Cable Gamer Erik Wemple at the Post wrote up a bit of a to-and-fro between Donald Trump and the Wall Street Journal over a poll that didn’t happen to have Mr. Trump in the #1 spot. The article dealt with a Trump interview where he railed at the WSJ, Roger Ailes, and tossed in Fox News for good measure:
On his broader treatment in the media, Trump said that Fox News gives him the most trouble. “The worst treatment I get is from Fox,” said Trump, citing the negative reviews from Karl Rove (“moron”) and Charles Krauthammer. “[Fox News chief] Roger Ailes won’t lift his finger to help me,” said Trump.
Wemple served up the delights of a resurgent Trump/Fox feud, then wrapped with a favorite flourish: a swipe at Fox & Friends:
…what a self-centered ingrate Donald Trump has proved himself. Doesn’t he appreciate all those sweet appearances on “Fox & Friends” over the years?
Wemple’s link goes to one of his many posts railing against Fox & Friends for being sycophantic, stupid, or just plain “awful.” But why?
It wasn’t a troublesome WSJ poll that triggered this recent string of Trump zingers. Trump was already unloading on Fox News Wednesday at 9:49 am:
What had gotten Trump’s nose out of joint at that hour? Maybe it had something to do with the appearance he made on Fox News just minutes earlier. Mr. Wemple didn’t mention it, but Business Insider did:
Fox News hosts grill Donald Trump in tense interview about his George W. Bush criticism: In a tense exchange, the hosts of “Fox & Friends” grilled Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump…
On the question of lying about WMD’s Brian Kilmeade challenged Trump:
[Former Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright said they were there, [former President] Bill Clinton said they were there, [former French President] Jacques Chirac said they were there, the Portuguese prime minster said they were there, [former Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak said they were there.
Host Steve Doocy jumped into the fray. He brought the conversation back to immigration by pointing out that a “number of people in this country” have overstayed their visas. Trump said if his proposed policies had been in effect, the 9/11 attackers would not have been able to get into the US. “In nine months you would have swept up every person overstaying their visa?” Doocy asked incredulously.
The Inquisitor traced the after-effects of this on-air confrontation:
The friction generated during the live interview remained stuck in Trump’s craw well into Thursday morning, when the outspoken and social media savvy candidate took to Twitter for an airing of grievances. While he also took a shot at the Wall Street Journal, the main subject of his disdain was Fox News. “[Fox News] is changing their theme from ‘fair and balanced’ to ‘unfair and unbalanced,’” Trump tweeted.
This is why The Cable Gamer finds it odd that Mr. Wemple brought up yet again how “awful” and “sycophantic” Fox & Friends is. Why reiterate an old, familiar narrative about the “sycophantic” Fox & Friends when it clearly did not apply? Wouldn’t a “tense” confrontation that arguably sparked Trump’s latest salvos at Fox be more pertinent than an off-target meme? Yet the fractious encounter was ignored so Fox & Friends could again serve its purpose as a columnist’s favorite pincushion.
Fasten your seat belts, Ainsley. If Erik Wemple is still on his anti-Fox & Friends bender, you are in for a bumpy ride.
The Cable Gamer has been thinking about the departure of Elisabeth Hasselbeck from Fox & Friends, the leading cable news morning show by a mile. Maybe two miles. Its longevity at the head of the pack is due to a combination of right-leaning political segments, couch chemistry, plus humor, entertainment, and even the occasional physical challenge. The smart money says to replace Ms. Hasselbeck the powers that be are looking at Ainsley Earhardt, who is a frequent choice to sub-host in the center position, or weekend host Anna Kooiman.
Both have strengths and weaknesses. Ainsley is smooth on camera, everybody likes her, and she’s been around longer. But some (not The Cable Gamer) find her too nice, too sweet…too “good” for the rough-and-tumble morning news wars. Anna gives new meaning to the word “bubbly.” She’s perpetually cheerful, with a can-do attitude that F&F exploits by sending her out on adventures ranging from batting practice to flying with a stunt pilot. But she’s not quite as polished at speaking extemporaneously as Ainsley, though that could improve over time.
There are other names of course, plus the possibility TPTB will hire a big-name outsider, as they did with Elisabeth. But another option surfaced this week when Sandra Smith found herself on the curvy couch for two days. Ms. Smith, familiar with the morning grind from Fox Business, and comfortable in unscripted situations thanks to Outnumbered, moved into the Fox & Friends role as if she’d been doing it for years. And suddenly it starts to look like a three-way race.
