bias? Of course not; it only shows that the numbers game MRC plays is rigged to give them the results that they and their funders want.

          But even if we accept MRC’s goofy premise, this study fails on its own terms. The MRC’s methodology has holes large enough to drive a newsvan through.

          To massage the data for “Burying the Liberal Label,” MRC winnowed down the number of uses to only those it deemed relevant to the study. Most of the “methodology” involved selecting which labels should stay or go.

          For example, MRC eliminated all uses of the labels that are not “Swithin the U.S. political context.” Time out ­ why do all of those get eliminated? I can understand removing a description of “a deeply conservative Islamist,” but what about a label of, say, Tony Blair as a “liberal”? There are plenty of Western world leaders whose labeling should be relevant to this study.

          Next, the study removed all uses of labels by “news sources.” If, for example, a reporter repeats that a Republican calls a Democrat a “liberal,” that doesn¹t count.

          But why not? The reporter is using editorial license to make her point. If she uses the quote, and then calls the Republican a “conservative,” she gets dinged for using a conservative label but not for using a liberal one. She wouldn¹t repeat the label for the Democrat ­ it’s already been used. Why doesn¹t MRC believe that editorial bias is relevant?

          It gets sloppier. MRC also doesn¹t count sound bites, where a politician can label himself or someone else. So a network can choose to run a string of clips with Republicans calling Democrats “tax-and-spend liberals,” and not get dinged, but if they describe Bush as a “compassionate conservative,” they¹re showing bias.

          All of this methodological madness, however, is not nearly as bad as the premise on which the study is based. The use of the word “conservative” more often than the word “liberal” in no way betrays Liberal Media Bias.

          During the five years of the study, conservatives dominated the Congress and won (sorry, stole) a presidential election. Conservatives have increasingly commanded the political debate in this country. Republicans proudly identify themselves as “conservatives”; Democrats shy away from being labeled “liberals.” All of these factors contribute to the increased use of the “conservative” label in newscasts.

          In fact, the overwhelming use of the word “conservative” on the nightly news suggests quite the opposite of Liberal Media Bias. Conservatives are setting the agenda and getting the lion’s share of the face-time. Liberals have been pushed off to the side, unable to make their case to the public. The right has taken over the mainstream.

          But don¹t tell that Brent Bozell. He’s getting paid to point out the enemy ­ even if he has to create one out of cooked numbers.

          .

          And Bozell’s other organization the Parents Television Council (PTC):

          TV Watchdog Apologizes for False Claims On Wrestling

          The Parents Television Council (PTC), created and run by Bozell, has been forced to pay $3.5 million to the WWF, for falsely claiming that televised wrestling was responsible for the deaths of four children

        • Carney

          armstp, a predictable, knee-jerk “eek Bozell’s a conservative, therefore I will shield my mind from all information he presents” reaction. Racing off to Google up a convenient hit piece on Bozell so you can relax and have an excuse to ignore him is not research, and not actually considering the other side’s criticisms.

          As if David Brock were any more credible.

          But that’s well in tune with your long long history of vitriol, cheap shots, and low-class behavior on this forum.

        • armstp

          Carney,

          No, it is more than a “knee-jerk reaction”. Bozell is a well known total scumbag. He is the same as Breitbart. Another slippery snake that trades in garbage.

          Bozell’s “research” methodology on his site is a sham. Proven over and over again to be a fraud. That website and Bozell have no crediblity.

          David Brock is much more credible. All Brock does is use the actual video, audio, spoken and written comments by conservatives and FOX against them to show their BS in their own words. Brock just uses the conservatives own language against them. Holds them accountable. Bozell just makes stuff up.

          Bozell is also associated with actually causes like the Catholic league and his BS family organizations. He is a total activist and swift boater. He has an axe to grind on very specific issues.

