Commentary Magazine


Topic: Roger Ailes

Aiming at Ailes–and Missing Badly

One of the most famous quotes about Fox News is Charles Krauthammer’s quip that Fox’s success was due to its appeal to a niche market: half the country. There are times it seems almost an understatement, so thoroughly does Fox dominate the ratings. And in fact it’s almost as though Krauthammer’s “half the country” might refer to the speakers instead of the audience. Just as talk radio thrived as an alternative to mainstream liberal news and opinion, so too did Fox suddenly offer otherwise-marginalized right-of-center views to a public who didn’t want to be as ideologically cloistered as is the modern liberal establishment.

This came to mind when I read a humorous, but telling account of a recent interview with Gabriel Sherman, the author of a new book on Fox’s Roger Ailes. The title of the book is The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News–and Divided a Country. That last phrase piqued the interest of Norah O’Donnell and Charlie Rose, who interviewed Sherman late last week. Specifically, they wanted to know, how precisely has Ailes divided the country? The Washington Post’s media writer Erik Wemple caught the exchange and posted a transcript of that part of the interview:

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One of the most famous quotes about Fox News is Charles Krauthammer’s quip that Fox’s success was due to its appeal to a niche market: half the country. There are times it seems almost an understatement, so thoroughly does Fox dominate the ratings. And in fact it’s almost as though Krauthammer’s “half the country” might refer to the speakers instead of the audience. Just as talk radio thrived as an alternative to mainstream liberal news and opinion, so too did Fox suddenly offer otherwise-marginalized right-of-center views to a public who didn’t want to be as ideologically cloistered as is the modern liberal establishment.

This came to mind when I read a humorous, but telling account of a recent interview with Gabriel Sherman, the author of a new book on Fox’s Roger Ailes. The title of the book is The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News–and Divided a Country. That last phrase piqued the interest of Norah O’Donnell and Charlie Rose, who interviewed Sherman late last week. Specifically, they wanted to know, how precisely has Ailes divided the country? The Washington Post’s media writer Erik Wemple caught the exchange and posted a transcript of that part of the interview:

O’Donnell: You say he’s divided a country.

Sherman: Yes, he has.

O’Donnell: How?

Sherman: Because his ability to drive a message: He has an unrivaled ability to know what resonates with a certain audience. You know, he comes from a blue-collar factory town in Ohio, he speaks to…

Rose: So what’s the message that divides the country?

Sherman: He speaks to that part of America that feels left behind by the culture. You know, it’s the old Nixon silent majority, which is what was his formative experience.

Wemple notes that Sherman does not, in fact, come close to answering the question. It’s quite a charge to say that someone divided the United States. When it’s put in the title of your biography of that person, the reader expects you to not only make that case but use it as a basis for understanding the subject’s work. Wemple continues:

After three years of reporting and more than 600 interviews, Sherman should come equipped to his media interviews with better answers. What’s divisive, after all, about understanding what “resonates with a certain audience”? What’s the problem with speaking to Americans who feel “left behind by the culture”? Wouldn’t that be a public service? Indeed, everything that Sherman cited to the CBS people — including blue-collar origins — would appear to be assets for a guy like Ailes. Why haven’t Fox News allies seized upon these remarks as evidence of Sherman’s disdain for conservative America? (Stelter tells the Erik Wemple Blog that he planned a follow-up to that portion of Sherman’s “CBS This Morning” interview but ran out of time).

Taken at face value, the exchange would seem to be totally unedifying. But it’s actually quite the opposite. Roger Ailes most certainly did not divide the country, and few people are unhinged enough to believe he did. So what made Sherman use the phrase–in the book’s title, no less? It becomes easier to understand when you remember that Sherman’s evasive response was actually him thinking he answered the question.

The American left became spoiled by its dominance of major media before Fox. Liberals reveled in their belief that they had ownership of a high-minded consensus. In order to own that consensus, however, the liberal media elite had to be speaking for the country. But who strikes you as more representative of the broader American public–Gabriel Sherman, a writer for New York magazine who also lives in New York City, or the “blue-collar” Ohioans Sherman mentions?

This is not a paean to the “real America” that supposedly excludes coastal elites. It was Sherman, in fact, who brought up the blue-collar folk that Ailes resonates with as an example of the supposed divisive nature of Ailes’s work. In his blisteringly negative review of the book for Slate, Michael Wolff notes that Sherman gets facts wrong and uses unreliable sources. But even more than that, he doesn’t seem to understand the difference between cable and network news, and the audiences they attract. Wolff adds:

Fox’s prime-time audience averages 1.1 million. Network news audiences in the great old days reached 40 million. Sherman’s thesis that Ailes “divided a country” is quite absurd. What Ailes did do is to help turn politics into a special interest category. It is not just the Fox view that is a closed ecosystem—it is the liberal view of the Fox view that is as much a part of the bubble. Perfectly targeted co-dependents.

