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Joe Biden is a riddle that Fox News can't solve — at least not during the Democrat's first two months in office.
Forced by Trump's seven million-vote loss to go on the offensive against the new president — after playing defense every day for the Republican — Fox News ought to easily open up its well-worn playbook for a Democratic administration and seamlessly make the partisan transition. It's the same outline the network used while Barack Obama was in office — relentlessly depict the center-left Democratic president as a dangerous, socialist interloper determined to overturn the American way of life.
Key to whipping up that national frenzy in the spring of 2009, was the emergence of the supposedly grassroots Tea Party movement. With Murdoch's network providing free, nonstop marketing and promotion, soon thousands of people took to the streets to protest Obama’s policies, just weeks into his presidency.
Today though, Fox News can't seem to muster the same anger and excitement to consistently denounce Biden, who to many viewers probably looks like their brother, uncle, or father — a built-in advantage of being a white man in American politics. Obsessed with fighting cultural wars while Biden enjoys solid public support after signing the widely popular Covid relief bill into law, Fox News remains adrift in the Biden era, as Trump remains mostly in seclusion in Palm Beach, Florida. (Trump insurrectionists have shown no interest in protesting Biden in the streets.)
Instead of leading a large scale revolt against Biden and his sweeping legislative proposals, Fox News prefers to play small ball. "Less than two months have passed since Joe Biden’s inauguration, and the network is already responding to the country’s new era by obsessing over similarly absurd and imaginary battlefronts," Vanity Fair noted this month. "The network spent an hour and nine minutes of airtime on the supposed cancellation of Dr. Seuss on Tuesday—more than twice as long as its coverage of the coronavirus vaccination effort on the same day."
Meanwhile, Biden plays it cool, refusing to provide any oxygen for partisan brawls. Over the weekend, when a reporter excitedly asked Biden what he thought of the news that Trump might go down to the border to basically stage a "crisis" photo-op, the bemused president said simply, "I don’t care what the other guy does."
As Oliver Willis noted, "Biden isn’t jumping when they collectively demand he do so. He is not playing by the approved rules, where the right and the media set the agenda and the Democrats careen from crisis to crisis."
A huge programming hurdle for Fox News this year has been the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, which passed without a single Republican vote of support, despite the fact it was arguably the most popular spending bill in the last half century. Even a majority of Republican voters — i.e. Fox News viewers — support the legislation, which distributed $1,400 relief checks to tens of millions of families, pumped billions into the pandemic vaccination rollout, and is helping school districts across the country re-open. The bill represents a big huge political win for the Democratic president.
The contrast is remarkable with how Fox News downplayed and tried to ignore the Covid bill's historic passage in Congress, compared to eight years ago when the network relentlessly hyped and attacked both Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the administration’s $787 billion stimulus bill, and then the following year, Obamacare. Neither of those measures enjoyed as much public support as does the Covid relief bill passed this year. Fox News spent countless hours/weeks/months ripping both those Obama initiatives to shreds — the stimulus became a "bailout," and Obamacare was anchored by morbid "death panels."
Amidst that right-wing hysteria about looming socialism came the Tea Party, a media-made invention from day one. It was born on CNBC, when reporter Rick Santelli started ranting about Obama on the floor of the Chicago stock exchange, warning viewers the new Democratic president was steering the country toward a Cuban Castro-like economy. CNBC then boosted the clip incessantly, while NBC led its evening newscast that night of the rant with a clip of Santelli, announcing his rant had struck a "populist" chord.
Fox News quickly went all in, provided attendance and organizing information. In early April, as a large Tax Day event approached, the network announced that four hosts – Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto, Greta Van Susteren, and Sean Hannity -- would appear live at Tea Party sites across the country and broadcast the protests throughout the day.
By then, Fox News referred to the anti-Obama Tea Parties as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties,” and the Fox Nation also hosted its own “virtual tea party," Media Matters reported. One Fox News producer was even caught coaching a crowd to cheer during one Tea Party Express event.
From April 6 to April 15, 2009, less than three months into Obama's first term in office, Fox News aired more than 100 on-air promotions for their coverage of the GOP protests, providing the movement with tens of millions of dollars in free marketing.
All of the Tea Party noise, which the mainstream media loved to amplify, made it difficult for Obama and his team to communicate, unobstructed, to the American people. The good news is that, so far, Biden’s not facing that same Fox News obstacle.
🦠 GOOD STUFF:
Two weeks ago I noted how absurd it was for the media to try to turn Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis into a Covid star, considering his often mindless and reckless handling of the pandemic.
Now from Yahoo News’ “Florida Covid Numbers Face New Scrutiny”:
New research published earlier this month in the American Journal of Public Health argues that Florida is undercounting the number of people who died from COVID-19 by thousands of cases, casting new doubt on claims that Gov. Ron DeSantis navigated the coronavirus pandemic successfully…
The impact of the pandemic in Florida “is significantly greater than the official COVID-19 data suggest,” the researchers wrote. They came to that conclusion by comparing the number of estimated deaths for a six-month period in 2020, from March to September, to the actual number of deaths that occurred, a figure known as “excess deaths” because they exceed the estimate.
🎧 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Yaeow, “Town I Called My Home”
Teenage angst sounds so appealing in the hands of the British low-fi producer and singer-songwriter who goes by the name of Yaeow.
I love his deep, slow melodic voice here, the simple acoustic guitar accompaniment, and then 30 seconds in the unexpected drum groove that lifts this song up into the realm of mellow superstardom.
I'm a blue boy living in a town where I don't feel like I belong
A town I called my home
And God knows, I have tried my best to work it out
But in the end I don't feel like I belong
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