  • Carney

    If Ailes throws Fox beyond a credible opponent

    I assume what Frum meant to say here was “behind a credible opponent”…

  • Carney

    I remember wishing during the Rather-Jennings-Brokaw era that Fox would complete its journey to being a full-fledged broadcast TV network by having a half hour US/world news show on its free over the air broadcast Fox channels, anchored by Brit Hume to directly compete with the other three. It would have been really useful.

    I guess the profits of Simpsons and Seinfeld reruns were too big, though. Frustrating.

    • ottovbvs

      I remember wishing during the Rather-Jennings-Brokaw era that Fox would complete its journey to being a full-fledged broadcast TV network

      It’s very simple Carney. There are only around 3 million rubes willing to tune in regularly for a diet of right wing propaganda. It’s called the business model. Those who tune in to watch the Simpsons are rapidly going to switch off when Barnes or O’Reilly appears and might not come back.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Carney, hypothetical scenerio? What hypothetical scenerio do you imagine that Gregory was talking about? Only a fool would have not known he was referring to the very not hypothetical Ryan plan. Of course Gingrich lied afterwards. Personally I absolutely agreed with Gingrich, that a voluntary program initially is the way to go. The Ryan plan is right wing social engineering, Obamacare is slightly to the left social engineering. I mean, damn, that is the whole freaking point of having laws, to engineer society.

    • Carney

      Again, he was talking about the Ryan Plan being imposed on an America that had come to oppose it. He was putting Gingrich on the spot, asking Gingrich, what if the Democrats “town hall” the Ryan Plan the way the GOP did to “ObamaCare” in August 09 and make it unpopular? Will the GOP still ram it through? If so wouldn’t that be hypocritical?

      • ottovbvs

        the way the GOP did to “ObamaCare” in August 09 and make it unpopular?

        Freudian slip there Carney. You just admitted the Republicans demagogued Obama’s ACA to make it unpopular rather than allow a proper accounting of its merits.

        • Carney

          That was Gregory’s implied premise.

        • ottovbvs

          what if the Democrats “town hall” the Ryan Plan the way the GOP did to “ObamaCare” in August 09 and make it unpopular?

          So now you’re reading Gregory’s mind and treating it as fact?

  • PracticalGirl

    Ailes and Fox have also formed some very unhealthy relationships within the talk radio world outside of Fox radio. They (look into Bill Shine’s relationships and efforts) have spent years successfully stoking the rabid crazy within TR as a cross-promotive and vertical marketing vehicle for their programming.

    Even if they did decide to get behind Romney and even if they could get the Fox television audiences to accept this, they’ve had a concerted effort over a decade to create the underlying crazy of a TR audience that is 40 million strong and in no mood for reason. Think I’m wrong? Look to 2008. Fox was HAPPY to have their personalities and even their news people go on national TR shows to pump the crazy, which included anti-McCain rhetoric (McAmnesty etc). When McCain became the eventual nominee, Fox News programming and personalities quickly came into line. Talk radio- zealous and heady in their participation with Fox’s particular programming- had already done its damage, though, and their audiences just didn’t take to the “counter programming”.

    Ailes is exactly like the GOP he’s helped to foster: Absolutely NO forward thought past ratings and popularity polls. Each election, their zest for the combative and controversial made it impossible for their most qualified candidates to either win the nomination or even get into the race- read “Mitch Daniels” this year. They all are simply reaping what they’ve sewn, and I can’t even cry crocodile tears.

    Ailes should resign as a complete failure. He took the Fox News stated business model- to provide a counter to MSM that would highlight conservative principles- and bastardized what “conservative” means to the masses today.

  • Graychin

    “If Ailes throws Fox beyond a credible opponent, say Tim Pawlenty….”

    Huh?

  • ottovbvs

    Get real guys. Fox News business model is aimed at rubes on the right like Carney. They tacitly admitted it in the early days in the 90′s. They can generate a nightly audience of around 3 million of these folks which will produce a certain level of ad revenue. It’s the same business model that sustains right wing publishing and provides $100,000 speaking fees for Palin and Bush.

