Speed Reads

2016 Watch

Will Fox News cost the Republican Party the 2016 election?

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It used to be that Democrats would view Fox News with a mixture of disdain and awe. Disdain for the channel's casual relationship with the facts, and its GOP-line-toeing under the motto "Fair and Balanced"; awe at its megaphonic ability to spread its feverish narrative to a huge audience that is deathly serious about politics and shows up at the polls.

But in the last election it became apparent that Fox News may be doing the Republican Party more harm than good, casting the entire party as insular, intolerant, and more than a little crazy. At least that is one of the themes of The Loudest Voice in the Room, Gabriel Sherman's book about Fox head Roger Ailes, which was reviewed by Steve Coll in the latest issue of The New York Review of Books. As Coll writes:

Here lies the problem in the alliance between Fox News and the Republican Party that Ailes has constructed. Fox owes its degree of profitability in part to its most passionate, even extremist, audience segment. To win national elections, the Grand Old Party, on the other hand, must win over moderate, racially diverse, and independent voters. By their very diversity and middling views, swing voters are not easy to target on television. The sort of news-talk programming most likely to attract a broad and moderate audience — hard news, weather news, crime news, sports, and perhaps a smattering of left–right debate formats — is essentially the CNN formula, which Fox has already rejected triumphantly. [New York Review of Books]

It's common for people to describe Fox News as being an arm of the Republican Party. But with the 2016 race starting to take shape, and the network doubling down on its reputation as the channel of old white men, it might more accurately be described as a huge thorn in the GOP's side.