Accuracy in Media

At the recent annual meeting of News Corporation, parent of Fox News, I informed chairman Rupert Murdoch that Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show that he made a financial contribution to Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford. I asked why he was supporting the liberal Democrat over the Republican in that race. The reputed “right-wing media mogul” replied, “I’m not. I think I’ve equally given to both sides there. I really wouldn’t have given to either except that one of our senior executives at Fox is a friend of would-be Senator Ford and brought him in and tried to convince me how conservative he was.” Murdoch chuckled, as if he didn’t believe it. But he gave Ford the money anyway.

Asked if this meant that he had given a contribution to Ford’s opponent, Republican Bob Corker (no such contribution shows up in FEC records), “Murdoch replied, “If I haven’t, I will, certainly.” How’s that for fair and balanced?

In fact, Murdoch’s support for Ford, as well as his controversial fundraiser for Senator Hillary Clinton, suggests a leftward drift on the part of News Corporation as a whole. In an article titled “Is Murdoch Going Liberal?,” the New Yorker magazine referred to “The News Corp. progressives,” a group of liberals inside the company, which has “greater access to Murdoch on a daily basis” than conservatives. The magazine identified members of this “progressive” group as “Murdoch’s deputy Peter Chernin; the two co-chairs of Fox’s film division, Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos; and Gary Ginsberg, whom Murdoch refers to as his ‘ambassador to the Clinton Administration.’” The magazine said that “Murdoch has told associates that it was Ginsberg who persuaded him to hold the fund-raiser for Hillary.”

The recent Newsweek cover story, “Not Your Daddy’s Democrats,” a fawning piece about Ford, had a fascinating piece of information near the very end about the moves the Tennessee Congressman had made to establish himself as a national figure. “He became a fixture on cable talk shows and became a regular on the Fox News Channel and on Don Imus’s radio program,” the article said. Ford was back on Fox last Sunday, being interviewed by Chris Wallace, who said his opponent, Corker, was “unavailable.” Wallace returned to the subject of the Republicans’ anti-Harold Ford Playboy ad, which showed a blond saying she met Ford at a Playboy party after the Super Bowl and wanted him to call her. Wallace asked Ford: “Do you think the fact that she was a white woman was coincidental?”

Ford replied, “No, I think it was smut. I don’t think race had anything to do with that ad. I just think it was an uncalled-for, despicable, inappropriate ad for children to be watching at 7 and 8 o’clock Central Time with their parents after dinner in the living room. They know it was bad. The party of family values should not have run that in Tennessee, or anywhere, for that matter.”

It was classic Harold Ford. He turned his attendance at a Playboy party into an attack on the Republicans for drawing attention to it. Wallace gave him a softball and Ford hit it out of the park. The Republicans, not the pornographers, were the smut peddlers! This kind of misdirection is the envy of any professional magician.

The Wallace interview was only the latest in a long list of favors bestowed on Ford by the liberal media and the “conservative” Fox News Channel.

For some time, Ford had been trying to avoid the subject of whether he attended the party. He tried to change the subject by saying he didn’t attend any parties at the Playboy mansion, where Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and his “girlfriends” live. Eventually, Ford admitted attending the Playboy party, saying, “I like football and I like girls.” If this was intended to be more than a joke, it means he likes his “girls” wearing nothing, or next to nothing. Since it took him so long to come up with this response, it has to be seen as a calculated comment, designed to appeal to the conservative macho vote. It was another smart move on Ford’s part. Liberal commentators laughed at his attempt to deflect attention from his own lifestyle. This is one clever politician.

More recently, Ford declared, “Republicans fear the Lord, Democrats fear and love the Lord.” If a conservative Christian candidate had said such a thing in favor of the Republicans, he or she would have been pilloried by the press. The double standard demonstrates the media bias which drives the Ford campaign and tries to protect him from any embarrassing questions about his personal life and values. It is quite a feat to campaign as a committed Christian who likes Playboy parties. But Ford is pulling it off, with the help of the media. If you try to draw attention to his hypocrisy, you run the risk of being labeled a racist by Ford’s media allies.

His “I like football and I like girls” comment raises the question of what the media-generated controversy over the Playboy ad was all about. Rather than question Ford about his feminist credentials in going to a Playboy party, our liberal media created a racial controversy where none existed. This perfectly acceptable ad, which exposed Ford as a hypocrite for preaching family values in churches while going to a Playboy party, was said to be racist because Ford is black and the Playboy model in the commercial was white. It would have made absolutely no sense to have a black actress play the part because there are very few black Playboy “bunnies” or “Playmates.” In addition to my own column on this matter, demonstrating these facts, Pat Buchanan noted on the October 26 edition of MSNBC’s Scarborough Country that the ad couldn’t have been racist because, when it comes to the Playboy women, “Almost all of them are white.”

So the attack on the ad as racist boils down to the claim that you cannot accurately depict what a Playboy party really looks like because some people might somehow conclude that Ford actually came into contact with white women at the party. But that, of course, is exactly what happened, and Ford and his friends knew it. That’s why he eventually confirmed it, saying, “I like football and I like girls.”

Not only did Ford go to the party, he took a $1,000 campaign contribution from Playboy executive Christie Hefner. Is it racist to point this out?

Why is it “racist” to highlight somebody’s attendance at a party where scantily-clad women run around catering to men as sex objects? The ad was attacked precisely because it was so effective, and liberals in the media like Chris Matthews knew that Ford had made a terrible mistake in going to the event. It had compromised his image as a member of the new class of “Not Your Daddy’s Democrats,” as Newsweek had put it. So they changed the subject. It was depressing to see Fox News, seemingly in a transition to a post-Republican era, go along with the ploy.

It looks like a job for Bill O’Reilly, who has written a best-selling book on the need to engage in the culture war and save our traditional values. The trouble is, according to Chuck Todd, editor of “The Hotline,” that O’Reilly also attended one of those Playboy parties. “Bill O’Reilly. He was there” at the Playboy party, declared Todd, during a discussion of the Harold Ford controversy on Chris Matthews’ MSNBC program last Thursday. “You just outed Bill O’Reilly on this show,” Matthews responded, noting that thousands of people were in attendance. “A lot of conservatives” were there, Todd interjected. They all had a good laugh, knowing that they had hit on the reason why so many in the media do not want to make an issue of Harold Ford’s attendance at the party and his family-values hypocrisy. There is enough hypocrisy to go around, and plenty of it is in the media.

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