The Most Biased Name in News
Fox News Channel's extraordinary right-wing tilt
By Seth Ackerman
"I challenge anybody to show me an example of bias in Fox News Channel."
--Rupert Murdoch (Salon, 3/1/01)
"Years ago, Republican party chair Rich Bond explained that conservatives' frequent denunciations of "liberal bias" in the media were part of "a
strategy" (Washington Post, 8/20/92). Comparing journalists to referees in a sports match, Bond explained: "If you watch any great coach, what they
try to do is 'work the refs.' Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack next time."
But when Fox News Channel, Rupert Murdoch's 24-hour cable network, debuted in 1996, a curious thing happened: Instead of denouncing it, conservative
politicians and activists lavished praise on the network. "If it hadn't been for Fox, I don't know what I'd have done for the news," Trent Lott
gushed after the Florida election recount (Washington Post, 2/5/01). George W. Bush extolled Fox News Channel anchor Tony Snow--a former speechwriter
for Bush's father--and his "impressive transition to journalism" in a specially taped April 2001 tribute to Snow's Sunday-morning show on its
five-year anniversary (Washington Post, 5/7/01). The right-wing Heritage Foundation had to warn its staffers not to watch so much Fox News on their
computers, because it was causing the think tank's system to crash.
When it comes to Fox News Channel, conservatives don't feel the need to "work the ref." The ref is already on their side. Since its 1996 launch,
Fox has become a central hub of the conservative movement's well-oiled media machine. Together with the GOP organization and its satellite think
tanks and advocacy groups, this network of fiercely partisan outlets--such as the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and
conservative talk-radio shows like Rush Limbaugh's--forms a highly effective right-wing echo chamber where GOP-friendly news stories can be promoted,
repeated and amplified. Fox knows how to play this game better than anyone.
Yet, at the same time, the network bristles at the slightest suggestion of a conservative tilt. In fact, wrapping itself in slogans like "Fair and
balanced" and "We report, you decide," Fox argues precisely the opposite: Far from being a biased network, Fox argues, it is the only unbiased
network. So far, Fox's strategy of aggressive denial has worked surprisingly well; faced with its unblinking refusal to admit any conservative tilt
at all, some commentators have simply acquiesced to the network's own self-assessment. FAIR has decided to take a closer look. "