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Friday, September 29, 2006


Fair and Balanced: a Case Study
First things first: if you haven't seen the video with Senator Barbara Boxer on Faux News mocking the "fair and balanced" slogan, click here.

The Fox News show Hannity & Colmes is a prime example how the pretense that Fox News is "fair and balanced" is a joke, a transparent one (read the chapter about H & C in Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them for the full scoop). The pairing of wimp Alan Colmes with movement firebrand Sean Hannity is Exhibit A--a revealing tidbit from David Talbot in Salon

[W]hen hunting for a liberal punching bag to pair with Sean Hannity, [Fox News chief Roger] Ailes had tried out a tough Salon writer. He apparently punched back so effectively in his audition that Fox picked bespectacled milquetoast Alan Colmes instead. Fox likes its liberals soft and chewy, the better to eat them, my dear.
Not only is there a mismatch between the hosts but there is a imbalance when it comes to the political affiliation of the guests; Media Matters for America did a content analysis of guests who appeared on the show during the first two months of 2006, the chart speaks for itself:

The latest example of an egregious lack of balance I caught on Hannity & Colmes was much more subtle (and insidious) than what I'm used to. The subject was Senator George Allen's problems with race (quick aside: Allen will appear on tonight's H&C show). The guests were a Democratic representative, a Republican representative, and Kathleen Antrim, who was described as a journalist.

I wasn't paying too close attention to the debate until I heard what was coming out of the mouth of Antrim, the alleged journalist (sorry, I don't have a transcript so this is based on memory and some illegible notes I wrote). Regarding the allegations that Allen habitually dropped the n-bomb when he was a student at the University of Virginia, Antrim replied that she spent day and night with Allen's campaign and that the charges that Allen uttered the n-word during the 1970's were categorically false.

That raised a huge red flag for me. I mean, how would Antrim know what words Allen used or didn't use over thirty years ago by spending time on his 2006 campaign? It wouldn't have been unusual for the Republican operative to have used such illogic, but a supposedly impartial journalist? I really began to pay attention when Antrim began parroting Allen's transparently false argument that the noose that hung in his office was, in fact, really a lasso.

It was right a round that time when I noticed on the screen that Antrim was affiliated with NewsMax, an online and print magazine. For those of you not familiar with NewsMax, it was started by pseudo-journalist Christopher Ruddy who was at the core of the Scaife-funded attempt to implicate the Clinton administration--most notably Bill and Hillary Clinton--in the death of Vince Foster (quick note: the head of Fox News, Roger Ailes, championed Ruddy's pseudo-journalism). Just to show how bad Ruddy's journalism was on the Foster matter, he was fired from the tabloid The New York Post for shoddy journalism and that Ann Coulter was forced to conclude that Ruddy's book on the Foster case was "a conservative hoax book"(more on Ruddy's involvement with the Foster matter can be found in Trudy Lieberman's CJR article and a post on this blog).

Since its establishment by Ruddy in 1999, Newsmax has gained a reputation of being a cesspool of gossip, innuendo, and phony journalism. ConWebWatch has done a good job of chronicling Newsmax. NewsMax writers have had a field day with false or misleading article on Hillary Clinton--the urban legends website Snopes.com debunked a couple of phony NewsMax stories (click here and here). Not surprisingly, NewsMax is treating the charges that Allen used the n-word were part of a liberal media conspiracy (though they treated questionable allegations that Hillary Clinton used anti-Semitic slurs as fact).

Now, back to Antrim, I did a little research on her. Her NewsMax columns defend Allen (e.g., here). I also found a rather revealing interview of Antrim in which she discussed her political novel Capital Offense. The paranoia she reveals indicates that she fits in well in the NewsMax camp:
[Interviewer]And at one point you were warned to back off?

[Antrim] I was warned by a credible source that I may be stepping on some powerful toes with my questions, and I had better be careful. I laughed and remarked that I was a nobody from California. Who would notice me? The individual issuing the warning did not laugh. This was a sobering moment. I was told that if you ask the right kinds of questions, of certain people, you hit the radar screen very quickly.

I'd be lying if I didn't say this scared the hell out of me. I took about three days to evaluate what I was doing and where I was going with this project. I decided to go forward, but I changed the tack of my questions.

I also sent a manuscript out of state to an undisclosed location, just in case something did happen to me.

[Interviewer] What aspect of the book got you the warnings?

[Antrim] I was never told precisely what aspect of my research caused the warnings. But I can tell you that at that point, I was heavily involved in investigating and researching the Clintons' time in Arkansas. Much of this had to do with Hillary, her relationship with Vince Foster, and of course her power as the first lady of Arkansas.

I was also learning a lot about Bill's misadventures with other women. Of course, this was long before the scandal broke about his affairs. And my sources proved to be extremely accurate.

In fact, an editor of mine had been working with me as I refined much of my information. She was shocked when the scandals publicly unfolded and she realized exactly how accurate my sources were.

[Interviewer] Any thoughts about Vince Foster, and was his apparent suicide one of the incidents you had in mind when you began writing the book?

[Antrim] The death of Vince Foster is very unsettling. There is an amazing amount of inconsistent information surrounding his death, the investigation and the autopsy. And, of course, his close relationship with Hillary was intriguing. One of my sources told me that all meetings with Hillary at the Rose Law Firm included Vince Foster. He was always in the room.

When I was writing the novel, and being that it's a thriller, I'm certain that my subconscious referred back to my research on his death. In a way, the Mark Dailey character in my book has some Vince Foster overtones, but he's not meant to be Vince Foster.

This woman is a certifiable right-wing nutjob.

The upshot of the Hannity & Colmes segment is that, on the surface, it appeared to be a discussion between two right-wingers (Hannity and the Republican guest), two liberals (Colmes and the Democratic guest), and an impartial journalist (Antrim). The reality is that it was an unfair fight pitting three right-wing operatives (Hannity, Antrim, and the Republican guest) against an adult liberal (the Democratic guest) and a liberal eunuch (Colmes).

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