FLASHBACK: Decades of Lib Media Hysteria Over Fox News

April 22nd, 2023 9:00 AM

Fox News’s liberal competitors are happy at this week’s news that the network will pay nearly $800 million in damages to settle a lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems, but they are sad that the settlement means they won’t be able to jab Fox with the daily negative headlines they could hope for from a trial.

“Capitalism won. Dominion won. Did democracy get anything out of this?” CNN’s John King whined on Wednesday’s Inside Politics. By “democracy,” of course, King was referring to CNN’s (and the larger liberal media’s) anti-Fox agenda.

This disdainful attitude has been a feature of the media’s treatment of their rival since Fox News debuted in 1996. That year, Los Angeles Times TV writer Howard Rosenberg sneered at Fox News boss Roger Ailes for building a news organization around “the ditsy notion of the media having perverted the United States by being a cesspool of lefty ideologues.”

Tone-deaf reporters acted as if Fox was the only network where on-air personalities had a point of view: “Should you be using the national airwaves to promote your opinions?” ABC’s Diane Sawyer challenged Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in 2000.

“Right now, there’s a highly successful conservative cable network called Fox. Why isn’t there a highly successful liberal network?” a befuddled Chris Matthews wondered in 2005. The answer, from raging PBS left-winger Bill Moyers, was that “liberals and progressives...[are] too subtle, too complex, too erudite” to choke down the sort of “red meat” programming he saw on Fox.

A decade later, lefties were still confused about how to compete. “What’s the solution to corporate media?” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow asked Democrat/socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2016.

“I think we have got to think about ways that the Democratic Party, for a start, starts funding the equivalent of Fox television,” Sanders replied.

It might surprise Bernie Sanders to learn that the Republican Party does NOT fund Fox, nor is it a philanthropy project of conservative-minded donors. It’s actually a highly-successful commercial endeavor, whose mere existence has provided news audiences with a genuine alternative to the liberal hive mind that enjoyed hegemony over the news product in previous decades.

And that’s the reason the liberal elite has despised Fox News for more than two decades. From our archives, here’s a selection of the most venomous and hateful attacks on Fox from liberals who hate the idea that news audiences have a real choice:

■ “Fox News Channel. The home of sludge-master Matt Drudge is horrible, but impressive ratings increases prove it has found its audience: viewers who have no concerns about journalistic standards. If the drive to impeach [Bill Clinton] was kept alive by the right-wing Republican base, then Fox may be able to claim credit for keeping that base agitated by feeding it scandal stories everyday, even when nothing was happening.”
USA Today TV reviewer Robert Bianco, February 15, 1999.

■ “Fox News....[is] a sort of chat place where people kind of come and sit down for an hour or two to listen to crazy people, you know, exchange views.”
— Time Warner Chairman and CEO Richard Parsons, whose company owns CNN, at the UNITY: Journalists of Color conference in Washington, DC on August 6, 2004 and shown live on C-SPAN.

■ “Al Qaeda really hurt us, but not as much as Rupert Murdoch has hurt us, particularly in the case of Fox News. Fox News is worse than Al Qaeda — worse for our society. It’s as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was.”
— MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann in an interview with Playboy magazine, October 2007 issue.

■ “Fox News loves to foment this anti-intellectualism because that’s their bread and butter. If you have a cerebral electorate, Fox News goes down the toilet, you know, very, very fast....They have tackled that elusive...Klan with a ‘K’ demo.”
— Actress/activist Janeane Garofalo talking about Tea Party protests on MSNBC’s Countdown, April 16, 2009.

■ “When Fox starts describing themselves as journalists or a news organization, that’s where I think it’s appropriate to describe Fox as disgraceful....You go up and down the schedule and it’s insanity over there....The number of lies, perpetuated, promoted by Fox News is just shameful and it hurts everybody.”
— MSNBC daytime anchor David Shuster on left-wing host Stephanie Miller’s radio show, April 30, 2009.

■ “Let me be precise here: Fox News peddles a fair amount of hateful crap. Some of it borders on sedition. Much of it is flat out untrue.”
Time’s Joe Klein on the magazine’s “Swampland” blog, October 23, 2009.

■ “I’m sorry, there are certain news organizations out here whose agenda is to undermine the 90 percent of journalists who are just simply trying to cover stories out there.”
— NBC White House correspondent and MSNBC daytime host Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, February 8, 2010.

■ “Through clever use of the Fox News Channel and its cadre of raucous commentators, [Roger] Ailes has overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II....For the first time since the yellow journalism of a century ago, the United States has a major news organization devoted to the promotion of one political party.”
— Former New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines in a March 14, 2010 op-ed for the Washington Post.

■ “Fox News presents the news in a way that is deliberately skewed to promote political causes, and the New York Times simply does not.”
New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal during the Times’s “Freakonomics” radio podcast, February 16, 2012.

■ “At least for Americans — Fox News is Murdoch’s most toxic legacy....I doubt that people at Fox News really believe their programming is ‘fair and balanced’ — that’s just a slogan for the suckers.”
— Former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller in a May 6, 2012 column.

