Part 2 is here.
The Washington Examiner has published a fascinating follow-up to the Mickey-Tucker-Fox breach by T. Becket Adams. I will preface Adams' piece with his last line: "A spokesperson for Fox News did not respond to the Examiner's multiple requests for comment."
Comment about what? For starters, Fox's "blacklist" of critics Fox doesn't like (Gee, ya think...?) The piece also answers a question I've had about how exactly Tucker Carlson would go about his own damage control. After all, he's the editor-in-chief who pulled the Kaus piece for its critique of Fox coverage -- and lack thereof -- of anti-amnesty conservatism. Apparently, Carlson has chosen to revel in his dependence on Fox's good graces as a matter of professional desperation: as in, What choice does a conservative have in the conservative company town that is Fox News?
For all too many, this is a good question.
When political blogger Mickey Kaus resigned from the Daily Caller this week, he claimed that the site's editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson had pulled an article criticizing Fox News, and he followed that up with a wider charge: That most conservative media figures fear the power of the top-rated news network.
"A lot of conservative media figures are scared of Fox," he told the Washington Examiner's media desk late Thursday evening. "Fox has a lock on upwards mobility for up-and-coming pundits on the right. Fox is pretty much 90 percent of the airtime you're going to get as a conservative. So people in the back of their minds are asking, 'Gee, do I really want to tick off Fox?'"
Carlson, who co-hosts "Fox and Friends Weekend," and Kaus split over a Kaus Files item laying into Fox News for not giving more attention to anti-immigration arguments popular with the conservative base. But by making the reason for his resignation public, Kaus raised a sore question for many conservative media outlets.
"There's definitely a fear [in conservative media] of criticizing Fox News," said a former Fox News producer who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the Examiner.
Daily Caller media reporter Betsy Rothstein, who in the past has dealt with news groups that were reluctant to criticize Fox News, agreed. "There are outlets that steer clear of saying anything critical about Fox News," she told the Examiner.
"At my last job, a media company no less, I got yelled at when I'd write about [Fox News]. Total freak out. So what was that about? Who knows?" she said, adding, "It's not ideological. It's business."
Rothstein's bio lists her previous job as editor of the DCFishbowl.
Rothstein noted, however, that every news organization struggles with this type of issue.
"You're not going to see MSNBC criticizing the Politico Playbook. You're not going to see Morning Joe trash Politico Playbook. Ever," she said. "Every publication, every reporter, has to deal with this issue. And if they say they don't, they're lying. Because they do."
Here's where the story gets really interesting:
But sources on and off the record say that Fox News takes intra-industry sensitivities to another level, claiming the network watches for criticism and "blacklists" those who have less-than-flattering things to say about its programming and its personalities
"They have a blacklist of sorts and, basically, if you're on the wrong side of Fox, if you repeatedly criticize them, then you're sort of persona non grata," the former producer told the Examiner.
Does "wrong side" = tracking things, oh, for example, like the House of Saud-Murdoch connection? Noting that Saudi part-ownership of News Corps by rights should have required Fox News/News Corps to register as a foreign agent? Other things? Could be. Who know? I do know that when Newt Gingrich went on Hannity last month and said there were two things Americans needed to educate themselves -- his Iowa speech and "read Diana West's book American Betrayal" -- Hannity, Fox were wholly unmoved to follow up with me to learn anything about my book and why the former Speaker of the House and presidential candidate might have said such a thing. Which is something else again. Fortunately, Newt Gingrich continues to spread the word where he can -- such as to the House Homeland Security Committee.
The Examiner story doesn't stop:
"If you worked for, say, the Atlantic and you're a conservative writer, but your organization has repeatedly attacked Fox, you can only come on Fox if you're addressed as an 'independent blogger' or whatever. They won't give credence to organizations that criticize them."
The allegations that conservative news groups crave the network's megaphone and that they fear its blacklist were echoed by former Fox News producer and "Gawker mole" Joe Muto.