Gretchen Carlson hosted F&F for years; she had a solid journalistic resumé before coming to FNC, not to mention an Oxford education. When she was replaced with Elisabeth, Obama had started his second term. The next Presidential election was years away. Roger Ailes had time to work with someone who lacked serious reportorial credentials but had undeniable star power. Now that we’re in a big Presidential year, it may be time to tip the balance back to newsy experience. Before coming to FBN ten years ago Sandra was a reporter for Bloomberg. She can handle financial news, politics, even celebrity gossip, and is about to moderate her second Presidential debate. What’s not to like? One commenter summed up the case for Sandra:
I think Sandra also has a leg up because she already has two kids (might be done) so they wouldn’t lose her to maternity leave. But she has kids…which is a plus…because it makes her more likeable and relateable. Also, I think Sandra is far more knowledgeable on a wide variety of topics. Sandra can handle real substance. And Sandra has proven herself very well on Mornings With Maria and Outnumbered. Not to mention, the great job she did in the FBN debate …which I’m sure she’ll do great again during the next one.
The Cable Gamer has heard that there are those on the Avenue of the Americas who found Ms. Smith’s two days on F&F quite illuminating. Not only did they echo some of what was said just above, but there was even an invocation of the G-word. Gravitas. And that’s significant because while Fox & Friends is an audience hit, “gravitas” has never been considered its strong suit, particularly among the elites. And who wouldn’t like some R-E-S-P-E-C-T to go along with the ratings trophies?
Of course two days do not an audition make. And Ms. Smith hasn’t had much opportunity as yet to show her stuff when it comes to getting physical. A trip down the water slide, or maybe a run in the Tough Mudder obstacle course, would tell more. Elisabeth, a natural athlete, excelled at these kind of things. And yes, The Cable Gamer admits she enjoys watching the physical stunts. (Maybe it was too much Double Dare.) But while being a good sport is fine, being a good sport with gravitas—there’s that G-word again—well, that may be the sweet spot for the next F&F host. With Sandra Smith, Fox & Friends may have found its G-spot.
Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s immigration reform plan is “knocking on doors and finding babies” to deport
How could Hasselbeck advocate such a politically incorrect position? The answer should be obvious: she didn’t. In fact, she did the opposite. In a discussion about Trump’s “anchor babies” proposal, Hasselbeck (and co-host Brian Kilmeade) didn’t endorse Trump’s plan, they ridiculed it:
“How do you implement that?” co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked. “Just go knocking on doors and finding babies?”
Co-host Brian Kilmeade argued that it would be impossible to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and their children.
“There’s no way we can afford to kick out 11 million people,” he insisted.
How dishonest was Raw Story‘s headline? It was literally 180-degrees opposite to what Hasselbeck actually said! And the ploy worked:
- She is a special kind of stupid, isn’t she?
- Speaking for her brain-dead coalition, she clearly has zero grasp of the fact that deporting any group of 11 million people would be logistically, financially, bureaucratically, politically and physically impossible to accomplish.
- Can you spread your legs a bit, Lissy, I love to hear your crotch…
- So why is Survivor Barbie now quoting VDare talking points?
- Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s brain. Does such a thing exist? Discuss among yourselves.
- Go knocking on doors…says Nazi Hasselbeck!
How is it that both the text quoted and the video embedded on the site clearly show Hasselbeck deriding Trump’s proposal, yet many commenters bought the lie in the headline? Because that’s how the game is played. People read the headline; many never bother with the text and only a handful will actually watch the video. And even when they do, some still swallow the spoon-fed spin.
Raw Story eventually changed its headline (without apologizing for or even acknowledging their smear); it’s now an attack on Steve Doocy. Mind you, he’s the only member of the trio who bought into Trump’s plan, yet Raw Story‘s opening paragraph still claims:
The hosts of Fox & Friends suggested on Wednesday that the 14th Amendment did not grant citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants because it was meant only for slaves…
One host did; two did not. But fine points like accuracy don’t count for much at Raw Story. Meanwhile their original headline smear of Elisabeth Hasselbeck has been echoed across the internet where even fewer will see the text or the video that prove it a lie. And their tweet still stands, complete with a stream of replies that amplify the dishonesty:
At Raw Story this is called “a good day’s work.”
Thanks to sharp-eyed Cable Gamer Peter Fack for bringing this to our attention.
Today Brian Stelter kicked off Reliable Sources with the same topic that dominated most of the hour last week: Donald Trump. As a prelude to his interview with a Trumpster (that seemed to deal an awful lot with politics for a program about media) Brian aired a few clips from today’s morning tv shows. First was a bit from MSNBC’s Up (the thrust of which was hey, maybe Trump really is running for President after all), and then this from Fox & Friends:
LELAND VITTERT: The question I think, really, is the buzz is actually a good thing this early on. We’re still a long way until Iowa, long way until New Hampshire. Or is the sound of the buzz a chainsaw?
(We’ve added Mr. Vittert’s name to the CNN transcript where he is just “unidentified male”. No, he wasn’t identified on screen either.)