■ “Everything about the institutional structure and economic benefits of the conservative movement is slanted toward ridiculous clownish antics. It’s what we see on right-wing talk radio, it’s what gets you a contract with Fox News, in some cases a second contract with Fox News....The people who want to be players in this world have to put on the red nose and floppy shoes, and then they have to go to clown auditions.”
— MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on All In, June 14, 2013.

■ “So it does come back to the people. They’re very easily fooled and they’re horribly misinformed about everything. And the people who watch Fox News live in a bubble I can’t even describe to you. They have — the facts never get in. It’s like the airlock in an alien movie, you know, that you can’t let the alien in or else you have to blow up the ship.”
— HBO Real Time host Bill Maher on CNN’s Stroumboulopoulos, June 21, 2013.

■ “If Fox News were around years ago when anti-Semitism was part of the mainstream, I have no doubt they would be anti-Semitic to get viewers. I have no doubt they would be pro-segregation to get viewers in the times of the civil rights movement. They just feed to the worst element of our society and thankfully their viewers are dying off.”
— Comedian and frequent CNN guest Dean Obeidallah on the Stephanie Miller radio show, July 31, 2013.

■ “We can never know why someone snaps, but I bet you I know where he got his news.”
— Host Bill Maher on HBO’s Real Time, June 19, 2015 talking about mass murderer Dylann Roof, who killed nine black churchgoers at a Bible study meeting.

■ “When [Roger] Ailes died this morning, he left an America perfectly in his image, frightened out of its mind and pouring its money hand over fist into television companies, who are gleefully selling the unraveling of our political system as an entertainment product....The extent to which we hate and fear each other now – that’s not any one person’s fault. But no one person was more at fault than Roger Ailes. He never had a soul to sell, so he sold ours....Enjoy the next life, you monster.”
—  Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi in May 18, 2017 article “Roger Ailes Was One of the Worst Americans Ever: Fox News founder made this the hate-filled, moronic country it is today.”

■ “You and I have covered Fox News for years. Is it appropriate to call the channel a news channel?”
— Host Brian Stelter’s question to NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik on CNN’s Reliable Sources, December 17, 2017.

■ “This show, with its kindergarten-level intellectual capacity, moved from parroting conservative policies to constructing presidential priorities. Fox & Friends has essentially become Donald Trump’s daily briefing....In a way, America is being governed by the dimmest of wits on the most unscrupulous of networks. The very thought of it is horror-inducing.”
— Columnist Charles Blow in April 9, 2018 New York Times article, “Horror of Being Governed by ‘Fox & Friends.’”

■ “They are destroying political thought and political conversation in this country. They have so bamboozled a large segment of the population that we cannot have a rational decision. They have created a hate-mongering, a fearmongering, a reality-defying world, and that is helping to destroy American politics.”
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin on MSNBC’s AM Joy, April 14, 2019.

■ “If you had to pick one person who has been the largest menace in the modern world, spreading hate and disinformation that has disastrous results everywhere he goes, Rupert Murdoch or, as I like to call him, Uncle Satan, would top the list.”
— Recode co-founder and New York Times contributor Kara Swisher in a January 8, 2020 tweet.

■ “Anyone waiting for Rupert Murdoch to do the honorable thing is going to wait a very, very long time, after someone who’s watched him for 20 years. Look, Fox News has been getting people killed for years....They are a cancer on this country. There’s no question about it.”
— Left-wing media critic Eric Boehlert on MSNBC’s AM Joy, March 15, 2020.

■ “I would say that there is something lethal that’s wrong with Fox News….They lie and they perpetuate lies, dangerous lies….”
— Screenwriter and film director Aaron Sorkin to host Ashleigh Banfield on NewsNation’s Banfield, March 1, 2021.

■ “Fox News is in the outrage business because they’re just, like, mad at people who aren’t white Christians.”
— Host Joy Reid on MSNBC’s The ReidOut, April 27, 2021.

■ “Since Donald Trump, it [Fox News] has completely become a tool of propaganda. We shouldn’t even treat it like the press anymore. They have news in their title which is to mock the name of news....There is no doubt, Rupert Murdoch and Fox News are now a danger to democracy and they should be treated that way.”
Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik on CNN’s Reliable Sources, April 25, 2021.

■ “[Fox is] the television version of Twitter for the Republican party — the most extreme, the most passionate, the most energized....These people believe that it is more important to fight than to be right. It is more important to hate the enemy than love the truth.”
— CNN host Fareed Zakaria on CNN Newsroom, May 14, 2021.

■ “[Fox News] network is turning 25….It’s the network that brought us…..smothering patriotism after 9/11, and a portrayal of the U.S.A. that seems stuck in a time warp….Full of rage, anger. It’s the whitelash on TV.”
— Host Brian Stelter reporting on Fox News’s 25th anniversary as aired on CNN’s Reliable Sources, October 3, 2021.

■ “As the lying and the racist language have become more and more and more extreme on Rupert Murdoch’s TV channel, it has only made Rupert Murdoch richer and richer and richer.”
— Host Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC’s The Last Word, May 17, 2022.

A quick reminder: For 85 consecutive quarters (21.25 years), Fox News has been the most-watched cable news network in prime time. For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.