Austin Cunningham’s “The Girls On Fox News Song” may not be the most important contribution to the country music songbook in recent memory, but it’s a terrific explication of how Fox News built the element of its brand that’s reliant on very attractive women to draw in audiences:
“Honey sure beats vinegar to wash down the news we need,” Cunningham sings, and that’s part of the point. Fox News is selling the attractiveness of its anchors and commentators as much as it’s selling actual information. When the network is literally designing sets to make sure its female anchors’ legs will be visible on-air—not to mention sending Megyn Kelly on a long loop around the studio in high heels on election night—no matter the seriousness of the news at hand, it’s hard to argue that sex isn’t one of their products. And as an entertainment company, that’s certainly their prerogative to pick the products they’re interested in selling.
That said, I always wonder what it must be like to be a woman at the network and to be aware that your looks might easily overshadow the actual information you’re trying to convey. When Cunningham asks us to “Save some love for Greta, she’s the smartest of them all. Bet when she’s off the record, she’s the wildest one of all,” it kind of belies the idea that he’s interested in “beauty with brains.” And if I were Megyn Kelly, I’d be gritting my teeth and hoping that Fox had a plan to move me to Fox proper in primetime, or that Jeff Zucker’s CNN might be interested in hiring me and letting me wear a blazer.
Gabriel Sherman has an amazing piece about the on-air meltdown at Fox News over the decision to call Ohio for President Obama last night, which contains this charming detail:
With neither side backing down, senior producers had to find a way to split the difference. One idea was for two members of the decision team, Mishkin and Fox’s digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt, to go on camera with Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier to squelch the doubts over the call. But then it was decided that Kelly would walk through the office and interview the decision team in the conference room. “This is Fox News,” an insider said, “so anytime there’s a chance to show off Megyn Kelly’s legs they’ll go for it.” The decision desk were given a three-minute warning that Kelly would be showing up.
I suppose when a substantial part of your brand, in addition to hiring commentators for their inflammatory qualities rather than actual credentials, is hiring extremely attractive women, it makes sense to use the assets you’ve invested in. But the decision by the channel last night to break the firewall between its anchors and its decision team on behalf of a contributor, Karl Rove, who helped shepherd hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the outcome of an election and didn’t want to hear the final verdict on his investment, was already a sham, another illustration of a conservative allergy to facts and data. Sending an attractive woman to do that embarrassing work–rather than letting her continue to do her anchoring job, at which Kelly is frequently a credit to the network–on Rove’s behalf, to fake concern for the integrity of election results, and to send her in part so you can get her legs out from behind her desk, is strikingly juvenile and strikingly retrograde.
Exactly 32 seconds after the debate ended, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly began spinning the debate as biased as a consequence of the questions asked by the undecided voters in the audience. Here’s what she said:
KELLY: And the questions! 11 questions asked in all, and some of which will certainly be discussed tomorrow. Topics that we haven’t heard at all in this campaign — equal pay for women, in fact there were a lot of women’s issues discussed…abortion, contraception, women’s pay as I mentioned. Some might argue it was obvious pandering to women because the female vote is so important in this election. Apart from equal pay for women, we heard a discussion about assault weapons ban, a question to Mitt Romney about how are you different from President Bush, and then a question to President Obama, what have you done to earn my vote? The one question on foreign policy by my count was about Libya, and seemed to cover ground that we already knew the answer to: it was who denied the request for increased security. Well, we heard great testimony about that last week, there were State department officials who answered that question. So there will be some questions about those selections, Bret.
Watch it straight from the end of the debate:
Contra Kelly’s implication, State Department cables prove that there was no request for increased security at the Benghazi diplomatic location, let alone a denied one.
Fox News on Friday hosted Paul Wolfowitz, a key architect of the war in Iraq, to discuss an alleged “failure of the Obama doctrine in the Middle East,” as host Megyn Kelly described it. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer made the (bogus) charge yesterday on Fox, and Kelly, without any sense of irony, asked Wolfowitz to respond. Krauthammer “is exactly right,” the former Bush administration official said.