"For a lot of people, Fox is their meal ticket. It lends them legitimacy within the [conservative] movement if they're on Fox," Muto told the Examiner. "And if you're not on Fox, where are you? You're not getting your face and your name out there. So the Fox blacklist definitely has a chilling effect."
What a thing. Conservatives sqawk for decades about liberal media bias; a conservative network emerges, thrives; and then sets in place its own set of biases and sensitivities, which, with exceptions, many conservatives accept with notable docility that fails to cover up all of their fear.
"Fox News definitely has sharp elbows when they see someone crossing them. That's without a doubt," said Muto, who spent five years on Bill O'Reilly's staff. "I remember, for a very long time, we were prohibited from booking anyone from Politico. Someone at Politico had written something critical of Fox, it wasn't a huge criticism. I remember reading it and thinking it was very minor, and yet their entire organization got banned from the network."
He added that the network doesn't distinguish between its conservative and liberal critics.
"If you criticize the network, they're not going to shake it off. They're thin-skinned and they're sensitive about it," he said. "Fox watches very carefully what's being said about them in the media. People assume Fox isn't watching what's being said about it, but it is."
The dustup with Kaus occurred after his article was pulled from the Daily Caller's website almost immediately after it was published.
According to Kaus, Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson had it taken down and told him in an email, "Can't trash Fox on the site. Sorry. I work there."
"He didn't beat around the bush and he was very honest," Kaus, who has since returned to his personal blog, told the Examiner. "[Carlson] said we have two rules: We can't trash Fox on the site and we can't trash family members of employees."
"I hadn't heard of the Fox rule until he emailed me after taking down the piece. I'd written about Fox before, and knew it was a sensitive area, but nobody, including Tucker, had ever told me about any rule," he said. "[Carlson] said he wouldn't change the rule on Fox. So I thought about it for a day and then I decided to quit."
When contacted by the Examiner's media desk, Carlson would only say, "Mickey Kaus is a great guy and I'm sorry he left."
That's damage-control discipline.
The Daily Caller, like Kaus himself, is widely known for its hawkish coverage of immigration, making this an unexpected point of contention. But insiders say the alleged tendency to avoid criticizing Fox is motivated more by business than by ideology.
"I think conservative websites benefit from Fox too much to bite the hand. Fox serves as an amplification device for sites like [the Daily Caller], [the Washington] Free Beacon, Breitbart, HotAir and others, boosting stories trafficking in the online conservative world into the mainstream debate," a longtime media reporter who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Examiner.
"You can often track a story's migration from Breitbart to ' Fox & Friends ' to a nightly Fox show to Ed Henry asking Josh Earnest about it, which forces the story into the mainstream." This makes the network a more valuable friend than enemy," he said. "It's disappointing but not surprising that Carlson would squelch criticism of Fox. It's a mutually beneficial relationship, one that probably isn't worth disturbing over niche commentary from a blogger."
This is company-town-journalism. The product is produced according to head-office specs and shipped to a near-captive tv market. The tv/cable alternatives are liberal -- no "alternative" at all -- or small(er) is beautiful news outlets, video, and blogs. The Fox News model is operating like a tv monopoly on the center right. I don't think we've seen quite this situation before.
Industry insiders worry that if Fox News is given a pass, accountability suffers. The former producer pointed to claims that Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly embellished stories and said he wasn't held to the same standard as others.
"We should treat O'Reilly like we treat Brian Williams," the former producer said. "Did he embellish his stories? If so, then [O'Reilly] should be lambasted in the same way that we went after Brian Williams. There's a conflation of Fox News with [conservative] ideology, but it's just a massive behemoth company that's interested in one thing: making more money."
I'd say Fox is also interested in cementing establishment power. Jeb 2016, anyone?
A spokesperson for Fox News did not respond to the Examiner's multiple requests for comment.