The country was already divided politically among conservatives, liberals, and everything in between. What Ailes did was enter the conversation, and did so quite effectively. And liberals won’t forgive him for it.

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Why Liberals Still Detest Fox News

More than 16 years after its founding and 11 years after it assumed its current perch as the most-watched cable news network, Fox News remains the favorite punching bag of the left. Liberals take it as an article of faith that Fox is not merely biased but a travesty that serious people should ignore. But the notion that there is something unholy about what is broadcast on Fox or that its mix of news and opinion is uniquely biased has never stood up to scrutiny.

That assumption was once again on display this past week in a New York Times review of a new biography of Fox founder Roger Ailes.  Veteran Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani had little patience for Zev Chafets’s new book, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, because it presents Ailes in a not unsympathetic light and takes down some of the common liberal charges about Fox and its on-air personalities. According to Kakutani, Chafets should have focused on its “role in accelerating partisanship in our increasingly polarized society” and how it “frames its reports from the conservative point of view.” Implicit in these lines is the belief that there is something exceptional in a broadcast network that has a political point of view or that what Fox does is so egregious when it is compared to its competitors.

Refutation of these prejudices comes from no less an authority than an icon of establishment liberalism: the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. In its State of the News Media: An Annual Report on American Journalism, Pew details, among other interesting tidbits the percentages of news reporting and opinion on the three biggest cable news channels. According to the study, the breakdown of MSNBC shows that a whopping 85 percent of its airtime is taken up with opinion, compared to 55 percent of the time on Fox and 45 percent of CNN’s air.

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More than 16 years after its founding and 11 years after it assumed its current perch as the most-watched cable news network, Fox News remains the favorite punching bag of the left. Liberals take it as an article of faith that Fox is not merely biased but a travesty that serious people should ignore. But the notion that there is something unholy about what is broadcast on Fox or that its mix of news and opinion is uniquely biased has never stood up to scrutiny.

That assumption was once again on display this past week in a New York Times review of a new biography of Fox founder Roger Ailes.  Veteran Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani had little patience for Zev Chafets’s new book, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, because it presents Ailes in a not unsympathetic light and takes down some of the common liberal charges about Fox and its on-air personalities. According to Kakutani, Chafets should have focused on its “role in accelerating partisanship in our increasingly polarized society” and how it “frames its reports from the conservative point of view.” Implicit in these lines is the belief that there is something exceptional in a broadcast network that has a political point of view or that what Fox does is so egregious when it is compared to its competitors.

Refutation of these prejudices comes from no less an authority than an icon of establishment liberalism: the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. In its State of the News Media: An Annual Report on American Journalism, Pew details, among other interesting tidbits the percentages of news reporting and opinion on the three biggest cable news channels. According to the study, the breakdown of MSNBC shows that a whopping 85 percent of its airtime is taken up with opinion, compared to 55 percent of the time on Fox and 45 percent of CNN’s air.

These numbers tell us that while the majority of what Fox broadcasts is conservative opinion, it is a pittance when compared to the volume of uniformly liberal commentary on MSNBC. If more of CNN’s airtime is taken up with reporting than on Fox, it must be remembered that the vast majority of the opinions heard on that network is also liberal. And when that is combined with the heavy liberal tilt on the original three national networks, NBC, ABC and especially CBS (the home of the supposedly authoritative 60 Minutes which is so soft on the head of the Democratic Party that even one of its hosts admits it can be relied upon never to discomfit President Obama), it makes Fox’s conservative views one of the few places where alternatives to the left can be found.

If Kakutani and the legions of liberals who blast Fox reporters for not reporting the news from a liberal perspective think there is something wrong about that it is because they are so used to dominating the news media, both print and broadcast, that they still think Ailes has done something wrong in providing viewers with another way of looking at the world.

Of course, the real difference between Fox and its competitors is not so much its divergence from liberalism as Ailes’s honesty about the fact that his network has a different frame of reference.

For decades, mainstream news icons like Walter Cronkite maintained the pretense of objectivity while tilting his enormously influential broadcasts to the left. But while belief in his impartiality and that of almost all of his colleagues on CBS and the other big two of that time was based on myth rather than truth, it was more believable than the willingness of his successors as well as many of those seen on MSNBC and CNN—including those that report as well as those who merely opine—to continue to pretend that they aren’t ideologues.

Fox’s success is rooted in its honesty about its point of view as well as the fact that the uniform liberalism of the other networks has left the field wide open for a conservative alternative. What Ailes and his backer Rupert Murdoch did was to find an underserved niche of the news market. Only in this case that niche is made up of approximately half of the American people. No wonder liberals resent it so bitterly.

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Good Year for Fox News

This past year was another very good one for the Fox News Channel, which continued its dominance of cable news (in January FNC will have been the #1 cable news channel for 10 years in a row).

