Fox Admits to CNN That It Traffics in Opinion Not News

After a brief but concerted challenge by the White House to the credibility of Fox News Channel as a legitimate news organization — including a detailed takedown by Communications Director Anita Dunn on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday — a spokesman for Fox responded with a de facto admission that the channel is nothing more than a propaganda arm of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

CNN described Fox’s statement this way: “In a written statement given to CNN, Fox News said its programming was comparable to the editorial page of a newspaper.”

The fact that Fox says its programming is based on opinions not facts would likely come as a shock to Fox viewers — but, of course, they’ll never know about it. Fox will protect them from this harsh reality the same way it deals with all news that makes conservatives look badly: by not covering it.

Here’s the statement by Fox to CNN:

“An increasing number of viewers are relying on Fox News for both news and opinion,” Fox News Senior VP Michael Clemente said in the statement, “and the average news consumer can certainly distinguish between the A-section of the newspaper and the editorial page, which is what our programming represents.

“So with all due respect to anyone who might still be confused about the difference between news reporting and vibrant opinion, my suggestion would be to talk about the stories and the facts rather than the [sic] attack the messenger . . . which over time has never worked.”

Not surprisingly, this statement from Fox was carefully crafted to obfuscate the truth from busy or hapless readers. Like the classic non-denial denial, it is a non-admission admission.

For example, it is true that “an increasing number of viewers are relying on Fox News for both news and opinion.” Only wrestling has a bigger cable audience than Fox, but its viewers are typical conservatives. They have been trained to distrust the mythical “liberal media,” so their only reference for what is news is the very same right-wing propaganda they have grown accustomed to on Fox.

Fortunately, only a minority of Americans are fooled by Fox’s chicanery. A poll in August found that among all Americans, Fox was considered trustworthy by just 35 percent, while 41 percent felt it was untrustworthy. Among Southerners, however, 46 percent believed Fox was trustworthy, compared with 27 percent in the Northeast and 33 percent in both the Midwest and the West.

It is also true, as the Fox VP says, that “the average news consumer can certainly distinguish between the A-section of the newspaper and the editorial page.” What he doesn’t say but surely knows is that Fox viewers are below-average news consumers. For one thing, Fox viewers appear not to have noticed that in its 13 years on the air, no reporter in Fox’s employ has ever broken a story.

In addition to be self-identified as conservative and therefore proudly ignorant, Fox viewers are predominantly elderly. A recent study by Magna Global that was reported in Variety found that “[among] ad-supported cable nets, the news nets (along with older-skewing Hallmark Channel, Golf Channel and GSN’s daytime sked) sport the most gray, with Fox News Channel’s daytime and primetime skeds the absolute oldest, clocking in with a median age above 65.” (Emphasis added.)

While there are certainly millions of senior Americans who are average and above-average news consumers, these discerning older viewers are, by definition, more likely to agree that Fox is not trustworthy. Elderly Fox viewers came up in the era when the three broadcast networks dominated the news, and are arguably more likely to be taken in. Fox calls itself a “news channel” and the sets and graphics look like a news broadcast, so what they are broadcasting must be news.

The Fox exec’s final assertion is particularly rich. He suggests that the White House should quit attacking Fox and “talk about the stories and the facts” — meaning: Fox would prefer it if the White House would get off the offensive and return to defending itself against Fox’s lies, spin and propaganda.

Can you say, “Uncle?”

How is this not Fox caving to the White House? Fox’s statement admitting that it is propaganda outlet came just hours after Anita Dunn from the White House made these assertions on CNN:

  • “If we went back a year ago to the fall of 2008, to the campaign, that was a time this country was in two wars that we had a financial collapse probably more significant than any financial collapse since the Great Depression. If you were a Fox News viewer in the fall election what you would have seen were that the biggest stories and the biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and a something called ACORN.”
  • “The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. And it is not ideological… what I think is fair to say about Fox, and the way we view it, is that it is more of a wing of the Republican Party.”
  • “Obviously [the President] will go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. He has done that before and he will do it again… when he goes on Fox he understands he is not going on it as a news network at this point. He is going on it to debate the opposition.”
  • “[Fox is] widely viewed as a part of the Republican Party: take their talking points and put them on the air, take their opposition research and put it on the air. And that’s fine. But let’s not pretend they’re a news organization like CNN is.”