Yet Wolfowitz later backhandedly praised Obama’s Middle East policy, lamenting that the successes of the new democracy in Libya (of which President Obama’s Middle East policy helped bring about) don’t get much media attention:
HOST MEGYN KELLY: Your thoughts on Charles Krauthammer’s assertion that this is — what we are witnessing now is the failure of the Obama doctrine in the Middle East.
WOLFOWITZ: I believe that what Charles Krauthammer said is exactly right about the apologetic posture that Obama has taken with the Muslim world, in particular the Arab world. [...]
In Libya it’s very important to emphasize that your viewers may not know because this doesn’t get covered but back in July they had an election. The Libyan people voted freely and fairly for the first time in over forty years and the Muslim Brotherhood came in a distant second and these extremists who seem to be behind the attacks … didn’t even show. ….
Watch the segment:
So things are going relatively well in Libya, but Obama’s Middle East policy is a failure. Got it.
“Our viewers may not know that you were one of the people who believed that we needed to go to war in Iraq,” Kelly told Wolfowitz. Believed? Try: Paul Wolfowitz was a high ranking Bush administration official who pushed this country into a needless war that wound up costing trillions of dollars, thousands of American lives, and tens of thousands wounded — not to mention the cost in Iraqi lives and treasure.
And Wolfowitz was the one who rebuked a high ranking U.S. military officer who said (rightly as it turned out) the United States would need hundreds of thousands of troops to go to war in Iraq. “The notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark,” Wolfowitz said in February 2003.
“When weighing [the] possible benefits against the costs of the Iraq intervention,” CAP’s Matt Duss once observed, “there is simply no conceivable calculus by which Operation Iraqi Freedom can be judged to have been a successful or worthwhile policy.” And Fox hosts Wolfowitz to talk about some fantasy about the failure of the current president’s Middle East doctrine? Very rich indeed.
While Kelly suggests the pepper spray was somehow diluted, Lt. John Pike actually sprayed the sitting students in the face with military-grade pepper spray three times. Video of the incident provoked public outrage and prompted UC system president Mark Yudof to order a review of police procedures at all UC campuses. Two students were hospitalized, and three cops were placed on paid leave as a result of the attack.
Dr. Keith Ablow has a long and nasty record of saying unpleasant and inaccurate things about sexual orientation, gender identity, and the media. He’s insulted Chaz Bono, calling him a “very disordered person”; speculated darkly that a J. Crew ad will sow widespread gender confusion among children; and declared that prison normalizes homosexuality. As my colleagues at ThinkProgress have repeatedly pointed out, it’s an embarrassment that a serious news network would give this much space and airtime to someone whose idea have as much science behind them as patent medicine.
But Ablow’s association with the network does mean we got to see his colleague Megyn Kelly, who periodically pops up to say something awesome about, say, the medieval state of maternity leave in the United States, absolutely dismantle Ablow’s claims that Bono’s participation in Dancing With the Stars will convince legions of American children that they’re not comfortable with the gender they were born into (and also that transitioning is like giving liposuction to an anorexic):
While I don’t think that anyone’s going to switch their gender identity because Chaz Bono is a public figure appearing on a dance show, I’d stop short of saying it’s a totally neutral act. If the somewhat older audience for Dancing With the Stars watches the show and realizes that Chaz Bono is just another guy going through the same process of making himself vulnerable and awkward as all the other candidates, and as a result, feels like transgender people are a little less foreign, that strikes me as a pretty good thing.
It would be wonderful if Fox didn’t credential Ablow by counting him as part of their medical team. But I do think there’s real value in giving folks who believe the same noxious, fictional things that he does some airtime so they can be exposed as the hateful frauds they are. Good for Megyn Kelly for pointing out just how specious his theories about media influence are, and even more importantly, asking, “Isn’t there enough hate?” And good for Bono for refusing to give Fox interviews and refusing to play Fox’s two-faced game, bashing people one day and expecting them to play nice the next.
