If you want to spot agendas at play, look for the “mash-up.” Propagandists love to assemble these catchy montages of clips, all carefully selected to point to a pre-determined conclusion. The Cable Gamer was not surprised to see CNN’s Brian Stelter promoting a Fox News mash-up from Media Matters–as partisan and biased a source as the internet has to offer. It’s another sign that Stelter has given up on journalism and is now a partisan activist, because he knows as well as anyone that a “mash-up” can be edited to make any point you like. It’s all about what you include, and more importantly, what you omit.
It surprised us that the Washington Post would make a Fox News mash-up in the Media Matters style, yet they did. That a news organization would fashion coverage in the manner of a partisan political operation is disturbing enough, but it’s small potatoes compared to their Erik Wemple’s seemingly endless attack on Fox News, and its morning program in particular. Column after column offers a transcript of some snippet from that day’s Fox & Friends, designed to reinforce his insistence that it’s pure propaganda for Trump.
Clearly, it’s not hard to find two minutes in any three-hour news program where somebody says something nice about Trump. It’s especially easy on Fox & Friends. So Wemple is making as pointless a point as your Cable Gamer can imagine. Basically he’s making a slow-motion print-media mash-up. Instead of putting a dozen clips into a video, he’s just publishing the cherry-picked bits one at a time, each in its own column. As with the mash-ups, he never fails to make his point, because he just omits what doesn’t comport with the pre-selected meme.
On Tuesday Wemple gave us a Q&A with people at a diner near a military base reacting to Trump’s Afghanistan speech. A pretty safe bet there: a live remote on Fox News down the street from a military base. Sure enough, the people in this segment had a positive view of the speech, and that’s what Wemple wrote up. But what did he omit? This:
It’s very hard to imagine how we win a lasting peace in Afghanistan if we couldn’t do it with 100,000 troops. Now we’re gonna have about 13,000. … What does a victory look like in Afghanistan? We’re gonna be in Afghanistan until we take the long dirt nap ourselves. Is that really what the American people thought they were getting? They thought they were getting drain the swamp, not clear the desert.
Why didn’t Erik Wemple include this analysis by Laura Ingraham in his column? Because he says right at the top that Fox & Friends “hews most closely to state-run media,” and this contradicts his point. So he leaves it out. What readers don’t know won’t hurt the meme.
One day later Wemple wants readers to believe that Fox & Friends didn’t dare question Trump’s comments about the media, so he writes:
Considering that “Fox & Friends” is part of a news network, you might suppose that such rhetoric would chill the program’s co-hosts. Or at least prompt some neutral coverage of such a contention. But no way…
And in the exchange he quotes, there is no pushback against Trump’s comments. Yet once again, it’s not so much what Wemple says, it’s what he doesn’t say:
EARHARDT: He pointed to the media up there. He said all those guys, basically on the platform or in the rafters, and the whole crowd, this huge crowd turns around, they look at the media, and they go “Boo!” And one guy in particular was pointing—
DOOCY: They had an anti-CNN chant going for a while.
EARHARDT: He called out specific networks too.
BRIAN KILMEADE: It doesn’t make me comfortable, to be honest. I don’t feel comfortable with 15,000 people turning around, screaming at me. You know, you could have another President, another leader pointing at you. How would you feel if you had to leave that arena then?
Is this outraged alarmism a la Don Lemon or Morning Joe? Hardly. But then, neither was it the slavish “state-run media propaganda” that Wemple was selling. So, it ends up on the cutting room floor. In the best tradition of Media Matters and the other mash-up specialists whose expertise is cherry-picking of the most selective, disingenuous kind.
It’s like that fellow Tom Kennedy said: It’s not what you say that counts, it’s what you don’t say. And with Wemple what he doesn’t say tells us an awful lot.
In his rush to separate himself from Judge Andrew Napolitano (a frequent guest on his program, at least up until today) Shepard Smith made an odd claim about the Judge’s theory that British spymasters surveilled Trump Tower at Obama’s request:
SHEPARD SMITH: We’ve not reported on that on this program or any Fox News programs. It was on the morning show but not on Fox News.
The Cable Gamer has a couple of problems with this statement. When Judge Napolitano advanced this notion on Fox & Friends Smith claims he was “not on Fox News.” Where was he then, on HGTV? Fox News has bragged for years that their morning program Fox & Friends is #1 in all cable news, yet here is FNC’s primary news anchor pretending like they’re on some other channel.
SMITH: We’ve not reporting on that on this program or any Fox News programs. It was on the morning show but not on Fox News.