And Dunn’s smackdown of Fox is a follow-up of the White House’s slap at Fox three weeks ago when the president chose to do all the Sunday political shows except Fox’s. When Fox complained, the White House responded:

“We figured Fox would rather show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ than broadcast an honest discussion about health insurance reform,” a White House deputy press secretary told ABC News on Saturday. “Fox is an ideological outlet where the president has been interviewed before and will likely be interviewed again; not that the whining particularly strengthens their case for participation any time soon.”

The White House is winning this battle. Let’s just hope they don’t back down.

On the other hand, don’t be surprised if Fox’s admission that it is a broadcast version of newspapers’ opinion pages is the most un-reported story of 2009.

35 Responses »

  1. Larry Page October 12, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

    If you can get that headline – and actually believe it – by the quote from Michael Clemente, then you really are a liberal bonehead.

  2. Harry Bosch October 12, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

    If you believe that Fox news actually traffics in news and not opinion, then you are a right wing moron.

  3. Quill46 October 12, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

    This article is comical satire at best, and pure desperate fiction at worst.
    Statements like this:

    “Not surprisingly, this statement from Fox was carefully crafted to obfuscate the truth from busy or hapless readers. Like the classic non-denial denial, it is a non-admission admission.”

    …of and which is laughable by itself, is of course a preface by Jon Ponder, into the rest of his article, which attempts to interpret the statement to fit his own distorted perspective.
    The letter was clear: FOX does both news and opinion, as most news agencies do. And, they have the well-placed sense to know their viewers understand the difference. Period.

    Twisting this into some far-fetched admission by FOX that their programming is purely opinion, not only calls into question Ponder’s credibility, but demonstrates the desperate lengths some will go in futile attempts to discredit their political targets.

    It’s pathetic.

  4. Rick Cain October 12, 2009 @ 11:46 pm

    The crazy thing about America is if you state the obvious on televison, CNN will debate ‘both sides’ to death about it.

    Its obvious Fox “News” is more like Fox Jazeera. Everybody knows its rightwing television masquerading as news, but like racism, nobody really wants to admit it.

  5. Jon October 13, 2009 @ 5:51 am

    Nice, Quill. You attacked me and my analysis without ever refuting the facts behind the story. What this says is that you don’t like the facts but you can’t deny (or you would have) the fundamental truth that Fox News does not traffic in news but rather is nothing more than the American right’s “Pravda.”

    Regarding Fox’s statement to CNN, Michael Kinsley once said that a gaffe in Washington is when someone accidentally tells the truth. In that light, I’ll stand with CNN’s analysis of the Fox statement: “In a written statement given to CNN, Fox News said its programming was comparable to the editorial page of a newspaper.”

  6. Nikolai October 13, 2009 @ 9:03 am

    Inevitably when someone tells me they “Like fox news” or, “I Watch fox news, because they tell it like it is.” I respond with, “No, it’s propaganda, and you probably watch it because it agrees with your own view.” I then challenge them to read the blogs, news, etc on the web, and educate themselves rather than have ANY “news channel” indoctrinate them. They usually don’t have an answer for this, except that they “Like the way fox presents the news”, to which I reply, “Yes, they have beautiful people, graphics and photography and a heck of a budget to sustain it all, but that’s about it. That and propaganda, that is. Then they don’t know what to say, and this is even among the more “moderate” republicans I know. It just shows to go you how much research and thought goes in their arguments.

  7. Gary Williams October 13, 2009 @ 11:51 am

    Well, lets see what thesocial psychologists and political scientists hae to say about the matter, shall we?

    “It appears that conservatism has pathological dimensions manifested in violence and distorted psycho-sexual development” (Boshier, R. (1983). Education inside: Motives for participation in prison education programmes. Vancouver: British Columbia University).

    This is supported by a study conducted by Walker, Rowe, and Quincey (Authoritarianism and sexual aggression. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 65(5), 1036-1045) in which there was a direct correlation between authoritarianism and sexually aggressive behavior.