A new (supposedly) NASA-funded study postulating that aliens may attack humans over climate change had all the ingredients for a perfect Fox faux controversy — it bolstered their anti-science narrative, painted their opponents as clownish radicals, and highlighted wasteful government spending on a supposedly liberal casue. Fox reported the “news from NASA” several times several times today, presenting it as official “taxpayer funded research.” A chyron on Fox and Friends read: “NASA: Global warming may provoke an [alien] attack.”
But as Business Insider pointed out, they’re “wrong” — “That report was not funded by NASA. It was written by an independent group of scientists and bloggers. One of those happens to work at NASA.” NASA distanced itself from the report as well, calling reports linking the agency to it “not true.” Host Megyn Kelly finally corrected the record this afternoon, saying, “I was making that up.”
But before she did, she was so bemused by the study that she directed her viewers to complete a poll on her website which asked how we should respond to the study: “Immediately increase efforts to curb greenhouse gases,” “Develop weapons to kill the Aliens FIRST,” or “Gently suggest scientists research how to create job.”
Not surprisingly, most suggested they research something else. But more than six times as many respondents (19 percent to 3 percent) said we should focus on building weapons to kill aliens before curbing greenhouse gases. Watch a compilation:
The poll is of course not scientific, but you can hardly blame the viewers who did respond, considering Fox’s constant misinformation about climate change. For instance, as she presented the poll, Kelly said of curbing climate change, “just in case, right?” — as in, “just in case” the science is right. She did not make a similar qualifier for alien invasion. Numerous studies consistently show that Fox viewers are among the most misinformed of news viewers, while at least one study has shown that — perversely — watching Fox actually makes people less informed than they were to begin with.
“Trust me folks, this story is hard to understand,” Fox and Friends host Gretchen Carlson said of the “NASA study.” Indeed.
Fox News’ Megyn Kelly returned to work yesterday after three months of maternity leave, and during her first show, she pummeled shock radio host Mike Gallagher, who back in May called Kelly’s maternity leave “a racket” that was “unbelievable.” Kelly not only took Gallagher to task for poo-pooing the notion that women should be able to stay home with their newborns, but she also pointed out that the U.S. is in “the dark ages when it comes to maternity leave,” as it is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t require employers to give new mothers paid time off:
KELLY: What a moronic thing to say…Is maternity leave, according to you, a racket?
GALLAGHER: Well, do men get maternity leave? I can’t believe I’m asking you this, because you’re just going to kill me.
KELLY: Guess what honey? Yes, they do. It’s called the Family Medical Leave Act. If men would like to take three months off to take care of their newborn baby, they can. [...] Just in case you didn’t know, Mike, I want you to know that the United States is the only country in the advanced world that doesn’t require paid maternity leave. Now I happen to work for a nice employer that gave me paid leave. But the United States is the only advanced country that doesn’t require paid leave. If anything, the United States is in the dark ages when it comes to maternity leave. And what is it about getting pregnant and carrying a baby for nine months, that you don’t think deserves a few months off so bonding and recovery can take place, hmm?…You can’t answer the question because there is no answer, my friend.
Kelly is spot-on. As the Project on Global Working families found during a survey of 173 countries, the U.S. is in some bad company when it comes to paid maternity leave:
Out of 173 countries studied, 169 countries offer guaranteed leave with income to women in connection with childbirth; 98 of these countries offer 14 or more weeks paid leave. Although in a number of countries many women work in the informal sector, where these government guarantees do not always apply, the fact remains that the U.S. guarantees no paid leave for mothers in any segment of the work force, leaving it in the company of only 3 other nations: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland.
The U.S. hasn’t required paid maternity leave even though such leave results in “a decrease of complications and recovery time for the mother and [a decrease in] the risk of allergies, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome for the child.” So it seems that even a Fox News host can be sensible when personally faced with the implications of government policy.
