Accuracy in Media

Only days after appearing with her sister, who is running for the Democratic nomination for Senator from Maryland, Greta Van Susteren of Fox News was in Houston interviewing Senator Hillary Clinton about the hurricane. “I think the media have done a good job” of covering the disaster, Clinton said. She urged the media to stay on the story and not get distracted by “celebrity news.”  Of course, Senator Clinton must have known she was talking to the Fox News host who has racked up impressive gains in ratings for her show by relentlessly focusing on the mystery of what happened to missing woman Natalee Holloway. That story was temporarily dropped when the hurricane hit. Van Susteren followed up her interview of Hillary with a story about a Hollywood personality visiting some of the people evacuated to Houston from New Orleans. Van Susteren knows how to generate ratings. But why a puff piece on Hillary?

The attempt to make Senator Clinton look statesmanlike was no accident. Van Susteren has long been known as a Clinton booster, first of Bill and now of Hillary, and she was that way when she worked for CNN. Her politics occasionally shine through on Fox News. On her On the Record show of November 17, 2004, Van Susteren interviewed Hillary about her husband. Mrs. Clinton said that “I think I know a great leader when I see one. And so does America. In 1992 and 1996, Americans chose a president who left our country in better shape than when he took office.”

The show was a “special edition,” live from Little Rock, Arkansas, where the Clinton Presidential Center was opening. “Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton also has her own alcove in the library dedicated to programs she ran as first lady,” reported Van Susteren, who boasted that she had obtained the first “sit-down interview” with Hillary since her election as Senator. What a journalistic coup! Van Susteren started the interview by asking Hillary “when she first came to Arkansas.”

The interview didn’t get any better after that. It was puff and fluff.

On June 6 of this year, Van Susteren interviewed Bill Clinton about his “Clinton Global Initiative,” scheduled for New York City during the U.N.’s September World Summit. She managed to mention, at the start, the fact that her boss, Rupert Murdoch, President of Fox News parent company News Corporation, was scheduled to be a participant. But wasn’t he supposed to be a Republican? And isn’t Fox News supposed to be a mouthpiece for conservatives and Republicans?

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported on September 1 that Van Susteren appeared at a news conference to announce that her sister Lise Van Susteren is running for the Senate as a Democrat in Maryland. The Post noted, “Although a first-time candidate, Van Susteren has surrounded herself with veteran aides, including Tad Devine, a strategist who worked on John Kerry’s presidential bid, and Chris Black, a former Boston Globe reporter who handled press for Teresa Heinz Kerry. Both Devine and Black were present at today’s event in Baltimore, as were Van Susteren’s celebrity sister, her daughters and her husband, Jonathan Kempner, president and CEO of the Mortgage Banker’s Association in Washington.”

Doesn’t Fox have any rules against their celebrity anchors appearing at partisan political events?  Apparently if they get high enough ratings, they can violate the rules of the “fair and balanced” journalism profession. But then, she may not be a journalist anyway.

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