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Friday, September 29, 2006
Fair and Balanced: a Case Study
[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?
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).