As ThinkProgress noted last night, Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul criticized a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal because he doesn’t “like the idea of telling private business owners” that they can’t discriminate. Paul defended his position in subsequent interviews with MSNBC and NPR, admitting that there are sections of the bill he doesn’t “favor.” “When you support nine out of 10 things in a good piece of legislation, do you vote for it or against it?” Paul said to Rachel Maddow. “And I think, sometimes, those are difficult situations.
The conservative media largely stayed silent on Paul’s incendiary position until after he backtracked in a statement declaring that he “will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964″ and an interview with Laura Ingraham in which he said that he would have voted for the law. Fox News, which hosted Paul at least 21 times since last May, didn’t feature a segment on the controversy until this afternoon when Megyn Kelly hosted libertarian John Stossel, who said that he’s “in total agreement” with Paul:
KELLY: He is getting excoriated for suggesting that the Civil Rights Act — what he said was, look, it’s got ten parts essentially. I favor nine. It’s the last part that mandated no discrimination in places of public accommodation that I have a problem with because you should let businesses decide for themselves, you know, whether they’re going to be racist or not racist because once the government gets involved it’s a slippery slope. Do you agree that?
STOSSEL: Totally. I’m in total agreement with Rand Paul. You can call it public accommodation, and it is, but it’s a private business and if a private business wants to say we don’t want any blonde anchorwomen or mustached guys, it ought to be their right.
To her credit, Kelly challenged Stossel aggressively, saying that it was “necessary” to bar private businesses from discriminating in order to guarantee equal rights. But Stossel persisted, saying that he would repeal the section of the Civil Rights Act that covers private businesses:
STOSSEL: And I would go further than he was willing to go, as he just issued the statement and say it’s time now to repeal that part of the law.
STOSSEL: Because private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won’t ever go to a place that’s racist. And I will tell everybody else not to and I’ll speak against them, but it should be there right to be racist.
As The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer points out, Paul and Stossel’s “free market fundamentalism is being expressed after decades of social transformation that the Civil Rights Act helped create, and so the hell of segregation is but a mere abstraction, difficult to remember and easy to dismiss as belonging only to its time.” “It’s much easier now to say that ‘the market would handle it.’ But it didn’t, and it wouldn’t,” writes Serwer.
Paul’s campaign has backtracked even more now, with spokesman Jesse Benton issuing a statement that Paul “supports” the power of the federal government “to ensure that private businesses don’t discriminate based on race.” Page One Kentucky notes, however, that in 2002, Paul wrote a letter to the Bowling Green Daily News in opposition to the Federal Fair Housing Act because it prohibited discrimination on private property. “Decisions concerning private property and associations should in a free society be unhindered. As a consequence, some associations will discriminate,” wrote Paul.
Bruce Bartlett writes, “as we know from history, the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation. … Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn’t work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse.”
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, under the stipulations in the Clean Air Act. Last month, the EPA announced that it would phase-in the regulation over several years, starting with the largest sources of emissions. Many — mostly Republican — state legislators have recently introduced measures to block or limit the EPA’s authority to regulate the gases.
Reporting on the state action today on Fox News, host Megyn Kelly went a bit overboard on the EPA mandate and its plan to regulate auto emissions. “A laundry list of new regulations set to increase the cost of nearly everything in America,” she said, adding without any sense of irony: “And that may not be an exaggeration!” Taking the discussion a bit further into right field, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) actually argued that greenhouse gases are helpful:
KELLY: Back in 2007 the United States Supreme Court basically issued a decision saying it was ok for the EPA to start putting its nose into other peoples’ business in this way if it so desired. [...]
BENNETT: Greenhouse gas emissions have absolutely nothing whatever to do with clean air. CO2 does not add to pollutants or cause asthma or any of the other things you think of with dirty air. CO2 is actually a nutrient for plants and helps some parts of the continents grow more and have greater vegetation.
Of course the Court didn’t rule that the EPA could “start putting its nose into other peoples’ business” whenever it wants. The decisions specifically stated that the agency is legally required to regulate CO2. And in fact, the auto industry has actually applauded the EPA’s move to regulate car emissions. Apparently they don’t feel the mandate means “the cost of nearly everything in America” will increase, as Kelly claimed.