Immediately after that, Brian looks into the camera and with an oddly supercilious tone adds:
STELTER: I don’t know — I don’t think FOX knows how to cover this campaign.
OK, but what are you talking about? What was it about the three sentences you aired that leads to that conclusion? Or were you referencing something else? If so, you kept it a secret as Fox’s coverage never came up in any of your Trump discussions. But more to the point, why the cheap shot at FNC at all? You’re not a media critic, remember? You’re a media reporter. As you have told people time and time again:
- First and foremost I’m a media reporter, not a media critic, so…
- how so, specifically? (for what it’s worth, i don’t view myself as a media critic, i’m a media reporter)
- i purposefully don’t call myself a media critic 🙂 i talked about storm coverage on my show last year:
- I never want to demean anyone. I don’t view myself as a critic though; my title is media correspondent.
- I stopped reading when I saw it said “media critic,” which is not my title.
- my title is “senior media correspondent” and host of @CNNReliable. I am very purposefully not a “media critic.”
- if you were “mostly a fan,” you’d know I’m not a critic or ombudsman, I’m a full-time reporter about media 🙂
- my job title is “senior media correspondent.” previously, at the NYT, i was a “TV reporter.” not critic.
So The Cable Gamer is confused. Brian Stelter is not a media critic. But then he singles out Fox News, and criticizes them—without explaining why. Or maybe just being Fox News was reason enough. Oh well, as one of Jeff Zucker’s favorite employees said:
- We’re in a phase where “everyone’s a media critic” but I sense very few real “media reporters”
Laments about gender are Huffington Post‘s bread and butter, and we were overdue for another “women in the news media” jeremiad. This one fell on Catherine Taibi and she dutifully penned “The Media’s Gender Problem Still Looks Awful,” complete with oodles of fretful stats about women at the major networks and newspapers. It went on and on, yet nary a word was said about The Cable Game—none of the cable news networks got so much as a mention.
And yet the article managed to work in a smear of Fox News. How did they pull that off? Like this:
Look at that picture: one lonely woman surrounded by three (yes, three!) males. Instantly recognizable as a shot from Fox & Friends, including the much-reviled Donald Trump just to make sure they didn’t accidentally show a female guest. What exactly does this picture have to do with an article that never mentions Fox News? Nothing. So why did Huffington Post paste it on top of an utterly irrelevant story? The Cable Gamer suspects you can intuit the answer to that question as easily as I can.
And there are more layers to that choice of image than appear at first blush. While the co-hosts of F&F appear, what about the correspondent who reports the news segments? Well, HuffPo didn’t want Heather Nauert in the shot. For one thing, she’s a woman and that would spoil the smear. Besides, she has nearly two decades of broadcast journalism experience, an Emmy nomination, and was acclaimed for her reporting at ABC for Nightline and World News Tonight. That’s not nearly as funny as Donald Trump on a couch.
But there’s more. Fox & Friends actually begins at 5:00 am with Fox & Friends First, FNC’s first newscast of the day co-anchored by Heather Childers and Ainslee Earhardt—both very much of the feminine persuasion. Needless to say HuffPo wasn’t about to show that. It’s not nearly as funny as Donald Trump on a couch.
So of the three newscaster roles on Fox & Friends, how many are held by women? Three. This suggests a ratio of female journalists that comes roughly to—let’s see—100%. Fancy that! And HuffPo was crowing about its own 53% figure. Just for giggles let’s stroll down the rest of the weekday schedule:
- 9:00 am: Bill Hemmer co-anchors with Martha MacCallum.
- 11:00 am: Jon Scott co-anchors with Jenna Lee
- 2:00 pm: Gretchen Carlson
- 3:00 pm: Shepard Smith
- 4:00 pm: Neil Cavuto
- 6:00 pm: Bret Baier
- 7:00 pm: Greta van Susteren
- 8:00 pm: Mr Bill O’Reilly
- 9:00 pm: Megyn Kelly
- 10:00 pm: Sean Hannity
At 5:00 pm The Five is strictly an opinion show with talking heads. At noon Outnumbered is four women and one man discussing the news of the day. No way is HuffPo going to mention that one! Of the regulars Harris Faulkner generally has the reporting role for breaking news, updates, etc, so qualifies for the count.
From this we find nine women on-camera daily, reporting as journalists on Fox News, vs seven males. Do that math: that’s slightly over 56%—higher than HuffPo’s own figure which their article touted as the “highest percentage” of females. If we don’t count opinionizers O’Reilly and Hannity, and skip Greta for the same reason, it’s eight women vs five males: 62% women! And we haven’t counted the weekend anchors (Anna Kooiman, Shannon Bream, Uma Pemmaraju, Julie Banderas, Arthel Neville, etc.).
