Jul 2 2001

The Most Biased Name in News

Fox News Channel's extraordinary right-wing tilt


Fox News Channel wraps itself in slogans of journalistic objectivity like “Fair and balanced” and “We report, you decide,” but a new FAIR report finds a dramatic right-wing tilt in the network’s news.

The report, published in the August 2001 issue of Extra!, is in three parts:

In the study of interviewees on the network’s signature political news show, Special Report with Brit Hume, FAIR found that of 56 partisan guests in a five month period, 50 were Republicans and six were Democrats. That’s 89 percent Republican, a greater than 8 to 1 imbalance.

But Special Report— originally created as a daily hour-long update on the 1998 Clinton sex scandals– doesn’t just skew Republican, it skews conservative: During the course of the study, 65 of the show’s total of 92 guests (71 percent) were avowed conservatives. Conservatives outnumbered all other points of view, including non-political guests, by a factor of more than 2 to 1.

What’s more, the show featured only eight female guests and six people of color, making for a guest list that was 91 percent male and 93 percent white.

The darling of conservative politicos, Fox News Channel‘s entire editorial philosophy revolves around the idea that the network is an antidote to supposedly “liberal” mainstream media like CNN. But the facts just don’t back Fox up. As a comparison to Special Report, FAIR studied interviewees on CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer Reports over the same period, and found that of 67 partisan guests, 38 were Republicans and 29 Democrats– 57 percent Republican versus Special Report‘s 89 percent. About 32 percent of Wolf Blitzer’s total guests were avowed conservatives, versus 65 percent on Special Report.

Fox often has trouble keeping the partisanship of its main news personalities in check. In 1996, for instance, Fox anchor Tony Snow endorsed Bob Dole for president in a Republican National Committee magazine. At the 2000 Republican Convention, Snow— ostensibly a journalist covering a news event– gave a speech before to Republican Youth Caucus. Trent Lott followed up with a cheer of “How about Tony Snow in 2008?”

The on-air bias is often just as pronounced. Liberals come in for regular bashing on the show of Fox‘s star performer, Bill O’Reilly. Since 1998, The O’Reilly Factor has run an astounding 56 segments about Jesse Jackson– that means that one out of every 12 episodes of the show featured a Jackson segment, many with themes like “How personal are African-Americans taking the moral failures of Reverend Jesse Jackson?”

During the 2000 election, O’Reilly wondered whether Al Gore was running “on a quasi-socialistic platform” with “work and production being supervised by the government.” After the election, O’Reilly’s softball treatment of the new administration was a marked contrast to his scrutiny of Clinton– “President Bush ran on the slogan ‘reformer with results,'” said O’Reilly, “That sounds good to me.” So much for the “No spin zone.”