"What happens when you agree to come on Fox News and then proceed to hammer the network for serving as a 'wing of the Republican Party'?" asks Eric Wemple at The Washington Post. "Answer: You don't stay on the air too long." That's the lesson Pulitzer Prize–winning military journalist Thomas Ricks learned on Monday, when he was invited on the Fox News show Happening Now to talk about his new book, The Generals, and troop readiness. Host Jon Scott started out asking about the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
"I think that Benghazi generally was hyped, by this network especially," Ricks replied. And when Scott protested that the death of a U.S. ambassador isn't "hype," Ricks countered by asking about the other three Americans killed, all security contractors. Hundreds of contractors were killed in Iraq, Ricks noted, but nobody counted exactly how many died, "because nobody cared." He ended with a flourish: "I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox was operating as a wing of Republican Party." After a total of 90 seconds, Scott abruptly ended the interview, which Ricks says was slotted to last between three and five minutes. Watch the segment:
Ricks is right that "Fox News has devoted far more airtime to the events in Benghazi on Sept. 11 than other television news networks, with numerous suggestions that the Obama administration is engaged in a cover-up," says Brian Stelter at The New York Times. But you could also argue, as a Fox News staffer reportedly told Ricks after the segment, that the guest was "rude" in his comments. Ricks says he told the producer beforehand his view that Benghazi had been hyped, so he didn't know why anyone was caught off guard with his response. But they apparently were. "After I went off the air I saw some surprised faces in the hallway," Ricks says.
This aborted interview is burning up the internet, says Josh Voorhees at Slate, in part because "like most things Fox News-related," people love to point and laugh about the network's "strict no-criticism pact" (New York) and inability to "handle the truth" (The Impolitic). But the criticism isn't totally without merit. "It's one thing to cut off a man-on-the-street type interview that goes off course. It's quite another to do it to someone who you've brought on specifically to speak in the role of expert, especially when said reporter is responding directly to the questions being asked of him."