Conventional wisdom is that attacking Fox News does little for the Obama administration. It energizes about one-fifth of the population, let alone Fox CEO Roger Ailes and owner Rupert Murdoch. It’s not just to play to Obama’s base.
The Obama guys are smart. What is the thinking behind their attacks?
Pat Buchanan highlighted a truth the mainstream media is loathed to promote: They are culpable to pressure to emphasize conservative views.
“I know when we hit the New York Times, for example, in the 60s, all of sudden they blossomed with an op-ed page that had some conservatives on it and had conservative voices on it, and all the other newspapers did as well,” [said Pat Buchanan on the Chris Matthews show yesterday about his efforts while in the Nixon administration].
Whether that kind of public admonishment would work against conservative media such as Fox News is debatable. I can’t imagine Rupert Murdoch caving to this kind of pressure from the Obama administration.
During the segment below, Matthews made the claim that Fox has journalists who do not reflect an agenda in their reporting. He cited specifically Major Garrett, Shepherd Smith and Britt Hume. I don’t know much about Garrett’s or Smith’s reporting. It’s hard not to see Hume as biased, however, despite his past as a reporter. In any case, if some of these more objective journalists feel frozen out, their only choice will likely be to find another job.
But despite the comments coming from the White House, David Axelrod said the administration would continue to appear on their shows. He didn’t say which.
While Buchanan defended the administration’s right to attack Fox, he said in this case it would be counterproductive. He also made this comment about his efforts against the New York Times, “We did it out of necessity, not out of some kind of planning.” I’m not sure what that means. It may be that Obama thinks it is necessary to reign in Fox News.
A more plausible reason is to send a warning shot to mainstream media: If you start bloviating against me, I’ll freeze you out, or at least disparage you publicly. Journalists live and die for access.
But I suspect that the real message is this: Fox can say whatever it wants, but we’re tired of the MSM picking up every charge Fox makes and taking it seriously.
For example, the death panels. Because they can get hundreds of people to show up making an absurd charge doesn’t mean the MSM should give it credence by covering it all out of proportion. The recent announcement by the editor of The Washington Post that it would more carefully monitor Fox and right-wing talk radio to make sure their views are reflected in The Post’s coverage is disturbing. What that means, of course, is that if an outlet has the backing of large enough caches of cash to make noise, their views are examined.
Much of the August town hall meeting shenanigans and a lot of the opposition to health care are fueled by very rich people. (The same can be said of liberal views, but I would suspect there is less money behind them.) But the lesson is clear. Find enough money to make a lot of public noise and your viewpoints are elevated, while those voices without access to cash are muted or ignored. I suspect that’s where the Obama administration may want a more level playing field. It's not a beanball thrown at Fox so much as it's a brush backpitch at MSM.