Accuracy in Media

While some press attention has been focused on the seeming odd-couple of Rupert Murdoch raising money for Hillary Clinton, another fascinating relationship has apparently been developed between Fox News and Hugh Hefner’s Playboy. Fox News’ Neil Cavuto aired an interview with Hugh Hefner on May 4, on the grounds that the announcement of his “Playmate of the Year” was “business news,” and Fox News anchor Shepard Smith is interviewed in the June issue of Playboy magazine.

Asked about Internet stories that “lack veracity” but which serve as news. Smith replies, “Swift Boats,” as if the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth had been engaged not in getting out the truth about John Kerry’s military career and dubious war crimes charges, but in smearing the Democratic Senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate.

I’m sure you all remember that Fox News is supposed to be the conservative channel.

Playboy magazine editor Chip Rowe contacted me about the Smith interview, apparently aware that we had been critical of Smith’s Hurricane Katrina coverage from New Orleans, where he went berserk over finding people in distress. Rowe wanted me to comment in the form of a letter to the editor. This commentary will have to do. 

Rowe apparently wasn’t aware that I had written the book, “The Playboy Foundation: A Mirror of the Culture?,” about how Hefner and his ideas have rotted the culture and destroyed lives. The book, published by the Capital Research Center, earned me a denunciation in the pages of Playboy. One part of the book examines how Playboy provided the seed money for the abortion rights, homosexual rights, and drug legalization movements. Another part looks at the testimonies of women who became Playmates or Playboy models and suffered physically, emotionally and mentally. One Playmate, Dorothy Stratten, lost her life in a murder in a Playboy love triangle. A website recognizes her as the murdered Playboy Playmate.

Nevertheless, I can’t resist the temptation to write about the Smith interview, mainly because of what it says about the future direction of Fox News. 

It is strange in the sense that Smith talks about his “group” at Fox News, which wants objective news coverage, and other nameless people who don’t seem to agree. However, he denies Fox has a conservative agenda, says he’s never been asked to push a conservative point of view, and that he loves and trusts Bob Schieffer of CBS News.

Except for the devotion to Schieffer and the smear of the Swift Boat vets, the exchanges are mostly irrelevant and beside the point, which is that a Fox News anchor had made Playboy into a “respectable” forum. I suspect it is part of the same plan that involved Fox News media personalities such as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity interviewing Howard Stern, who has attracted millions of listeners by talking dirty. This is the kind of audience that is supposed to count.

The Smith Playboy interview is not part of a “plan” in the sense of being written out in advance. Clearly, however, there is a move at Fox to pander to the non-conservative elements of the public. Management has decided this is how they will build their audience. They must have confidence that conservatives will have nowhere else to turn. As Bob Dole once joked, when talking about Jimmy Carter’s Playboy interview, they must be appealing to “the Bunny vote.”

In the case of Fox News, however, it’s not so funny. The network has lost its way.

There may be hope, however. It has rectified its serious mistake in running a Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. special on man-made global warming by airing a follow-up May 21 program featuring critics of the theory. But it took a lot of pressure from conservatives to make this happen.

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