    An investigation done by Muehlenhard (Misinterpreted dating behaviors and the risk of date rape. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 6(1), 2-37) revealed that rape justification and aggression toward subordinate individuals was much higher in traditional (conservative personality) than non-traditional personalities”

    “Conservatism is not the doctrine of the intellectual elite or of the more intelligent segments of the population, but the reverse. By every measure available to us, conservative beliefs are found most frequently among the uninformed, the poorly educated, and the less intelligent” (McClosky, Conservatism and personality. American Political Science Review, 52, 27-45)

    Oh dear…. Not looking very good so far, is it? Perhaps Altemeyer, a man who has been studying conservative/authoritarian behaviour for decades has to say on the matter. Surely he’ll straighten out the this terrible blasphemy.

    “The studies explain so much about these people. Yes, the research shows they are very aggressive, but why are they so hostile? Yes, experiments show they are almost totally uninfluenced by reasoning and evidence, but why are they so dogmatic? Yes, studies show the Religious Right has more than its fair share of hypocrites, from top to bottom; but why are they two-faced, and how come one face never notices the other? Yes, their leaders can give the flimsiest of excuses and even outright lies about things they’ve done wrong, but why do the rank-and-file believe them? What happens when authoritarian followers find the authoritarian leaders they crave and start marching together?”
    Dr. Robert Alltemeyer – The Authoritarians
    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

    Hmm. Well what about the USAs own scientists working for the DHS counter-terrorism section?

    “A meta-analysis (88 samples, 12 countries, 22,818 cases) confirms that several psychological variables predict political conservatism: death anxiety (weighted mean r  .50); system instability (.47); dogmatism–intolerance of ambiguity (.34); openness to experience (–.32); uncertainty tolerance (–.27); needs for order, structure, and closure (.26); integrative complexity (–.20); fear of threat and loss (.18); and self-esteem (–.09). The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality and is motivated by needs that vary situationally and dispositionally to manage uncertainty and threat.”
    http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/jost.glaser.political-conservatism-as-motivated-social-cog.pdf

    Seems pretty clear to me that the vaunted “liberal media” could be much harder on conservatism than they presently are….that is if in fact it ever really existed, with the above factual data strongly suggesting that this too was merely another conservative myth thrown up as a means of protecting themselves from the truth of what miserable little creatures they truly are.

  8. mark October 14, 2009 @ 4:12 am

    How many ways does someone have to say that fox is an opinion channel before the unintelligent get it? Murdoch even stated he purposely started the channel to present a right slant to the news. Too bad he never reports much news, but has a bunch of loud mouths spewing stupidity. Hmm, sounds just like most clear channel radio stations too.

  9. Shane October 14, 2009 @ 10:51 am

    “An increasing number of viewers are relying on Fox News for both news and opinion,” BOTH news and opinion… your title doesn’t suggest that.

    Let me guess..Rachael Maddow and Keith Olbermann are not opinion shows.

    I also love this statement, ” Fortunately, only a minority of Americans are fooled by Fox’s chicanery.” Have you looked at the ratings? This article is a joke..I hope someone doesn’t pay you to write this.

  10. Shane October 14, 2009 @ 11:00 am

    Hey Nikolai, you sound like an idiot. Oh and it is “goes to show” not ” shows to go.”

  11. donquijoterocket October 14, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

    Shane: you realize those “ratings” are for cable news channels from a selective subset of Nielsen families who volunteer to have monitoring boxes and journal their viewing. pox noises’s overall viewers wouldn’t come close to the straight number for any one broadcast for Katie Couric and the CBS Evening News and in any event viewership does not automatically speak to quality or journalistic integrity.Too, there are a lot more Fords and Chevys on the road than Ferraris but I know which I’d rather have.

  12. RJ Gerber, Jr. October 14, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

    Shane,
    This really isn’t that hard to understand. Here’s the quote from the Fox exec:
    “An increasing number of viewers are relying on Fox News for both news and opinion,” Fox News Senior VP Michael Clemente said in the statement, “and the average news consumer can certainly distinguish between the A-section of the newspaper and the editorial page, which is what our programming represents.” I realize that this is half of the quote, but it is the salient half.
    Yes, I believe that the average news consumer CAN distinguish between the “A-section” (actual news), and the editorial page, which the Fox executive has stated is what Fox programming represents. He said it…I didn’t…
    For those with reading comprehension skills below the 4th grade level, the Fox executive outright stated, unequivocally, that Fox programming represents the editorial (or opinion) section of the news/opinion spectrum. It simply cannot be read, honestly, in any other fashion. It’s also one of the few times I’ve heard a scintilla of honesty from anyone having anything to do with the Fox Network…

  13. Shane October 14, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

    RJ Gerber, Jr,

    Exactly, that is why I don’t understand why it is so hard for you to get. Again, here is the quote:

    “An increasing number of viewers are relying on Fox News for both news and opinion,” Fox News Senior VP Michael Clemente said in the statement, “and the average news consumer can certainly distinguish between the A-section of the newspaper and the editorial page, which is what our programming represents.”

