Feature

Fox News: Out of the closet?

Fox’s parent company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has given $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Two months ago, the News Corporation donated a similar amount to the Republican Governors Association.

Fox News’ “Fair and Balanced” slogan has always “elicited a smirk from those on the Left,” said Brad Knickerbocker in The Christian Science Monitor. The network is run by longtime Republican political advisor Roger Ailes, and Fox’s big stars—Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck—all have a strong conservative bent. Now, however, it seems the network has crossed the line from on-air advocacy to “overt lobbying.” Fox’s parent company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has donated $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business group working aggressively to defeat Democratic candidates in November’s midterms. This follows a separate $1 million donation two months ago to the Republican Governors Association. Fox has now “dropped the pretense” that it practices anything resembling journalism, said Zachary Roth in the Columbia Journalism Review. The rest of the media, and the public, should acknowledge Fox “for what it is”: a propaganda and fundraising division of the national Republican Party.

To me, Fox’s political contributions make “zero sense,” said Jonathan Chait in The New Republic Online. As a friendly platform for GOP candidates and officials, and for its unrelenting attacks on the Obama administration and the Democratic Party, Fox News is worth “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the Republican Party. So why jeopardize all of that by giving money to the party directly, thus tearing away “the mask of objectivity” that makes the propaganda that much more effective? The explanation may be simple, said Ben Smith in Politico.com. “A source close to News Corp.” told me this week that the company didn’t realize its donations would be made public.

Maybe, though, Fox is now so powerful that it no longer needs the nonpartisan pretense, said Paul Krugman in The New York Times. Fox essentially launched the Tea Party movement, and in recent months went from “merely supporting Republican candidates to anointing them.” It’s put four of the major contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination on its payroll as “contributors,” including Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. If one of them gets elected, he or she will owe a debt to Fox, which will have “friends in high places.’’ It’s a great deal for Republican politicians, too, said James Rainey in the Los Angeles Times. They get to speak to the GOP base and raise funds without ever having to answer questions from “those pesky news people, the ones who work for every other television news outlet in America.”

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