Accuracy in Media

The protests outside the Republican convention in New York turned nasty against Fox News. Newsday reported that when Major Garrett of Fox News appeared briefly outside Madison Square Garden, where the convention was held, he was booed by protesters. Marc Morano of reports that about 1,000 protesters showed up outside the Fox News offices in New York and “blasted the network as a fascist arm of the Republican Party.” The protest was called a “Fox News Shut Up A-Thon.”

It is fascinating to witness the far-left’s preoccupation with a cable news channel that usually draws only several million viewers a night. About four million viewers watched Fox News on the first night of the GOP convention. That was above CNN’s 1.2 million, but it is still far behind the usual reach of the major broadcasting networks and their evening news programs. Typically, the big three evening news programs reach a total of about 24 million people a night.

On that first night of the convention, MSNBC was in third place on cable news, behind Fox and CNN. The Chris Matthews “Hardball” show drew a paltry half-a-million viewers. That compared to 1.5 million watching Shepard Smith on Fox News during the same time period. Nevertheless, Peter Johnson of USA Today said these ratings mean that Matthews, a Kerry Democrat, is getting his “groove.” His “groove” consists of out-shouting conservatives opposed to Kerry. It is unfortunate that MSNBC chief Rick Kaplan, a refugee from CNN, views this as a formula for success. 

That “groove” came to a temporary halt on Wednesday night when Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller, who had just finished his convention speech attacking Kerry and endorsing Bush, told Matthews during an “interview” to get out of his face and challenged him to a duel. Miller said he wasn’t going to be victimized by Matthews in the same way that the Hardball host had attacked conservative columnist Michelle Malkin when she appeared on his show. Malkin said she was almost hit by Matthews’ spittle during the outburst, as Matthews tried desperately to defend Kerry against charges that he exaggerated his Vietnam war record.

On the second night of the convention, in a major television upset, Fox News Channel (FNC) drew 5.4 million viewers during its coverage of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s and first lady Laura Bush’s speeches. That was greater than any of the big three broadcast networks?NBC (5.1 million viewers), CBS (4.4 million) ABC (4.3 million)?or rival cable networks MSNBC (1.6 million) or CNN (1.5 million). As the Washington Post noted, “This is the first time in its eight-year history that FNC has beaten ABC, CBS and NBC in covering a news event.” Bitter apologists for the networks say the numbers are proof that Fox news is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party. They don’t want to recognize the Fox News formula for success?appealing to the millions of conservatives disenchanted with the liberal bias of the broadcast networks and CNN and MSNBC. 

One of the groups organizing the anti-Fox protests cites an October 2003 study by the University of Maryland which “found that people who rely on the Fox News Channel as their main news source are wildly misinformed about key issues regarding the Iraq war and that the more they watch, the more misinformed they are.” That’s a misleading reference to a misleading study issued by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, a project of the University of Maryland. This study claimed there was a “consensus view in the intelligence community” that Saddam Hussein “was not even working closely with al Qaeda” and that “no evidence of any links” between them had been found. On this basis, the study depicted those watching Fox News who believe in an Iraq-al Qaeda link as uninformed.

It is getting monotonous to make the case, but the evidence of an al-Qaeda link to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq has been well-documented. Then-CIA director George Tenet cited “senior level contacts” between Iraq and al Qaeda going back a decade, discussions between Iraq and al Qaeda on safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression, the presence in Iraq of al-Qaeda members, and Iraqi training of al Qaeda in how to use weapons of mass destruction. It’s a matter of opinion as to whether this amounted to an operational or collaborative relationship. But the links were there.

It is significant that a protest against Fox News would be based on a dubious study, and that such a flawed analysis is being cited as an excuse to discredit Fox News and silence this successful alternative voice. The protesters who want to censor Fox are the real “fascists.”

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