Media That Accused Fox of Shilling for Bush Yawn at Zuckerman's Ties to Obama

July 14th, 2010 11:19 PM

Days after Mort Zuckerman, the Editor-in-Chief of U.S. News and World Report, claimed to be close to President Obama's advisors, the national media have yet to express any interest.

Of the few outlets that mentioned it, the White House's denial was taken as gospel truth, and no more investigation was apparently warranted.

What a difference when the sitting president is a Democrat.

Under the Bush Administration, the media were obsessed with linking the White House to Fox News in an effort to accuse Republicans of spreading propaganda. Yet now that U.S. News is linked to Obama, suddenly such allegations are quickly dimissed.

For a taste of the double standard, observe two different reports from Politico. First is a post on Tuesday concerning Zuckerman:

Real Estate and media mogul Mort Zuckerman raised eyebrows all over yesterday with the claim on Fox that he "helped write one of [Obama's] speeches," and his subsequent refusal to go into it right now.

Among those with reason to be puzzled, a White House source tells me, were Obama's speechwriters, Jon Favreau and Ben Rhodes. Neither "has ever met or spoken to Mort Zuckerman" and the two have "been closely involved in every speech the President has given since 2005," said the official.

Zuckerman has met President Obama a few times and no doubt encountered other Administration officials, and he could well have suggested a theme to the president or another aide. But the question of what he "helped write"  remains a bit of a mystery.

Those three small paragraphs comprise Ben Smith's entire report. President Obama is denying the story, so that's just that.

Was that kind of trust extended to Republicans under President Bush? Not so much. Here's Politico giving space to one Matt Stoller in 2007:

First, we argued that Fox News is not a news channel, but a propaganda outlet that regularly distorts, spins, and falsifies information. Second, Fox News is heavily influenced or even controlled by the Republican Party itself. As such, we believe that Fox News on the whole functions as a surrogate operation for the GOP. Treating Fox as a legitimate news channel extends the Republican Party's ability to swift-boat and discredit our candidates. In other words, Fox News is a direct pipeline of misinformation from the GOP leadership into the traditional press.

So, we have a self-proclaimed fan of Obama working as Editor-in-Chief of a major newspaper, but Politico isn't much worried about bias seeping onto his pages. But when Fox News is perceived as being in the tank for Republicans, it's apparently okay to launch accusations against them.

In 2002, the Washington Post's Bob Woodward revealed that Fox News head Roger Ailes had written a letter to President Bush immediately after the attacks on September 11. Woodward portrayed it as improper contact between the White House and the press, but Ailes insisted it was nothing more than an emotional letter from a scared citizen following a terrorist attack.

The media jumped all over the controversy with fervor. On November 21 of that year, PBS News Hour filed a report on the scandal, with host Terrence Smith asking bluntly "is that an appropriate role for a journalist," which set up a nice tee for Woodward to reply "he's not supposed to do it."

News Hour then provided input from Tucker Carlson:

Roger Ailes is the editorial chief of fox news [sic], and this gives the appearance of partisanship. This is sucking up to power.

Then CNN's Arthel Neville:

Does that shed new light on, "we report, you decide," Jack?

And of course an expert from Harvard:

Mr. Ailes has had a very close relation with a number of Republican presidents. I doubt this is a letter -- despite what he said in the Washington Post -- I doubt this is a letter that he would have sent to [Democratic President] Bill Clinton.

The current reaction to Zuckerman's claim of advising public officials? Mostly crickets.

Salon covered the incident if only to promptly insist "it is safe to say that this is not true" and Zuckerman's rebuttal was "kind of sad."

A search for Mort Zuckerman on Google News reaps scant results, mostly from blogs, and certainly nothing like the accusations launched against Fox News. Curiously missing is someone to accuse Zuckerman of "sucking up" to Democrats. No one took to the airwaves of PBS to suggest he wouldn't have offered speechwriting help to a Republican. And no one sat on the air at CNN asking if U.S. News & World Report could be trusted as unbiased news.

Any news source that is perceived as being friendly to Republicans is presumed to be a propaganda wing for the GOP. Yet when a well-respected editor openly flaunts his support of a Democrat, the media's reaction is a collective shrug.

Americans will probably never get the truth about exactly how close Zuckerman is to the White House - and that's the way the media want it.