Accuracy in Media

The Fox News Channel did a segment on Monday asking why Ann Coulter’s comments about John Edwards being a faggot have gotten more media attention than Bill Maher’s remark that more people would be alive if Vice President Cheney were dead. The answer is that Coulter made her comments at a national conference of conservatives, which included Cheney, former Ambassador John Bolton, several Senators, several presidential candidates, and was sponsored by most major conservative groups. By contrast, Maher made his remarks on a little-watched cable show. Plus, Coulter’s remarks were aired on C-SPAN.

There’s another difference: Maher has never had any credibility. Coulter, on the other hand, did have some. Back in 2003 I wrote a very sympathetic column about Coulter, noting how she demolished Bill O’Reilly during a discussion of alleged McCarthyism in Hollywood. Her book, Treason, was an excellent treatment of this controversy. She is a lawyer by training and once worked at a conservative legal group. She came out of the National Journalism Center in 1985, eight years after I went through the program.

But somehow, somewhere, something went wrong. Coulter decided that she had to stop being a serious analyst and commentator.

There is another problem with moral equivalence between Coulter and Maher. Such a comparison brings conservatives down to the liberal level. It says that conservatives are incapable of maintaining higher standards. The point was made by a reader, Jack Simanson Jr., commenting on my column about Coulter’s attack on Edwards:

“I quit reading Ann Coulter’s columns awhile back for the same reason I no longer listen to or read Rush Limbaugh. They got mean spirited. While both have made contributions to the conservative movement they allowed their egos to take over. I was a truck driver in the past. Rush was very big amongst truck drivers. Many have stopped listening. I used to look forward to Ann’s column. She had a unique view of politics and put a humorous spin on things. It seems that the fame went to her head. I hope that she receives a lot of criticism for this and maybe she will open her eyes and see how hypocritical she is being. Maybe then she will return to her old self. As for Rush, it may be too late. I see this as a sad time for conservatives. This is exactly what the left wants. Now, once again, they are able to point their collective fingers and say, ‘See. You are no different than us.’ Which any true conservative knows is far from the truth. Lately, it seems we wait to see who will put their foot in their mouths next. That is sad.”

On the other hand, I have received some interesting emails from Coulter defenders. One was upset that John Edwards is exploiting Coulter’s attack to raise money for his presidential campaign. Edwards “is trying to raise $100,000 from other faggots for his faggot campaign,” he said. Another said, “It’s time we started upping the rhetoric against this [liberal] lobby.” Still another said: “The only thing giving conservatism a bad name is cowards afraid to use terms like ‘faggot.’” Finally, there was this one: “Ann shows more testosterone than you.”

I pray that these comments do not reflect the future of the conservative movement.  Otherwise, there won’t be much of a conservative movement, at least in the sense that I understand the term.

The practice of defending Coulter by pointing the finger at liberals who say or do similar things begs the question of what Fox News has become, and whether it, too, is serving the interests of the conservatives it claims to represent. One of its new programs, a Sunday night politically-themed comedy show that opens with Limbaugh and Coulter pretending to be president and vice president of the United States, just isn’t very funny. It’s called the1/2 Hour News Hour.

But that’s not the only new show on Fox News. I had the unfortunate experience of tuning into the Fox News Red Eye show about 2:15 a.m. on Monday morning. The subject was sex with animals.

I put in a videotape, so everything I subsequently report to you is absolutely documented. I’m not going to transcribe the segment word by word, but enough of the interchange will be provided so that you can grasp the sickening nature of this program.

The segment began with host Greg Gutfeld standing in the shadows and then walking onto the set, where he joined a group of commentators. One of the panelists asked him, “What were you doing back there?” He replied, “Oh, just touching myself.” This is what passed for humor on the show. It went further downhill from there.

The headline, “Sex with Roadkill,” was actually flashed on the screen as Gutfeld began to discuss a case of a man being arrested for having sex with a dead dog. “Is this wrong, Julia?” Gutfeld asked of his guest, Julia Allison. The next to pipe in was panelist Rachel Marsden. Then writer Bill Schulz offered his opinion. Finally, Joel Mowbray, who up until this point had had a reputation of being a serious journalist, offered his view. “I know they say not to beat a dead horse, but I don’t know what the rule is,” he said. He seemed to be trying to make a joke.

Gutfeld concluded the discussion by saying, “I don’t know what else to say about bestiality except I always find it fascinating because there are certain animals that I see as sexy—Pomeranian dogs.”

Gutfeld, it turns out, is a blogger for the liberal Huffington Post. Julia Allison is a former college sex columnist whose blog is peppered with obscenities. She has written for TeenVogue, Seventeen magazine, and Cosmopolitan. Marsden’s bio says that she started out as a Canadian correspondent for the O’Reilly Factor and is now a regular Fox News contributor. I couldn’t find anything about Schulz.

The next topic on the program, a study on how early sex by teenagers leads to delinquency, included the following observation from Julia Allison: “Delinquents have more sex. They have more fun, obviously.”

I couldn’t take any more of it.

Will somebody at News Corporation or Fox News come forward to explain why this kind of trash is on the air? I don’t care if it is on at a time when children are not likely to be watching. It should not be on the air at anytime, certainly not on a “conservative” channel that openly shuns what it calls “left-wing bias.”

This strikes me as a case for culture warrior Bill O’Reilly. I look forward to him denouncing it on the Factor. If he won’t or can’t, we’ll bring it up at the next annual meeting of News Corporation, the Fox News parent company, where Rupert Murdoch, the “right-wing media mogul” who runs the media conglomerate, can explain himself.

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