  • CentristNYer

    Deep South Populist // May 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    “… you refuse to admit the truth of the reverse — that non-Fox News media is just as biased.”

    Just as biased? Really? Seriously?

    Can you name any news outlet other than Fox that has employed — and groomed — a half dozen likely presidential candidates from a single party?

    Can you tell me who Fox’s equivalent is to Joe Scarborough (ie, someone from the “other side” who gets three hours of programming every day)?

    Can you tell me which news network ceaselessly blurs the line between opinion journalism and “news” as much as Fox does?

    Can you name any other news network run by a former political operative, a la Roger Ailes?

    Can you find any quotes from the head of CNN or MSNBC or any other news outlet excoriating “the other side,” tacitly acknowledging that they run a partisan operation, as Ailes did earlier this year?

    Get your head out of the bubble, DSP.

    • ottovbvs

      Get your head out of the bubble, DSP.

      That’s where it is? I thought it was somewhere more rectal.

    • Carney

      Can you name any news outlet other than Fox that has employed — and groomed — a half dozen likely presidential candidates from a single party?

      You’ve got a point there.

      Can you tell me who Fox’s equivalent is to Joe Scarborough (ie, someone from the “other side” who gets three hours of programming every day)?

      Can’t match that either, other than to say that Shep Smith is pretty apparently left of center, Juan Williams is no conservative (and often subs for O’Reilly), and Alan Colmes was Hannity’s co-host for years and still has his own radio show on Fox. Not a perfect match I’ll grant.

      Can you tell me which news network ceaselessly blurs the line between opinion journalism and “news” as much as Fox does?

      MSNBC went pretty much all in with Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Ed Schultz. More broadly, the right complained for decades, long before Fox News, that the entire establishment media did just that. That supposed news stories were thinly veiled left-of-center advocacy efforts. You simply ignore decades of literature and examples on this. Life existed before the web and its attacks on talk radio and FNC.

      Can you name any other news network run by a former political operative, a la Roger Ailes?

      There’s a major revolving door between journalism and left-of-center politics, as well as a comfortable confluence of viewpoints.

      Can you find any quotes from the head of CNN or MSNBC or any other news outlet excoriating “the other side,” tacitly acknowledging that they run a partisan operation, as Ailes did earlier this year?

      Carefully phrased question. Occasionally establishment media major figures will admit the truth.

      http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2004/cyb20040712.asp#1

      —-

      Recognition of the obvious. The media “wants Kerry to win” and so “they’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic” and “there’s going to be this glow about” them, Evan Thomas, the Assistant Managing Editor of Newsweek, admitted on Inside Washington over the weekend. He should know. His magazine this week sports a smiling Kerry and Edwards on its cover with the yearning headline, “The Sunshine Boys?” Inside, an article carrying Thomas’ byline contrasted how “Dick Cheney projects the bleakness of a Wyoming winter, while John Edwards always appears to be strolling in the Carolina sunshine.” The cover story touted how Kerry and Edwards “became a buddy-buddy act, hugging and whispering like Starsky and Hutch after consuming the evidence.”

      Newsweek’s competitor, Time, also gushed about the Democratic ticket, dubbing them, in the headline over their story, “The Gleam Team.”

      Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz also realized the media’s championing of the Democratic ticket and made it a focus of his Sunday Reliable Sources show on CNN. The on screen topic cues: “Edwards Lovefest?” and “Media’s Dream Team.”

      —-

      Also, http://www.aim.org/media-monitor/media-admit-anti-bush-bias/

      • think4yourself

        Carney, I may not always agree with you, but those were well reasoned responses.

  • ottovbvs

    DSP:

    Another blatant example of Democratic bias by the main stream media?

    http://www.frumforum.com/steele-joins-msnbc#respond

    • CentristNYer

      Yes, I was going to point this out, too.

      Hey, DSP — when do you think Fox News is going to give Howard Dean a forum?

