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Over the last four years, the Trump White House press briefing room has welcomed the right-wing media swamp, with conspiracy outlets like Gateway Pundit and OAN granted access to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It was part of a Trump campaign to de-legitimize the press and turn the traditionally-serious briefings into partisan showdowns, where Trump’s far-right media supporters were able to turn the sessions into a farce by asking absurd questions that echoed Trump talking points.
The Biden White House needs to fumigate all of that. While they’re at it, they should give Fox News the boot, too. An avowed propaganda outlet that damages our democracy every day, it’s time for a Democratic administration to tell the truth about Fox News.
Twelve years ago, the incoming Obama administration picked an important fight with Fox News, when a top aide described it as “either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.” The White House announced it would treat the outlet accordingly. That criticism sparked widespread condemnation from the Beltway media, which rallied to Fox News’ defense and belittled the White House for being thin-skinned. “It's escaped none of our notice that the White House has decided in the last few weeks to declare one of our sister organizations “not a news organization,”” complained Jake Tapper, then with ABC News, while addressing White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
Tapper was baffled as to why the White House didn’t see Fox News as a legitimate news outlet, at the same time the network was in the midst of a hysterical and homophobic, weeks-long smear campaign, falsely painting an openly gay member of the Obama administration as a "pervert."
Today, it’s virtually impossible for anyone in the Beltway press to make the argument that Fox News is a legitimate outlet. It has likely infected millions of people this year — while killing thousands — by airing dangerous lies about a public health crisis, pushing blatant disinformation about how the pandemic is a hoax and a "Deep State" plot by Democrats to take down Trump. (During a single week in July, Fox News segments politicized wearing face masks more than 60 times.)
The network has also spent the last month waging a frontal assault on democracy by denigrating free and fair elections in this country. Fox News, by its own choice, now stands completely exposed for what it is — a cancer on this country. And there’s no way it deserves press credentials for the Biden White House.
After initially picking that fight with Fox News, the Obama administration “lost our nerve,” former adviser Tommy Vietor conceded this week. “We were bullied by the Washington axis of media elites.” Looking forward, Veitor counsels the Biden White House to, “call Fox what it is: an extension of the Republican Party. Say it often.”
I’d go a step further and suggest the Biden administration cut ties with Fox News entirely. It’s not a news gathering organization, so it doesn’t need White House press credentials.
Fox News wants to enjoy the benefits of being seen as a news operation. It wants the trappings and the professional protections that go with it. But the network has become a political institution, and it needs to be treated that way. Fox News was first created to echo Republican talking points. That relationship has now been flipped and Republicans today often wait to get their political cues from Fox News.
Meanwhile, beware of the argument that there’s a Very Serious Fox News that airs during the day and that hard-working journalists at the network shouldn’t be penalized for the actions of the opinion hosts who spew lies at night, and during the wake-up show. This is nonsense. It’s a feel-good claim pushed by some Beltway journalists who don’t want to accurately label Fox News for what it is, pure propaganda.
In the weeks leading up to the election, Fox News spent more than 36 hours “covering the New York Post's unverified revelations regarding Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son Hunter and a laptop containing allegedly scandalous emails connecting the elder Biden to long-debunked conspiracy theories about his son’s business interests,” Media Matters reported. Of those 36 hours, more than one-third of the baseless Hunter claims aired on the networks’ supposedly serious “news” programs. Meanwhile, what kind of “news” team tries to pass off a GOP press release as its own research -- typo and all?
Propping up the idea that there’s an “opinion” and “news” divide at Fox News stops us from having an honest conversation about what the outlet really does. Giving Fox News White House press credentials also puts off that much-needed and frank discussion.
Facing newfound market pressure from the far, far right in the wake of Trump’s loss — his loyalists were mad Fox didn’t run with the “stolen” election narrative loudly enough 24 hours a day — it’s very likely the network will spend next year trying to prove its right-wing bona fides by mercilessly and dishonestly attacking the Biden administration. Recall that within weeks of Obama being inaugurated, following his landslide victory, Fox News was promoting anti-Obama Tea Party rallies across the country. Look for that same organizing and sponsorship dynamic to be in play next year for the Biden presidency.
Democrats face all kinds of media propagandists looking to do harm to the party and the new president. There’s no reason to grant them the credibility of White House press passes.
📺 More from Vietor’s excellent piece, “Why Joe Biden Must Sideline Fox News”:
For example, in 2009, when the Treasury Department made the watchdog who oversaw the 2008 Wall Street bailout available to every network except Fox News, the Washington bureau chiefs of the five TV networks got together and boycotted the interview unless we included Fox, too. Boycotted! The press corps didn’t muster this same principle when Trump singled out news networks for disloyalty, or privileged Fox over all other outlets, or stopped conducting White House press briefings, or called journalists the “enemy of the people.”
This happened yesterday, much appreciated:
Eric Boehlert @EricBoehlert1. NEWS: We can't mend this American mess if we don't try to fix the press. So I'm launching a newsletter, Press Run. A proudly progressive dissection of the press in the age of Trump, Press Run promises fearless media commentary; https://t.co/yuoVEz3pSF
FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
🎙 The War and Treaty, “Jubilee”
Hands down my favorite husband-and-wife team making new music these days, The War and Treaty’s latest album, Hearts Town, is an R&B wonder from the Tennessee-based duo of Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount.
From Rolling Stone:
On Hearts Town, the band’s huge leap forward of a second album, the War and Treaty expand on the rootsy textures of their 2018 debut, Healing Tide, incorporating Tony Bennett crooning (“Hey Pretty Moon”), Eighties adult pop (“Liquid Lies”), and radio rock (the Jason Isbell-assisted “Beautiful”). Dark-edged ballads like “Jealousy” and urgent political pleas like “Lonely in My Grief,” meanwhile, offer a more three-dimensional portrait of the joyful salvation the band has become known for.