Wonder why the White House attack on the Fox News Channel (you know: "not a news network") failed? Well, besides the fact that not even the other networks thought it was right, it might be because Fox often commits actual journalism.
Witness Bill O'Reilly's Nov. 6 interview with Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe, co-authors of the soon-to-be-released "Sarah from Alaska." During the interview, the authors insisted that it was "not a slam book at all." In fact, Conroy said that his "final conclusion" of Palin was that "she's always been underestimated" and to "write her off" would be a "big mistake." Walshe also implicitly blamed the media by saying that Palin's "three-dimensional character" was ignored during last year's presidential campaign and, instead, "she was perceived as either an idiot or she was loathed."
So why did Conroy and Walshe feel the need to defend the fairness of their book? Perhaps because the duo had appeared on CBS earlier that week, and "fair" isn't an adjective that comes to mind in describing that interview.
Although the two networks asked the same basic questions, only FNC did any digging into the authors' responses. For example, during their interview with CBS' Harry Smith, Conroy and Walshe described the relationship between the "McCain and Palin camps" as "an all-out civil war," especially the night McCain gave his concession speech. According to Walshe, McCain refused to allow Palin to speak because his staffers were "terrified" that Palin would "embarrass John McCain even after the campaign had officially ended."
What could Palin say that would be so embarrassing? Was she going to hog the attention? Say something outlandish?
On CBS, Smith didn't ask these questions, preferring to use the anecdote to play up the "clash" between the McCain and Palin "camps." Which is too bad, since Conroy and Walshe had "exclusively obtained" the text of both Palin's victory and concession speeches.
Fortunately, O'Reilly bothered to ask. And it turns out that McCain's staffers were "terrified" of Palin being ... too nice.
"Both speeches really just praised John McCain as an American hero, praised Barack Obama," said Walshe.
"So it was a generous speech?" O'Reilly asked.
"Absolutely," Walshe asserted.
O'Reilly didn't ignore the subject of tension between McCain and Palin. But, unlike Smith, he didn't just accept the authors' initial assertions and move on.
During the CBS interview, Walshe said that Palin felt like "she wasn't being directed correctly" but the McCain staffers felt like "she was number two on the ticket and that she should follow direction." Conroy added, "[Palin's] sort of taken ownership of this phrase ‘Going Rogue,' but really, to many of the McCain staffers, it was very irritating that she time and again - towards the end of the campaign especially - was going off and doing her own thing."
"Time and again?" Wow. Examples? Smith didn't ask for any. Good thing O'Reilly followed up for him and found out that the McCain staff were irritated with Palin for the exact same reasons they had chosen her in the first place: for having an outgoing personality that connected well with the large, rural demographic.
"In the beginning of the campaign," said Walshe, "you'll remember, she wasn't allowed to come back and talk to the press. And she really wanted to. She knew that if she put her personal touch with the traveling press corps that she would be able to win them over as she did in Alaska. She was not allowed to. So, that's when she thought, I really should be following my own instincts. They didn't like that."
Conroy also said that Palin had trouble with the McCain staff when she wanted to campaign longer in Michigan. "She didn't want to give up there," he said. "She knew that those were the kinds of people she could win over - the salt of the earth people. But they just - the McCain staffers thought that was out of play."
Whatever trouble she might have had with McCain in 2008, both authors agreed with O'Reilly that she could definitely run again, citing her "thousands and thousands" of "very, very loyal" fans and saying that she had "absolutely" done a good job as the governor of Alaska.
So, while not a single positive word was said about Palin during the entire Smith interview, both authors agreed during O'Reilly's that, while Palin may have an "uphill climb," she shouldn't be "underestimated."
Now who's the real news network? Maybe it's the one with all the ratings.