      • ottovbvs

        Have these people no critical faculties whatsoever? How do they go about buying a car? I’m the first to recognize the Democratic party has its foibles, it tends to defend its constituencies like school teachers and so forth but they are not totally delusional. Today’s GOP is in la la land for most of the time and people like Carney and DSP are totally bought into the fantasy.

        • Watusie

          “How do they go about buying a car?”
          They roll up, say “give me the biggest thing thing you’ve got, and be sure to hang one of them there giant fake ball sacks off the the trailer hitch”.

        • Carney

          But you’d explode in moral indignation about stereotypes about core Democrat base voters, especially racial stereotypes.

        • Watusie

          Carney, let me state categorically that I do not think that the lack of critical faculties exhibited by you and DSP has anything to do with your respective races, whatever they may be.

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    Ailes is going to back whoever the eventual GOP nominee is, even Romney. He won’t stay “unreconciled” in a general election pitting Mitt Romney against the President.

    Roger Ailes’s pandering to the JBS/Christianist/Teahadist fringe right is probably not something he can absolve himself of, and thankfully so. No one should be allowed to escape resonsiblity for making such recklessly poor decisions as giving prime time cable slots to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin — decisions which have come entirely at the expense of our public dialogue, cheapening and coarsening it to an almost fantastic degree. When unemployment drops below seven percent, and growth exceeds three– when the populist fervor finally subsides, and the sane elements on the right emerge to vanquish the nutcases– Ailes and Co. are going to find themselves consigned to the loney margins, where they belong. They’ll get no quarter from people like Hunstman, Scott Brown, Rob McKenna, et al.

  • ottovbvs

    But you’d explode in moral indignation about stereotypes about core Democrat base voters, especially racial stereotypes.

    I’m not into moral indignation but your startling obtuseness when it comes to value judgements is not without interest as an example human psychology. The sequence of events surrounding your story about O’Reilly is very funny but you’re completely unable to understand its humorous implications. Then you have to resort to dishonesty to justify yourself. 90% of the stuff at 4.50 is half truths, lies and evasions. Stand by for links to other credible source like Breitbart. It’s all a clear demo of your inability to make value judgements.

  • Deep South Populist

    Obama tapped Jay Carney for one of the most high profile and vital positions in any President’s administration. Jay Carney formerly held a prominent position in Time magazine’s news division. He was I believe the Washington DC bureau chief. Jay Carney is another example of an incestuous relationship between a non-Fox News media figure and the Democrats.

    I have already mentioned George Stephanopolos at ABC. This was his job when he worked for Bill Clinton.

    responsible for developing and promoting the agenda of the President and leading its media campaign. The director, along with his or her staff, works on speeches such as the inaugural address and the State of the Union Address. The Communications Director is usually given an office in the West Wing of the White House.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_House_Communications_Director

    • ottovbvs

      I have already mentioned George Stephanopolos at ABC. This was his job when he worked for Bill Clinton.

      Which doesn’t mean a thing. You still haven’t produced a scintilla of evidence of bias by Stephanopolous in his ABC job. Essentially it’s guilt by association. So by this measure Clarence Thomas is guilty of blatant conflict of interest because he’s married to a conservative activist and marriage is an infinitely closer relationship than employment. And having smeared George you now smear Jay. Can you produce one piece of evidence of bias against Republicans by Carney when he was at Time. No of course not because you’re inventing stuff. I’m quite prepared to recognize that the typical journalist is likely to more open minded than a Republican zealot (for much the same reasons 94% of scientists are Democrats)but the vast majority of these people are professionals quite able to separate their job from their political beliefs rather as army officers who are usually conservative are expected to do their jobs apolitically.

  • gmckee1985

    Who cares about Roger Ailes? Cable news is watched by a very small % of the population on a regular basis.

    • armstp

      But, there is a huge multiplier effect that come from cable news, particularly FOX News. FOX created the clueless Tea Baggers. In addition, FOX has huge influence on GOP politicians, as FOX controls the GOP base.

