This week marks the tenth anniversary of the Fox News Channel and because of an early gift by President Clinton, the operation is getting maximum exposure. As you may know, Mr. Clinton became very annoyed when Chris Wallace, the anchor of Fox News Sunday, pressed him as to why Osama Bin Laden did so much damage on Clinton’s watch without being held to account.
The President responded that Mr. Wallace was conducting a “right-wing hit job.”
Having lived through the past ten years anchoring a news analysis progam on FNC, I found Mr. Clinton’s annoyance amusing. The Bin Laden question is certainly valid, and while Larry King would not have asked it, most other CNN correspondents, I believe, would have. So what’s the real beef here?
To understand what’s going on, we begin with the founder of CNN, Ted Turner, who greeted the arrival of FNC a decade ago with the quote, “We’ll squash them like a bug.”
That squishing sound you hear is Mr. Turner’s prediction ground into pulp. FNC hammers CNN in the ratings all day, every day. That is not making the liberal Turner and his fellow travelers very happy, and that is the heart of this matter.
For decades, the left in America was treated with deference by the electronic media. As I chronicle in my book “Culture Warrior,” nearly every past and present network anchor and commentator is either a committed liberal or leans left. Just look at what Walter Cronkite and Bill Moyers have done since they left CBS News; both men allied themselves with the far-left and are proud of it.
So there was certainly room in America for a network that gave equal time to the conservative point of view and actually hired, God forbid, some right-leaning commentators. To those used to getting information from enterprises like CNN, PBS, and NPR, this sudden departure from liberal orthodoxy was shocking and terribly annoying. There was a new kid in town, and his game plan allowed the right to be heard as well.
As Fox News gradually began dominating the cable news landscape, bitterness grew along with FNC’s ratings. The media establishment was aghast; it was being openly challenged and, worst of all, it was losing influence to a bunch of outspoken barbarians. So the attacks intensified.
Hollywood put out a hit movie about FNC, liberals like Howard Dean openly disparaged the network, and the far-left blogs did everything they could to damage those working at the network. It was, and is, very nasty.
But think about it; what is the beef? Even if FNC is a conservative think tank, which it is not, there are five other networks that give enormous benefit of the doubt to the left. So what if one operation leans right? Shouldn’t there be room in this country for one newsroom that doesn’t think like Ted Turner?
Last week on my program, I challenged Democratic strategists James Carville and Paul Begala to give me one example of an unfair presentation on FNC. They could not cite one. Certainly, Chris Wallace’s questioning was professional. The liberal Alan Colmes balances the conservative Sean Hannity, and the rest of the FNC cast is evenly split between the right and the left. The guest list is the same way.
That’s why FNC is so lively and, yes, so loud. We embrace robust debate and want to hear all sides. We challenge the powerful and do it with panache and a sense of humor. Like us or not, Fox News has changed the entire broadcast news business and provides a trusted service to far more Americans than every other cable news channel.
Sounds like a great recipe for success, and I, for one, am glad President Clinton could be a part of it. As with all our guests, Mr. Clinton had his say, was challenged, and is free to think whatever he wants.
He doesn’t even have to be nice to us on our birthday.