So The Cable Gamer comes back to that Trump picture. Why is it there, right smack under a headline about how “awful” the media’s gender problem is? A picture chosen to make Fox News look bad while omitting the three female journalists who report daily on the illustrated program. Associating Fox News with the headline over an article that doesn’t deal with Fox News at all? Giving credulous readers the impression that Fox is an example of what’s detailed in the article? It’s really quite impressive: a smear of Fox News, pulled off without a single fact, allegation, or shred of evidence.
Was Catherine Taibi behind this? It’s her article, her byline. The Cable Gamer can’t say if she chose the picture to “illustrate” the article. But it’s been up for over a day now and Ms. Taibi has not had it taken down. What does her acquiescence suggest, other than participation in the smear?
There’s been an increased tendency for cable news anchors to let opinions slip out now and then, but even among the chattiest of the news class there’s often a reluctance to get too personal about things like religion and faith. Ainsley Earhardt, early morning news anchor and occasional noontime commentator, has been more open than most about her personal belief system, yet The Cable Game was a bit surprised at just how open she was this morning.
On Fox & Friends today there was a short discussion about Denzel Washington’s “put God first” commencement address, and not surprisingly it was Ainsley who led it off:
AINSLEY EARHARDT: I love that message.
TUCKER CARLSON: That’s amazing.
AINSLEY EARHARDT: It’s so true. It’s been true in my life. I feel like if I put God first he just continues to bless my life. It’s nothing I’ve done; to God be the glory. I think that’s such a refreshing message, especially with everything that’s going on in our society right now.
TUCKER CARLSON: You are a walking billboard for the Christian faith, I have to say.
AINSLEY EARHARDT: You’re sweet.
TUCKER CARLSON: It’s true.
AINSLEY EARHARDT: No, I try to be. I try to be but I’m just like everyone else. But it’s just so amazing. I just feel like that’s the beauty of having faith. When you put God first, you don’t have to decide what your future is. You don’t have to decide if you’re going to the right or the left—God decides it for you. And then you can kind of put your hands up and say, “God, take the wheel.”
Tucker went on to take this discussion in a slightly different direction while Clayton Morris, as is sometimes his wont, was more guarded in his contributions. But Ainsley’s honesty was notable. I’m not exactly 100% comfortable with journalists expounding on matters political or personal, but in this brave new cable world where that line has become so blurred that it barely exists on any of our news networks, it’s hard to get outraged over Ainsley’s heartfelt disclosure.
Mickey Kaus, a respected writer on all things immigration, writes a piece for The Daily Caller. The site’s big boss, Tucker Carlson, spikes it because it dings Fox News, where Tucker works. Kaus quits Tucker’s site, self-publishes the column, and the incident becomes our scandal du jour.
There are several weird angles to this. First among them is the column itself. Mickey Kaus is a sharp thinker on his area of expertise, but his thesis (that Fox News is deliberately suppressing coverage of immigration) is largely unsupported. The closest he comes to presenting evidence is a rundown of a string of Kelly File broadcasts. Why pick that program? Possibly because, having pre-determined the desired results, he wasn’t going to use either O’Reilly or Hannity, both of whom ride the immigration hobby horse far more than Ms. Megyn. Why pick just one program in any case? Wouldn’t a more broadly chosen sample give more accurate results? There’s more (like his head-scratching suggestion that Fox should be a feisty all-anti-Obama network—exactly the caricature its critics love to perpetuate) but that’s for another time.
Tucker Carlson’s response is also a little weird. It’s hard to understand why he’d compromise the work of the website he runs by taking an entire topic of discussion off the table. Is he really so enamored of his co-host role on Fox & Friends Weekend that he’ll outlaw any criticism of FNC? (For that matter, isn’t Carlson’s presence on the F&F curvy couch itself a tad weird? Why was he chosen, for his madcap comedic timing? Because they wanted someone who would balk at playing along in the outdoor segments, decline to eat on camera, and grumble about having to do an online after-show? Did they want a co-host who takes so many days off? But I digress.)
And then there’s the inevitable cluck-clucking that we can all see coming a mile away. It will be another chance to attack Fox (even though they have nothing to do with how Tucker runs his website) and skewer Carlson for not wanting to criticize the people who sign his checks. Only a few (like John Nolte) will point out the weirdness, and hypocrisy, of these critics—who routinely shrink from criticism of their employers.
This looks like a tempting target for the Sunday media shows. Can Reliable Sources resist? Will Brian Stelter pile on, instructing Tucker Carlson about the proper role of editors? Given how Mr. Stelter covered (or didn’t) Fareed Zakaria, Jim Clancy, Carol Costello etc., a lecture on journalistic courage from him would be weird indeed.