Accuracy in Media

It’s on between CNN and Fox News.

After Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer, quit as a contributor last week, CNN President Jeff Zucker joined in with some harsh comments.

News broke Tuesday that Peters had written in an email to colleagues at Fox: “In my view, Fox has degenerated from proving a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration.

“When prime-time hosts – who have never served our country in any capacity – dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as [special counsel Robert Mueller] – all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of ‘deep state’ machinations – I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.”

On Thursday, Zucker called Fox “a pure propaganda machine” for the Trump administration.

“What has happened there in the last two years is somewhat shocking, frankly,” Zucker said at the Financial Times’ Future of News conference in New York. “It really is state-run TV. It is a pure propaganda machine, and I think it does an incredible disservice to this country. There are a handful of really good journalists there, but I think they are lost in what is a complete propaganda machine. And the idea that it’s a news channel is really not the case at all.”

Asked specifically what he thought of Peters’ departure and remarks, Zucker said, “He said out loud what many have been saying about what Fox News has become.”

The Washington Post also took the opportunity to pile on. “There’s a cost to all the ranting that Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson do on Fox News during prime time every night,” wrote Eric Wemple in his blog on the media. “Of course, their most prominent victims are the truth and reasoned discussion. But for Fox News, there’s a more immediate one” The alienation of folks such as retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters.”

Peters may no longer find Fox News credible, but a lot of Americans do. In the January ratings, Fox led in every hour of prime time – both in total viewers and in the coveted 25-54 demographic. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, who broke through briefly to lead in one of the hours of her show, finished second in all three hours she’s on – 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.  

CNN finished a distant third behind Fox News and MSNBC in both prime time and daytime slots. Fox News more than tripled CNN’s viewership in prime time and attracted nearly 1.8 million viewers per hour during the day compared to 721,000 for CNN.

Zucker said the last three years have been the “best three years in the 38-year history of CNN.”

“We’ve made CNN relevant again,” he said. “And it’s part of the national and international conversation.”

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