Assuming that Shep will allow that hours other than just 3:00 pm Eastern are Fox News, then what is The First 100 Days, anchored by Martha MacCallum, one of FNC’s designated two top political news anchors? Yes, Judge Napolitano discussed what his sources told him there too:
Your Cable Gamer wonders what is going on with Shepard Smith. Is he just vamping, ad-libbing whatever pops into his head? Or is this all in the teleprompter–which might be even worse, given that it appears to have been written by person or persons who don’t have a clue what airs on their own news channel?
In The Cable Game people come and people go, but usually the viewers know what’s going on. Sometimes things aren’t so transparent and fans are left wondering:
Sunday Housecall: The weekly half-hour featuring Doctors Marc Siegel and David Samadi has been a staple on Fox News for years, but stopped airing as coverage of the 2016 election intensified. While Dr. Siegel has continued to appear on Fox Dr. Samadi has been little-seen since September. Both are still listed as Fox News contributors (but then so is Kirsten Powers). No response as yet to your Cable Gamer’s inquiries.
The Political Insiders: Another special Sunday segment brought Doug Schoen, Pat Caddell, and John LeBoutillier together for analysis of the week’s political developments with Harris Faulkner, usually seen during the second half of Sunday’s Fox Report. Even though some of their election commentary has proved to have been uniquely on point, the Insiders have not been seen since November 16. Caddell is still listed as a Fox News contributor; LeBoutillier for whatever reason was never so identified. And Doug Schoen? He is not listed on the contributors page. As far as we can tell none of them have appeared on Fox in 2017. The failure to make any on-air mention of their absence, and the lack of substantive replies from parties who have been queried, gives your Cable Gamer a bad feeling about the future of this popular feature. UPDATE: Doug Schoen is scheduled to appear on Hannity tonight and is billed as a Fox News contributor.
Stacey Dash: The outspoken actress who claims to have been blacklisted for her political views hasn’t been seen much, if at all, on Fox News in the last six months. She is not listed as a Fox News contributor and has not responded to your Cable Gamer’s inquiries. UPDATE 20 January: David Folkenflik reports Stacey Dash’s contributor contract has not been renewed.
Bob Massi: Like Sunday Housecall, Bob Massi’s Property Man series went on hiatus as the election heated up. But Mr. Massi is still a Fox News contributor, appearing on Fox & Friends just last week where he was introduced as the host of Property Man. A good sign, even though no specifics were mentioned about the show or its return.
Mike Rowe: The host of Somebody’s Gotta Do It on CNN for three seasons decided last year to part company with the network due to the exponential increase in political coverage that left little room for a one-hour reality series. On with Tucker Carlson last night Rowe said he has been talking with other channels regarding the as-yet unseen fourth season of Gotta Do It and expects an announcement soon.
The Cable Gamer will keep you updated on these matters as news develops.
There’s a lot of talk about “fake news,” but some fake news rarely if ever gets flagged, because the fact-checkers don’t care. Some hate crime hoaxes fall into this category; they fit an approved meme. And of course the fake news that is spun to smear Fox News rarely gets fact-checked at all.
That’s how a Huffington Post writer can say this and nobody bats an eyelid:
Time and time again, Fox News hosts questioned whether the 44th president was even eligible to hold the office, saying he was born in Kenya and then that he had released a fake birth certificate to lie about his origins.
Who are the Fox News hosts who said “time and time again” that Obama was born in Kenya? HuffPo doesn’t say, because there aren’t any. It’s a lie, a classic of “fake news,” but one that will never rouse the ire of Brian Stelter.
There are few websites with a longer pedigree in fake news than News Hounds. Whether it’s Karl Rove indicted, George Bush’s cocaine arrest, or Sandy Berger being cleared of all charges, they have fabricated farcical prevarications for years. And as spectacular as those may be, they save their most creative falsehoods for their obsession with Fox News. Did you know Oliver North is a “convicted traitor?” Somehow The Cable Gamer missed that trial. And there’s the little matter of their ugly smears of Megyn Kelly.
The above examples just scratch the surface. Writer “Priscilla,” who your Cable Gamer knows from one of her O’Reilly lies, has a long record in the fake news game. And her Christmas offering proves to be a one-paragraph tour de force of dishonest fakery, not just wrong but fake in multiple respects.
Fox & Friends Has “Merry Christmas” Message – But No “Happy Hanukkah”
POSTED BY PRISCILLA
While claiming to be “America’s Newsroom,” Fox News sure doesn’t reflect the religious diversity of America. Look no further than today’s Fox & Friends graphic (right) to see that Fox is targeting a very specific audience. There’s obviously no room at the Fox inn for Jewish folks whose holiday began last night.