    What Mr. Clemente is saying is… Fox News represents both the A-section of the newspaper (news) and the editorial page (opinions). Read carefully… a light bulb should appear. He is referring to both – using what is called an analogy. If he would have just said editorial and not A-section, I would have agreed with you.

  14. Shane October 14, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

    Hey Gary Williams, you really need to get laid.

  15. Felix October 14, 2009 @ 5:41 pm

    “An increasing number of viewers are relying on Fox News for both news and opinion,”

    Yes this is unfortunately true. That however is not a denial of the fact that saying a segment relies on Fox for something isn’t saying Fox actually provides something. To put a finer point on this:

    Fox provides opinion and opinionated news but ignorant people think it’s neutral, honest and trusted because it speaks to their fears and biases

  16. Shane October 14, 2009 @ 7:21 pm

    Felix,

    First you agree with the quote you posted, then you contradict yourself by saying: “Fox provides opinion and opinionated news.”

    Thanks for the “opinion”.. Felix..you know what they say about those..they are like assholes.

  17. Shane October 14, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

    donquijoterocket,

    Katie Couric and the CBS Evening News…hahaha….seriously. That doesn’t even deserve a response.

  18. Sconan October 15, 2009 @ 11:26 am

    Boy its not too hard to spot the Faux Noise fans in the comment section is it? LOL

  19. Shane October 15, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

    Sconan,

    I agree..we are the ones making sense.

  20. akorozco October 16, 2009 @ 7:20 am

    This blowback’s gonna be harsh. http://www.newsy.com/videos/white_house_takes_on_fox_news

  21. Lizinbklyn October 16, 2009 @ 8:31 am

    How many times has Sean Hannity said the ‘victim’ in the Jennings matter was a 15 yr. old minor after admitting that he saw his driver’s license indicating he was 16 yrs. old and of legal age?

    Is this opinion, deliberate lying or an attempt to sway his uninformed viewers to rely on his ‘expertise’?

  22. Dave October 16, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

    You have managed to dismiss our senior population as stupid and ignorant. You have dismissed the South is irrelevent and also proposed that Fox News has broken no stories in 13 years. I see that if you percieve that conservatism is not worthy to be even considered then you can excuse the liberal bias of the mainstream media.
    As far as breaking stories I submit the outing of Van Jones as a truther, the corruption rampant in ACORN and your own Anita Dunn naming Mao tse Tung as one she always goes to for inspiration. Mao tse Tung? A murderer of millions of his own people? Could she not find one of our own founding fathers to seek inspiration for being up against all odds of success?
    Are you deaf, dumb and blind?

  23. Jon October 18, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

    Shane – Fox says they’re an opinion channel. They’re telling the truth for once, so why are you arguing with them?

    Fox News gets big ratings because conservatives are generally half-wits who need someone to tell them what to think. Conversely, liberals generally prefer reading over watching TV and listening to the radio.

    Fox gets about 2 million viewers for O’Reilly and Beck on their better days. That’s less than 1 percent of the country, a tiny minority of Americans.

    Dave – Some kid with a flip cam broke the ACORN story. He was not on assignment from Fox or on its payroll. Signing one (1) petition calling for an investigation doesn’t make Van Jones a truther. I think it sucks that he was forced to quit over such a nothing-burger. For example, Randall Tobias, Bush’s Deputy Secretary of State, was forced to resign because he was caught on the DC Madam’s list. Prostitution is a crime. Van Jones didn’t break the law.

    Nobody cares who Anita Dunn admires. You only care about her because she dared to state the truth: that Fox is a fake news channel — but that’s not news either. Folks have been calling it the Faux News Channel for years.

    Note to conservatives: “Faux” is French for “fake.”

