Former New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines is shocked, shocked that Fox News isn’t tarred and feathered by journalists the nation over for its perceived biases.
How dare Bill O’Reilly and company knock President Barack Obama off-message regarding healthcare reform? Or hold him accountable, for that matter.
Raines took to The Washington Post’s op-ed pages over the weekend to blast the 24-hour news channel for “a campaign [against Obama] without precedent in our modern political history.”
Perhaps he missed the “love in” masquerading as news coverage concerning then-Sen. Obama’s run for the presidency in 2008.
The piece argues Fox News is hopelessly biased and does all it can to undermine the Obama Administration. The network should be seen as nothing more than an arm of the GOP—and an enemy of “old school” journalists everywhere.
“Many members of my profession seem to stand by in silence as [Fox News chief Roger] Ailes tears up the rulebook that served this country well as we covered the major stories of the past three generations, from the civil rights revolution to Watergate to the Wall Street scandals,” Raines writes.
Yet Fox News has never had to fire a reporter for serially making up sources and facts as Raines did during the Jayson Blair affair. Nor are its conservative commentators anywhere near as unhinged as MSNBC’s resident gadfly, Keith Olbermann.
Consider a low-light reel of O’Reilly’s most argumentative broadsides and measure them up to Olbermann’s Special Comments, particularly Olbermann’s anti-Scott Brown rants the night the new Massachusetts senator was elected. It’s like comparing a pop gun to a bazooka. But Olbermann’s name doesn’t come up in Raines’ rant.
And how could Raines leave out the liberal bias found at his former employer?
The New York Times under Raines’ continued its leftward lurch, says Clay Waters, director of TimesWatch, a division of the Media Research Center.
Waters recalls the paper’s push to force the Augusta National Golf Club to admit women as but one example of its ideological bent.
“He really made it a cause. No one else in the media was covering this,” Waters says. “Even other liberal journalists were embarrassed by it.”
The op-ed isn’t the first time Raines has targeted Fox News. In his second autobiography, “The One That Got Away”, the former editor went after both Fox News and its owner, Roger Ailes, Waters says.
Then again, bashing Fox News is “almost a requirement to being in the mainstream media these days,” he says, although in Raines’ vision bears the whiff of paranoia. The column hints that reporters are fearful to critique the news channel for fear of career repercussions.
Raines’ column was oddly quiet about this former employer’s stance regarding the publication of the NSA wiretapping program against the wishes of former President George W. Bush. The paper also caused a firestorm by publishing details of the SWIFT program, used by the government to monitor international financial transactions.
Even Jacob Weisberg of Slate deemed the SWIFT publication unwise.
Bernard Goldberg, a Fox News contributor and media watchdog, says the Washington Post should be ashamed to have run a column so poorly argued.
“It’s nothing more than an angry rant that didn’t provide a single specific example to back up its case,” says Goldberg, author of the 2001 book “Bias”. “This was the kind of thing that Howell Raines says to his pals at cocktail parties. The only thing that made it different was that the Washington Post gave him space.”
He says had he submitted a similar column it likely would have been rejected for lack of clear-cut examples to buttress the argument.
“If I had 10 examples they might not run it anyway,” he adds.
Goldberg is aghast Raines could even discuss bias on cable news without mentioning MSNBC.
“When you realize that, you see this isn’t a serious piece,” Goldberg says. “He has no problem with MSNBC because he agrees with MSNBC.”
Raines could have attempted to critique some of Fox News’ opinion-show hosts for failing to live up to the network’s “fair and balanced” motto, something reasonable people could debate.
Instead, Raines combines Fox News’ hard news and commentary programs together in order to label the combination as unworthy of the term “journalism.”
Goldberg says Raines’ tenure at the New York Times starting in 2001 came when several new media forces, from Fox News to the Drudge Report, were hitting their stride. He could have addressed legitimate concerns about the paper’s liberal bias and values disconnect with many readers.
“He had an opportunity to save the mainstream media,” Goldberg says, adding that the major news networks routinely follow the Gray Lady‘s lead each weeknight. Instead, “he took a hard turn to the left. The New York Times went into serious ideological decline.” he says.
“Now, he’s trying to portray himself as the conscious of American journalism? C’mon,” he says.