It is political and comedic dogma now that Fox News is the opposite of a “fair and balanced” network. Their opinionators are stacked with conservative voices (Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck – remember him?) and any attempt they have made at portraying a leftist voice has failed miserably (Where in the world is Alan Colmes?).
So it was surprising that this video was received so wildly by those in the media who know how things work on Roger Ailes’s network. Ed Schultz of MSNBC said that the ad more or less confirms that Fox News is an “arm of the Republican Party.” Noted but that’s a little harsh.
What has made it an interesting story, though, is that it almost cost producer Chris White, the man behind the video, his job. Keyword: almost.
In the video that premiered Wednesday, we see the lovable staff of “Fox and Friends” speculate on how America has changed in the Age of Obama. Images flash of skyrocketing gas prices and collapsing stocks, terms like “food prices,” “families with savings” and “unemployment” are thrown all over the place and sound-bytes of Obama saying recovery is on its way is played over and over and over again. A piggy bank even sadly falls from some high ground, signaling, we guess, a loss of change. Whoa… that’s deep.
It’s a montage of spite, aimed at a President that Fox News did not approve of from Day One. It’s no different than any Republican ad we’ve seen in the past, oh, four years or so; just without the “Elect Me For…” bit. So why the controversy?
Chris White had been telling executives at Fox News that he had been thinking of transferring to a new job at CNN but, after the video, they shredded his resume and told him to take a hike. A video with this much backlash will do that every so often. Although the Fox broadcasting company distanced themselves from White’s creation almost immediately, they have agreed to bite the bullet and keep White on board.
Bill Shines, the executive vice president for programming at Fox News, had this to say: “We’ve addressed the video with the producers and are not going to discuss the internal workings of our programming any further.” Enough said.
This is a constant theme of how Fox News approaches controversies of this nature. Notwithstanding the actual content of the video, the network has had its run-in numerous times with scandalous remarks and have acted (sometimes) in the proper way (search: E.D. Hill, 2008 election season, “terrorist fist jab”).
But 2008 was a different time with different material; since Obama has been in office, the network uses different talking points from this video on a daily basis. Once it’s all together in a four-minute video on YouTube, people started to get angry.
If this video and the eventual quasi-fallout proved anything, it’s not that Fox News is an arm of the Republican Party as Schultz declared. That point grazes over another central motif at play here: that Fox News is suiting up for yet another election that they’re trying to call the shots in. If anything, that was a pro-Romney ad and the decision to let Chris White stay is an approval of just how far the network will go to defend their position before November.
And that’s the funniest yet saddest part of it all.