FOX News in the Cross-Hairs
The French have a name for it, “l'esprit de escalier,” which roughly translates to “wisdom of the staircase.” It’s that brilliant idea that pops into your head as you’re heading up the stairs when the party’s over; the brilliant retort you wish you had thought of a minute earlier when you were downstairs with your guests. Boy, you would have looked smart if only you had thought of it then.
I had a “wisdom of the staircase” moment myself, the other day, right after I finished talking to Bill O’Reilly on FOX. Bill had asked me about the Shirely Sherrod mess. First I said that Andrew Breitbart, the conservative gadfly who released that now infamous tape, owed Ms. Sherrod – and all of us – an apology for putting everyone through a whole bunch of totally unnecessary turmoil, over race no less.
But then I went a step further and said that Ms. Sherrod also had some apologizing to do. Breitbart had slimed her, now she was sliming all sorts of people, for no legitimate reason.
On those who opposed President Obama’s healthcare law, she said: “I haven't seen such mean-spirited people as I have seen lately over this issue, healthcare. Some of the racism we thought was buried, didn't it surface.”
So if you oppose ObamaCare, there’s a good chance you're mean-spirited and racist?
On America’s general reaction to the president, she said that during the Bush years, "We didn't do the stuff these Republicans are doing because [now] you have a black President.”
So if you oppose the president’s spending policies or his worldwide apology tour or just about anything else, it’s because he’s black?
I looked straight into the camera and spoke directly to Ms. Sherrod who I’m sure was not watching. Ms. Sherrod, I said, if a President Pelosi or a President Reid had carried out the same policies that President Obama has been carrying out, Americans wouldn’t like that president any more than they like this one.
Then as the segment was ending, Bill noted how savage the infighting had become between the so-called mainstream media and FOX. The MSM was calling FOX all sorts of names because FOX had run the Breitbart tape – early and often. The tape, as we all know by now, portrayed Ms. Sherrod as a bigot for telling an NAACP audience that years ago, when a white farmer asked for her help, she didn’t do all she could – simply because he was white. A day later it came out that during that very same speech Ms. Sherrod went on to say she had been wrong; that over time she came to understand that the real issue wasn’t about race at all – it was about poor people who needed help, no matter what the color of their skin.
Why, Bill wanted to know, was there so much venom aimed at FOX. I gave an easy to understand answer: because FOX is doing so well and the others aren’t. But then I had my “wisdom of the staircase” moment. A second after I went off the air, it hit me. The MSM hates FOX News because FOX represents a threat to their very existence.
Fox, they have come to understand, is no longer the small, up-and-coming operation it was ten years ago. This was no longer the FOX News that only a few “wild-eyed” conservatives watched. This was the new FOX News. All sorts of people were watching now, including lots of independents and even Democrats.
On FOX, they were getting stories that were getting little or no play on ABC, NBC, CBS or the New York Times. By watching FOX, as more and more Americans were doing, they learned all sorts of things – and a lot of those things didn’t do the Obama administration any good. Only 38 percent of independents were now supporting President Obama. A year earlier it was nearly 60 percent. What role was the dreaded FOX News Channel playing in this dangerous abandonment of the president?
A day after I was on with Bill, Bob Herbert, the New York Times columnist, wrote about “the wing nuts” at FOX. A day after that, Frank Rich, in his Sunday New York Times column wrote that, “Fox pumps racial rage into the media bloodstream 24/7.” Well, no it doesn’t. But Frank Rich is a bomb thrower of the first order so his heated nonsense should surprise no one.
Yes, Bill, I should have said, there is an awful lot of hatred aimed at FOX. And it is mainly because of fear. Fear has a way of spawning hatred. And the old media are afraid for good reason. They realize that they’re no longer the only game in town, that millions of Americans watch FOX News now – and for some insane reason as far as the media elite are concerned – actually like it. But the toughest news to swallow is that the boys and girls of the mainstream media realize that their best days are behind them – that is bitter medicine indeed -- and that FOX has become as mainstream as Middle America, a place too many “mainstream” journalists know so little about.