When Fox News Channel pushed out its founder, Roger Ailes, in the face of mounting evidence that he harassed and molested many of the network’s female personalities, there was hope that the fair and balanced network would be recreated as a more neutral news source. After all, reports abounded that Rupert Murdoch’s sons, Lachlan and James, were displeased with Fox News’ image.
Well, any hope that Fox News will clean up its act any time soon was dashed earlier this week. After word got out that Alpine ski champion Lindsey Vonn had jammed her back while competing in the World Cup, the right-wing fringe danced a jig. From where they were sitting, Vonn was getting what she deserved after she said that when she goes to the Winter Olympics in two months, she will be representing “the people of the United States, not the president.”
Fox News briefly got in on the act by running this headline in its story about Vonn’s injury.
To its credit, Fox News later edited the headline and slug to take out this obvious cheap shot at Vonn. But as I write this on Wednesday night, this is what we’ve heard from Fox News regarding this matter.
No apology, on-air or online. No word on whether the story’s author, the headline writer, or the editor have been disciplined. This is what would have happened at any news organization with an iota of decency. Not so at Fox News. Regardless of what the author, headline writer, and editor may have thought about Vonn, it is never acceptable to kick someone when they are down. Ever. What makes it even more outrageous is that this didn’t come from a commentator or contributor, but from the news side.
We need not imagine what would have happened if Tom Brady had gotten seriously injured last season and someone at MSNBC, Mother Jones, Slate, Salon, or any other liberal-leaning outlet even suggested that he got what he deserved for hanging a MAGA hat in his locker. That person would have rightly been fired, and there would have been loud demands–including from yours truly–for a public apology.
But then again, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen Fox News breach every standard of decency that is known. Back in 2008, a chyron operator called Michelle Obama a “baby mama.” Network officials merely characterized this as a case of “poor judgment,” rather than a racist and sexist “joke” that was most assuredly not funny.
In 2013, Rutgers basketball coach Mike Price was fired after being caught on tape viciously berating his players, and even throwing basketballs at them. On the day Rice was fired, Eric Bolling of “The Five” railed that it was another sign of “the wussification of America.” Later that night, Sean Hannity claimed Rice was merely “bringing out the best” in his players. Granted, these were coming from the opinion side. But there are certain matters on which there is no other side–and throwing basketballs at people is one of them. To even suggest that making it a firing offense is an act of “wussification” is beyond tone deaf.
In 2015, hours after Jimmy Carter announced his liver cancer was spreading, Fox News’ official Twitter account trashed him by suggesting the country was in an even bigger malaise than it was under his presidency. That tweet is still there today.
.@CharlesHurt: “Our country has not been as aimless & lost as it is today since, I think, Jimmy Carter…It’s probably even worse today.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 13, 2015
This is but a sample of the most egregious moments. And this attack on Vonn, and the lack of an apology, are but the latest low blows on that list.
It’s hard not to conclude that Fox News’ moral compass is as fundamentally warped as that of Project Veritas. In both cases, the hate for Trump’s foes runs so deep that they are willing to throw basic standards out the window in order to smear them.
Granted, a number of Fox News’ reporters and anchors do a very credible job. Shepard Smith, Bret Baier, and to a lesser extent Chris Wallace immediately come to mind. But if I were a reporter at Fox News and I saw that its slagging of Vonn is what passes for acceptable behavior, I would be asking myself if I wanted my name associated with such an outfit. After all, there comes a point where you have to ask if staying on the Murdoch payroll amounts to selling out your ethics.
By not issuing an apology for what appears to be a total breakdown of basic safeguards, Fox News has revealed that it has problems in its culture that are much more fundamental than merely sexual harassment. And if the Murdochs aren’t willing to fix it, perhaps someone ought to step in, buy the Murdochs out, and clean the place out from top to bottom. After all, when a news organization is so utterly lacking in standards, it’s time to wonder if it should continue to exist in its current form.
(featured image courtesy David Shane, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)