  24. Eagle November 12, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

    It is usually self-loathing whites in the company of minorities that put down Fox News in an attempt to garner street cred. “Hey, this White dude is all right!! He hates Fox News!”
    But in reality, these white liberals of privillage will put on the masqurade of “caring” for minorities but I find it strange that they always live in the lilly white parts of town while at the same time trying to force others to “integrate” and expousing the virtues of diversity. Maybe, its white guilt or an anemic attempt to atone for the Sins of thier Fathers. You know the slave owners and planation managers. We dont want your fake sympathy. We dont want your caring. We dont want you.
    The only one that truly cared was Mother Tersea. Now get back to watching Seinfeld and bad mouthing the Blacks that moved across the street from you.

  25. Eagle November 12, 2009 @ 4:36 pm

    “How many ways does someone have to say that fox is an opinion channel before the unintelligent get it? Murdoch even stated he purposely started the channel to present a right slant to the news.”

    Do you have a link about what Murdock said?

  26. Eagle November 12, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

    Liberals all over the nation are throwing temper tantrums because people refuse to watch thier shows or read thier papers. LOL
    Thats why they dont like Capitalism.

  27. Madison November 13, 2009 @ 8:32 am

    Eagle, thanks for living down to the stereotype that conservatives are racists and cannot spell.

  28. T Oliver January 13, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

    I really enjoyed Sarah Palin in her early porno work, it is hard for me follow her politics, cause she uses big words and stuff. Go Sarah Palin 2013!

  29. T Oliver January 13, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

    @Eagle”It is usually self-loathing whites in the company of minorities that put down Fox News in an attempt to garner street cred. “Hey, this White dude is all right!! He hates Fox News!”
    That is the most loaded, narcissistic, political statement I have read in awhile. I question your intentions and opinions in all that you do. What are you talking about? Are you drinking or on prescriptions?

    “The eagle has landed”, somewhere on the moon.

  30. Chavo February 4, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

    Liberalism is the belief in the importance of individual liberty.

    Leave it to the right wing, conservative (so-called) and Republicans to make make the word “liberal” into some sort of dirty, bad word or an insult. Even though the idea of free markets is in fact “economic liberalism.”

    The right have adopted the technique of the “big lie” Hitler described in his book “Mein Kampf.” Just tell a lie so “colossal” enough to distort the truth.

    That’s what “Fox News” stands for,

  31. Dean June 19, 2011 @ 8:07 pm

    Watching Fox News is like watching Professional Wrestling. You know its fake, but its still fun to watch!

  32. John Standberg April 9, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

    The article took a particular side of this argument (or arguments about Fox News) and did not feel the need to talk about other cable stations as it wasn’t relevant to the main point of the article. If you want to talk about Liberal Bias, go write your own blog articles about it. Bias exists on both sides, and one has to shift through all the opinions and pundits that lack full creditably to talk about many of issues on the day. The problem is, while one can usually separate fact from opinion, when it is weaved into news shows where bias occurs, it doesn’t give the average American much to formulate an opinion on when sample tampering and uneven support from guests on programs paint’s a situation worse than it actually is. That’s what gets programs on Fox News and MSNBC in trouble.

    If people pick up opinions that are biased on cable shows, blame it on two things. Blame the fact they’re too lazy to accumulate resources from other areas and blame the self-confirmation bias (i.e. I only listen to sources that agree with my views).

    We argue to win, not to inform or persuade. This is the sad fact of today.

  33. tally5 July 17, 2012 @ 11:24 am

    Just because “an increasing number of viewers are relying on Fox News for both news and opinion,” does not mean that is what they are actually GETTING from Fox News. For example: My Aunt Nell relies on her psychic for information about what’s going to happen in the future and making decisions about her life. (Not really, I don’t even have an Aunt Nell, but you get my point). Just because Aunt Nell “relies” on it doesn’t mean that this psychic is not a complete charlatan taking advantage of her and her naivete. It’s a cleverly phrased statement if you ask me. Clemente didn’t say, “Fox News is PROVIDING both news and opinion to an increasing number of viewers.” It’s thought provoking… if you actually want to think about it.

  34. Alex November 12, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

    I’m a conservative and I can take the fact that Fox News admits it’s more opinion based with a grain of salt. But it’s not as if CNN, HLN, and the democrat media headquarter MSNBC don’t do the same thing. That’s what this article is trying to hide from you. The author says nothing but how opinion based Fox is, while he’s being opinion based himself.

  35. [...] from a “news” channel that has NOT YET BROKEN A SINGLE NEWS STORY, EVER in its existence since [...]

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