  • anniemargret

    David Frum just admitted something on this site….that Fox News is the right arm of the GOP. Of course most people already know that.

    How terrible is it that the 4th estate has now succumbed to blatant, in your face, political posture? Not even a mini-shred of ‘fair and balanced.’ Does Fox have a liberal voice, one that is earnest and fair? Intelligent? I don’t know. I stopped watching Fox years ago when Neil Cavuto and Bill O’Reilly wagged their fingers at the camera warning every American to ‘support the Iraq war” or be labeled anti-American.

    I left it for good after that.

    Fox News has to be considered one of the more influential, but damaging entities in this country. It has contributed to stupidity and provincial outlooks, a dangerous combination in a global community. Just when we need Americans to become more serious and more wise, we get Fox to keep the masses dumbed down…. ratings are more important.

    A pox on them!

  • Hugo de Toronja

    Why do conservative intellectuals pretend to “respect” religion, or feign passing interest in it?

    Given that Beck, Romney, and, perhaps even more intriguingly, Jon Huntsman, are all Mormon, you’d think that allegedly religion-respecting conservative intellectuals would take at least a passing interest in the fact that three of the names looming largest on the Republican horizon belong to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    It’s worth noting that even hardcore right-wing LDS were *never* comfortable with Beck’s histrionics and fear-mongering, not to mention his libertarian live-and-let-live stance on gay marriage.

    Even hardcore right-wing LDS, who might politically agree with Karl Rove on a great many issues, remember how easy it was for “populist” sentiment to welcome all manner of vulgar anti-Mormon imaginings. And even hardcore right-wing LDS are aware of just how quickly the term “minority” can become synonymous with “victim,” especially in South Carolina.

    It’s also worth noting that while the big players among the U.S. intelligence-gathering establishment have, since the advent of the Cold War, deliberately and unreservedly recruited Mormons to fill their ranks, the big players in U.S. national partisan politics have tended to regard Mormons as marginally less bankable than Jews.

    A great deal is going on right now. And all of it’s going on right out in the open.

    Were you to pay any attention to mainstream LDS media, you’d learn that there are a lot of right-wing Republican-leaning LDS who want to either play down or jettison the more arresting particularisms of LDS doctrine and practice in order to make themselves and the LDS Church more palatable to the Protestant fundamentalists and evangelicals who have so much influence on the GOP’s ethos and direction.

    And there are a lot of right-wing Republican-leaning LDS who are more faithful to LDS doctrine and practice than they are to partisan politics, and who wish, sincerely, with all their hearts, that somehow, some way, that the LDS faith and Church might escape being dragged through the mud by those elements within the GOP who will stop at nothing to court “populist” sentiment and pander to the less charitable reflexes within the Protestant fundamentalist and evangelical masses.

    These are the delicious ironies:

    Beck, a Mormon, with his screaming and weeping and valorization of paranoia and conspiracy, has fostered attitudes and feelings within his target audience that make them particularly inhospitable to Mormon political candidates.

    And Aisles, with his multi-million dollar effort to promote a political climate that nurtures inchoate hysteria and knee-jerk paranoia, has created a political climate passionately predisposed to rejecting Mormon political candidates who, by simply being Mormon, are exquisitely vulnerable to the sort of inchoate hysteria and knee-jerk paranoia that Aisles has made so easy to arouse.

    There was a very good reason why the Founding Fathers were so “sensitive” about religion’s role in the public sphere. A lot of their being “sensitive” had to do with the centuries of religion-related bloodshed that had made Europe, and England, hell on earth for many, many millions of people.

  • ottovbvs

    Romney’s mormonism will be an issue for many. It’s of no interest to me but for many it’s essentially a cult not substantially different from Scientology or Jehovah’s Witnesses. I want none of them spoiling the calm of a sunday afternoon by appearing at my door.

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