On the basic facts, this is a lie. Fox & Friends did have a Happy Hanukkah message, and it said “Happy Hanukkah,” the precise wording “Priscilla” said was not used. See for yourself:
But there’s more. Fox & Friends has been airing this message for several days now, not just today. Not only have they been airing this message, they’ve also solicited, received, and showed Hanukkah photos from viewers, like the one you see to the right. It’s no surprise none of these facts are in Priscilla’s post–these multiple lies of omission increase the fakery of their fake news to a higher order of, well, fakery.
And there’s still more. In addition to all of the above, the program’s host Abby Huntsman took to twitter to alert viewers that today’s program would be a celebration of Christmas–and Hanukkah:
Another lie of omission. Is it possible for one paragraph of fake news to be any faker than Priscilla’s: misleading, dishonest, and outright fraudulent in every respect? It’s clearly a deliberate lie, written without even two minutes’ attempt to determine the facts, simply to smear Fox News.
The Cable Gamer feels safe going out on a limb and predicting that News Hounds will post no apology for this. Why should they? Priscilla was just doing her job: fake news. Who’s going to call her out? Google? Facebook? They’re not going to tag this, or any News Hounds smear, as “fake.” Brian Stelter, who himself promotes fake news without fact-checking? He’s more likely to retweet it than call it out.
The News Hounds dishonor Christmas by using it to lie about the Feast of Dedication, yet they’ll continue to be listed as a source of “news” by Google no matter how many times we see them lie. But it’s still fake news, from fake News Hounds.
Recently The Cable Gamer took some time off to explore the world of twitter. She found it to be a fascinating universe, but with its share of frauds, fibbers, and fabricators. Agendas are everywhere and when that happens, facts can be the first casualty. The other day she noticed this from Gabriel Sherman:
When The Cable Gamer saw this her Spidey senses started tingling. Sherman delights in this sort of thing (in this case making people think Fox was avoiding the Trump controversy). And some of his followers aren’t exactly critical thinkers who will know what he’s up to and see through his verbal sleight-of-hand. But some people did:
Indeed it does. When The Cable Gamer checked the record it turned out that discussions of Trump and his “hot mic video” were the hour’s #1 topic at the time Sherman tweeted (7:33):
- 7:00 hurricane
- 7:02 Trump
- 7:10 WikiLeaks
- 7:13 break
- 7:17 debate/Trump
- 7:21 break
- 7:24 hurricane
- 7:27 immigration
- 7:30 break
- 7:39 break
Fox covered both theWikiLeaks revelations and the Trump news in “fair and balanced” fashion, with the latter getting a tad more airtime than the former (thanks to additional coverage in the 7:17 segment, which incidentally fell within Sherman’s carefully curated 15 minutes). But why should Sherman be honest when he can wait for the right moment, then cherry-pick a snippet and suggest it represents the whole? At least it gave The Cable Gamer her first entry dedicated to Trickery in the Twitterverse. Watch for the next episode.
There’s a new report out from the folks at Gender Avenger, the site that tracks how many women get invited to panels, cable news shows, and the like. Whatever you think of the validity of this exercise The Cable Gamer thinks it’s a good thing to have straight, impartial statistical data of this sort. But is everything what it seems?
The announcement for the month of May is described as follows:
Who Talks? monitors the highest-rated morning and evening shows on three major television news networks: CNN, FOX, and MSNBC. Any guest who is not the host (or substitute host) and is asked to comment substantively on the 2016 presidential election is counted as an analyst. We count the total number of election analyst of each gender in each show and then compare aggregate numbers and proportional representation. Data is published monthly.
Sounds pretty straightforward. Here are their May stats on the percentages of female pundits:
- New Day: 31%
- Fox & Friends: 22%
- Morning Joe: 24%
- Anderson Cooper: 48%
- The Kelly File: 15%
- Rachel Maddow: 33%
You’ll note CNN shows win in both morning and evening categories. In fact several times Anderson Cooper has been singled out for “hall of fame” status. In one odd case he made the “hall of fame” for a 43% week, even though Rachel Maddow scored 50% (sorry Rachel, no “hall of fame” for you!).
These scorecards get a lot of play from friendly media sites, some of them quite knowledgeable, so The Cable Gamer is mildly surprised that none of them spotted a disconnect in the methodology. The criteria state they monitor the “highest-rated” evening shows on the three cable news nets—so where is Bill O’Reilly? O’Reilly has had the #1 program on cable news for “15 years and counting” (as viewers are reminded every evening). Yet The Factor has never been rated by Gender Avenger.
