One of USA Today's regular op-ed features is a "right-left" conversation between conservative columnist Cal Thomas and "liberal" Democratic strategist Bob Beckel in which they seek "Common Ground"–the name of the op-ed feature–on "issues that lawmakers in Washington cannot."
Last week (3/25/10) Thomas and Beckel tackled the issue of "Bias and Fox News"–and really, what could be a better subject of debate for two paid Fox News commentators? Incredibly, they were able to overcome their great differences to defend the network that pays their bills.
Some of the highlights:
Cal: What the Obama administration and Raines and many at the Huffington Post and elsewhere in the Liberal Hemisphere are lamenting is that the media monopoly has ended. Journalists have tended to be liberal, and until the past decade or so, the newspapers and networks held the megaphones. The voices leaving those megaphones all sounded the same. Well, now everyone has a megaphone. And it might be noisier, but as President James Buchanan said, "I like the noise of democracy."
Bob: Hear, hear.
Yes, that's the voice of "the left." And even Beckel's attempts at differentiating himself from Thomas manage to come around to a plug for Fox:
Cal: And say what you will about Beck, but he teaches a lot of history that many Americans have either forgotten or were never exposed to in public schools.
Bob: Beck has brought liberal criticism on himself. Calling President Obama a racist was way out of bounds. I got on Fox the day after that comment and blasted Beck. I never received a single comment from anyone at Fox for doing so. In fact, no one at Fox has ever suggested I ease up on my criticism of conservatives.
While no such "blast" could be found in the Nexis database (Fox doesn't transcribe all of its shows), here's a typical Beckel "criticism" on Fox (Hannity, 10/19/09):
BECKEL: The issue here is the question of the Fox News issue, which is something very near and dear to my heart, since I've been on this network now for six years. And I will say this. What I don't understand is, they can disagree with you–and they should because they're right and you're wrong. And so's Beck and so's O'Reilly.
But the rest of these shows are news shows, and good shows. And why they leave this up to a few of us to come on the air against wing nuts, I mean, if you can't–I have to go up against Michele Bachmann, against Michelle Malkin. I mean, if you can't handle Michele Bachmann, you Democrats out there won't come on, you don't deserve to be in the business.
HANNITY: Have I been fair to you?
BECKEL: Yes, you have.
That Fox's "news" shows are less partisan or ideological than its "opinion" shows is Fox's standard defense (and one that both Beckel and Thomas bring up in their USAT debate), but it's easy enough to debunk; see Extra!: "Fox NewsÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬”ÂWing of the GOP?" (12/09) by Steve Rendall.