Accuracy in Media

Liberal writer Russ Baker is praising Fox News, saying that correspondents Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera did solid journalism “from the scene of devastation in New Orleans.” He reported that Smith and Rivera, “both usually loyal to Fox’s rigidly pro-administration line,” had yelled, cried and registered disgust with the Bush administration over its handling of the hurricane disaster.

Baker even went so far as to discover a media “revolution” underway. “When Fox reporters are the most emphatically critical of the Bush administration, you know something is going on,” he said.

Referring to Smith, Rivera and others, one left-winger wrote that “For the first time in five years, the Bush administration was publicly accused of being inept and dangerous and deceptive. Finally, some reporters who could no longer deny the obvious simply refused to play the White House game. For a brief moment in time, American television viewers heard the hard questions and learned the damaging truth about a painful and devastating disaster from the corporate sycophants themselves.” This article appeared on a website devoted to freeing Iraq from U.S. military occupation. The writer hoped that the anti-administration point of view on the hurricane would be transferred to opposition to the Bush Iraq policy.

Another left-winger, Mary MacElveen, wrote, “What really caught my attention was Geraldo Rivera’s reaction on Fox News…which is the mouthpiece for the Bush administration. When he had joined Fox News, I thought that he had sold his soul to the devil…perhaps Katrina brought it back.”

The website called Smith and Rivera “heroes.”

So what is going on here?

The first thing that needs to be said is that neither one of them was ever a conservative. Rivera’s hiring by Fox News was a big disappointment to conservatives. As we noted back in 2002, Rivera had left CNBC for Fox News. At CNBC, Rivera was known as a down-the-line apologist for President Bill Clinton

As for Smith, he is described by Fox as its “straightforward, fun-loving, tell-it-like-it-is newsman” and didn’t seem to have any political background at all. His bio on the Fox News website deals with issues such as his favorite movies and his first car. Asked who or what had the greatest influence on his life, he said he couldn’t name any single person or influence. “We’re  products of our environments,” he said. “I’m trying not to pollute.” Funny.

Hopefully, their antics in the aftermath of the hurricane, when they railed against the federal government, will finally, once and for all, put a lie to the claim that Fox New is some kind of hotbed for conservative Republicanism.

It’s possible, of course, that the anti-administration rhetoric was just part of a show designed to highlight how Smith and Rivera were concerned about the hurricane victims. The rhetoric was certainly out of bounds, since there is no evidence that these victims were without supplies because of incompetence by the Bush administration. But being on the air, nationally, it was easier for them to bash the federal government than take the time and trouble to analyze how the state and local governments had failed to get those people out of the city.

The coverage by Smith and Rivera was characterized by panic and hysteria about victims not getting relief supplies fast enough. This was partly due to the fact that cable TV news is on 24 hours a day and they have to come up with something to say and, better yet, something to do. So being shown with victims and appearing angry with the government made good television. But it looked cheap and tawdry.

Columnist Brooks A. Mick, on the website, said of Rivera: “He’s been hysterical. I don’t mean ‘funny hysterical,’ but ‘hysterical hysterical.’ He flits from subject to subject like a man with attention deficit disorder.”

Yet these performances certainly won over the left.

Meanwhile, where can conservatives go? What’s happening to Fox News?

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