The Cable Gamer recently asked GA how it is that they skipped over the undisputed “highest-rated” evening cable news program, and got this response:
We too noticed the error in describing all the targeted shows as “highest rated” and have since amended our references to “popular” to encompass all. The reason we picked Megyn Kelley [sic] is that we wanted to follow all the 9 o’clock hour shows in the evening.
Yeah, well, we aren’t sure exactly where “highest-rated” as been amended to “popular.” The Cable Gamer couldn’t find it on the GA website, where “highest-rated” still appears in the criteria. And if the intention is to cover the 9 o’clock shows, why not just say that? Mind you, CNN doesn’t always run Anderson Cooper at 9 o’clock; sometimes they have documentaries and series like The Eighties in that time slot. What effect does that have on the stats?
This seems like a lot of finagling in what would otherwise be a straightforward contest among highest-rated shows. But what if it was as advertised: a contest among the most-watched programs? The results would be mostly as they are, except The O’Reilly Factor would replace The Kelly File. We started too late to capture the first part of May, but other than that we made a count, sticking to the criteria, and got these results for the last three weeks of the month:
- The O’Reilly Factor: 40%
In fact for the week of May 16th O’Reilly scored an impressive 46%—that’s higher than the measly 43% Anderson Cooper scored in his “hall of fame” week. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Mr. O’Reilly has a repertory company of female guests who appear regularly: Katie Pavlich, Eboni Williams, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Lis Wiehl, Martha MacCallum, Monica Crowley, Mary Anne Marsh, Dana Perino, Kirsten Powers, etc.
One would think Gender Avenger would want to throw a little “hall of fame” action O’Reilly’s way, as an encouragement to people who do provide the diversity GA calls for. But the rules have been quietly bent just enough to exclude Bill O’Reilly from contention. Funny that.
Today Erik Wemple of the Post published an odd column, making a peculiar point in an unpersuasive manner. In a nutshell, he tried to make a case for Hillary Clinton refusing to appear on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace:
So there isn’t much mystery as to why all those other presidential candidates have accepted the invitations of “Fox News Sunday” and Clinton has not: It’s because Clinton is covered more harshly, more persistently than those other candidates.
Mr. Wemple (with a healthy assist from Media Matters) cites a number of examples, including Andrea Tantaros on Outnumbered, Greg Gutfeld on The Five, and of course the obligatory jabs at Fox & Friends. But none of these examples have anything to do with Fox News Sunday or Chris Wallace. In fact, none involve Fox’s news coverage at all: they are entirely drawn from the opinion-based hours. But Wemple seems to think that’s a fair enough reason for Hillary not to face Chris Wallace.
This is unpersuasive on its face. The Cable Gamer recalls Erik Wemple chiding Republicans for canceling an NBC debate:
Apparently the RNC didn’t pay too much heed to the argument that CNBC and NBC News are overseen by different management teams…The RNC’s actions against NBC will have a leveling effect. Get ready for a lot of network cautiousness in the coming debates, because sponsors know what will happen if they don’t play by the rules, ill-defined as they are.
Everybody knows the hard news reporters at Fox News are not the opinion people. The antics of Andrea, or the jibes of Gutfeld, are separate from Bret Baier or Chris Wallace, who have no control over what opinionizers say or do. How has this become a plausible excuse for Hillary to avoid Fox when it wasn’t for the RNC in an analogous situation?
Even more on point, here is Erik Wemple on the subject of Donald Trump excluding reporters:
Journalists who’ve written or spoken critically about him have received swift payback. Reporters for the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Fusion TV network have been banned from his events at various times. Univision’s Jorge Ramos and Gabriel of the New York Times have been ejected during his events. Reporters for the Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in the first caucus state, were banned by Trump after its editorial board called for him to drop out of the race in July (the editorial’s headline: “Trump should pull the plug on his bloviating side show”). The ban made little sense on its face; news reporters have no control over their newspaper’s opinion pages, and vice versa.
So there Mr. Wemple argued the separation between news and opinion to attack Trump for excluding a reporter. But today Mr. Wemple, in an unexplained about-face, ignores the separation between news and opinion to defend Hillary for excluding a reporter—without a single example of that reporter’s unfairness. Wemple knows Chris Wallace has no say over Fox’s opinion shows, yet inexplicably adopts an argument that just a few weeks ago “made little sense.”
The Cable Gamer realizes that in the storied corridors of the Post Hillary is highly regarded and Trump is not. And it’s a lot easier to defend a like-minded mainstream newspaper than those upstarts at Fox News. But what else would account for the double standard?