Last week, I caught up with Fox News ambusher Jesse Watters at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC and asked him about a recent Media Matters’ report that a former Fox News “insider” said that “stuff is just made up” at the network. However, instead of commenting on the story, Watters tried to belittle me. Thinking I was trying to “ambush” him, Watters said I was “a little JV” because I didn’t have a big camera crew, claimed I looked “nervous,” and even feigned victimhood at a slight brush up against his sport coat, saying, “Watch my blazer, bro.”
In appreciation for their star ambush reporter’s efforts to avoid commenting on how Fox makes stuff up, the network is now trying to spin my encounter with Watters. Bill O’Reilly last night aired a heavily edited clip of my interview with Watters and then attacked me personally (remember, O’Reilly once said he doesn’t do personal attacks):
O’REILLY: As you may know, Factor producer Jesse Waters occasionally does man on the street interviews with people who dodge the Factor. That has angered some on the far left and groups like ThinkProgress do not like Jesse. They are, of course, misguided. Anyway, some nebbish from that group caught up with Watters in Washington. [...]
This dopey Media Matters outfit, which is a Web site, ran some kind of blind report, right? … This moron comes out there and who’s — “are you making stuff up?” Most people say no, we don’t make stuff up. You were brilliant in the sense that you don’t even answer the question. This is stupid.
This morning, Fox and Friends also aired select portions of my interview with Watters. Doocy said Watters was “ambushed by a far left blogger” and simply accepted Watters’ claim that I looked “a little nervous.” “Watch my blazer, bro,” Doocy said, quoting Watters’ catch phrase from the interview. Watch it:
Of course, O’Reilly, Watters, and the Fox & Friends crew got some things wrong. As Watters knows well, an “ambush” interview is when one confronts someone outside their home, office or any other private space, forces interviewees to call the police, confronts someone while he or she is eating breakfast or dinner with family or won’t allow someone to get in their car and drive away. Ambushing is also stalking a woman and following her and her boyfriend for two hours to a vacation spot to accost them. All of this is what Jesse Watters has done, and continues to do.
As I told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Monday night, I did not “ambush” Watters. I saw Watters walking around at CPAC, a public event that hundreds of political reporters attended, and I decided to ask him if wished to defend his employer. I did not stalk Watters, nor did I have a pre-meditated plan to interview and embarrass him. I used a flip cam (not a cell phone camera) to record Watters’ comments, just as any reporter would use a pen and notepad or a voice recorder. If Watters had said he did not want to speak with me, that would have been the end of the interview.
Watters’s response to my question perfectly illustrates what Fox News does to its perceived opponents and how it confronts criticism: divert attention from the substantive issue and shout down and denigrate those with whom it disagrees.