The mainstream media’s obsession with Fox News continues, as the New York Times sends intrepid reporters John Koblin and Nick Corasaniti into the fierce jungle-land of right-wing television to watch an entire day of it. They have escaped back with this dispatch from the front lines: “One Nation, Under Fox: 18 Hours With a Network That Shapes America -- Fox News is a singular force, crafting a searing narrative about what’s happening in the world for millions of viewers, including President Trump.”
It wasn’t that awful a report, although one can’t picture the Times undertaking such an expedition during the Obama years, going on a brave quest into the left-wing fever swamps of MSNBC (and CNN, and ABC...).
After noting the network’s new biggest fan, President Trump, the reporters admit the obvious:
Fox News has been the most watched cable news network for 15 years, but depending on the hour, the news narrative it presents to its large and loyal conservative audience can sharply diverge from what consumers of other media outlets may be seeing.
We watched Fox News from 6 a.m. until midnight on Thursday to see how its coverage varied from that of its rivals on a day when cable news was dominated by the health care debate in Congress, the terrorist attack in London and the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.
Always the onus is on highly rated Fox News to be more like the networks -- i.e., more toward the liberal media mainstream -- and never for the networks to become more balanced and reclaim some of the viewership lost due to bias. And there's always a feel of an anthropological expedition when discussing Fox News content, quite different from when the Times is engaged in a cozy, familiar celebration (again and again) of the latest needle upward in Rachel Maddow’s ratings at the left-wing outlet MSNBC.
To their credit, Koblin and Corasaniti did spend a lot of time on one aspect of mainstream media bias by omission harped on by Fox News that day -- an allegation of a rape of a teen girl in a Maryland high school by illegal aliens, an incident that's been ignored by the mainstream media networks. Even then, the Times kept to its oversensitive "undocumented" terminology, because you don’t want to offend someone accused of rape:
There was extensive coverage of the health care vote, for example, but there was also considerable time given to topics, like a rape case in Maryland, that viewers would not have heard about if they had turned to CNN or MSNBC. The rape case, which involved an undocumented immigrant and went virtually uncovered on most networks, received almost hourly updates on Fox, and at times was used as proof that Mr. Trump’s calls for tighter borders and a crackdown on immigration were justified.
It promised to be an eventful day in Washington, with the debate over the health care bill providing the twists, turns and last-minute negotiations that cable news channels love. But when “Fox and Friends” began at 6 a.m. the co-host Ainsley Earhardt was holding up the gruesome front page of The New York Post.
The crew of “Fox and Friends” spent a large chunk of the morning focusing on the London terrorist attack, and updates on the situation kept coming through the morning on the shows “America’s Newsroom” and “Happening Now.”
Many of these updates came with an underlying message: that the world can be a dark and often dangerous place, and that it is under the threat of “radical Islamic terror,” as was said with emphasis on “Fox and Friends.” (That phrase is one that Mr. Trump proudly and frequently uses.) The message of fear would resonate throughout the day, in the London coverage and later in segments on the Maryland rape case.
Then came a fact check, a strange situation of one news outlet fact-checking another (again, something the Times does not do with MSNBC or CNN):
Mr. Kilmeade repeatedly turned his focus to London’s “Muslim mayor,” Sadiq Khan, calling on him to discuss the difference between his faith and that of the attacker. “Fox and Friends” also spent time on comments that Mr. Khan made in 2016 about how terrorism preparedness was “part and parcel” of living in a big city. After the attack this week, Donald Trump Jr. wrote a Twitter post about Mr. Khan’s comments and was roundly criticized for taking them out of context. “Fox and Friends” did not note that.
The fact check that followed included:
....But Mr. Khan did not say that bombings and shootings were an inescapable fact of life. He said that terrorism preparedness, including providing sufficient support to the police, was “part and parcel of living in a great global city.”
The NYT implicitly faulted Fox News for not dwelling long enough on Republican’s failure to repeal Obamacare, then returned to the rape of the teenager in Maryland.
All week, Fox News had been covering a story of a 14-year-old Maryland girl who said she had been raped by two of her high school classmates, one of whom is an undocumented immigrant.
But the Times didn’t mention details that make the case even more awful, as detailed on Townhall: “On the morning of March 16, a 14-year old girl was allegedly raped by two illegal aliens in a high school bathroom in Rockville, Maryland. One of the alleged rapists, Henry Sanchez-Milian, is an adult, 18 years old, while the other suspect, Jose O. Montano, is 17-years old....The Governor expressed his outrage that ‘an 18-year old man’ was in the same class as 13 and 14-year old girls.’”
Back to the NYT:
Fox News gave considerable attention to a rape case in Maryland. One of the suspects is an undocumented immigrant, and the network accused other channels of not covering the case enough.
The way the story was discussed throughout the day on the network was not unlike a Trump campaign speech: criticism of the mainstream media, accusing it of having a liberal agenda that prioritizes identity politics over safety....
The Maryland case was a topic on Fox News from the morning to almost midnight. The coverage was also laced with critical comments aimed at other networks for not giving the case enough attention.
The paper’s “fact check” at least admitted the truth of that Fox News assertion.
The Times itself has evidently devoted one story to the rape charge, after White House press secretary Sean Spicer raised the incident. Liam Stack, he of the uniformly anti-Trump Twitter feed, included this tweak of Fox News in his story: “The case has been reported extensively by the local news media in Washington, as well as on Fox News, which has provided detailed and adjective-laden accounts of the sexual assault and used it to illustrate what it called the dangers of lenient immigration enforcement.”