The Associated Press, in reporting on the most recent Nielsen ratings, points out that FNC’s average viewership exceeded CNN and MSNBC combined, both in prime time and for the entire day. Fox typically had 1.87 million viewers in prime time this year. The top 13 programs in cable news all aired on Fox. And Fox was the only cable news network to place in the top 10 list of cable channels in both prime time and entire day.

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This past year was another very good one for the Fox News Channel, which continued its dominance of cable news (in January FNC will have been the #1 cable news channel for 10 years in a row).

The Associated Press, in reporting on the most recent Nielsen ratings, points out that FNC’s average viewership exceeded CNN and MSNBC combined, both in prime time and for the entire day. Fox typically had 1.87 million viewers in prime time this year. The top 13 programs in cable news all aired on Fox. And Fox was the only cable news network to place in the top 10 list of cable channels in both prime time and entire day.

Fox’s ratings lead may well extend in 2012, given both the forthcoming GOP primary race and presidential election. And one day years from now, when political passions cool and his achievements are put in perspective, Roger Ailes will be seen as one of the most significant journalistic figures of the last half-century. He is the man who is most responsible for shattering the monopoly on television news. It’s little wonder he and his network inspire rage in some liberal quarters. And there’s little doubt it bothers Ailes not at all.

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Koch Protesters Call for Clarence Thomas’s Lynching

Ed Morrissey has an excellent roundup of the increasing incivility at the Koch protests. CONTENTIONS previously reported on the use of swastikas at the demonstration, and yesterday a video surfaced of protesters calling for Justice Clarence Thomas to be lynched.

The cameraman in the video asks attendees at the rally what should be done with Thomas after he’s impeached. Here are some of their answers:

Send him “back to the fields.” “String him up.” “Hang him.” “Torture.” One older woman wants his wife Ginny Thomas strung up as well. A younger and more creative woman wants Justice Thomas’ toes chopped off and forced-fed to him. Thomas isn’t the only one to get the necktie treatment; one protester wants Fox News executive Roger Ailes to get hung as well.

Common Cause has released a statement condemning the comments, asserting that the protesters who made them were outliers:

We condemn bigotry and hate speech in every form, even when it comes from those who fancy themselves as our friends.

Anyone who has attended a public event has encountered people whose ideas or acts misrepresented, even embarrassed, the gathering. Every sporting event has its share of “fans” whose boorish behavior on the sidelines makes a mockery of good sportsmanship; every political gathering has a crude sign-painter or epithet-spewing heckler.

Morrissey notes that “this is the exact same point that Tea Party organizers made when the media focused on the outliers (and usually provocateurs) that showed up at their rallies.”

Of course, the one difference is that the mainstream media has barely even touched this story. Can you imagine if this had been a Tea Party rally and protesters were making these same comments about President Obama?

Ed Morrissey has an excellent roundup of the increasing incivility at the Koch protests. CONTENTIONS previously reported on the use of swastikas at the demonstration, and yesterday a video surfaced of protesters calling for Justice Clarence Thomas to be lynched.

The cameraman in the video asks attendees at the rally what should be done with Thomas after he’s impeached. Here are some of their answers:

Send him “back to the fields.” “String him up.” “Hang him.” “Torture.” One older woman wants his wife Ginny Thomas strung up as well. A younger and more creative woman wants Justice Thomas’ toes chopped off and forced-fed to him. Thomas isn’t the only one to get the necktie treatment; one protester wants Fox News executive Roger Ailes to get hung as well.

Common Cause has released a statement condemning the comments, asserting that the protesters who made them were outliers:

We condemn bigotry and hate speech in every form, even when it comes from those who fancy themselves as our friends.

Anyone who has attended a public event has encountered people whose ideas or acts misrepresented, even embarrassed, the gathering. Every sporting event has its share of “fans” whose boorish behavior on the sidelines makes a mockery of good sportsmanship; every political gathering has a crude sign-painter or epithet-spewing heckler.

Morrissey notes that “this is the exact same point that Tea Party organizers made when the media focused on the outliers (and usually provocateurs) that showed up at their rallies.”

Of course, the one difference is that the mainstream media has barely even touched this story. Can you imagine if this had been a Tea Party rally and protesters were making these same comments about President Obama?

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Jewish Groups Denounce Anti–Glenn Beck Letter

Last week, Jewish Funds for Justice published an open letter in the Wall Street Journal calling on Fox News to sanction Glenn Beck for his “use of Holocaust and Nazi images.” But now the JTA is reporting that two groups cited as critics of Beck in the letter — the Anti-Defamation League and the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors — have clarified that they want nothing to do with the campaign:

“I want to make it clear, for the record, that I do not support this misguided campaign against Fox News, even though my name was used,” Foxman said in a letter published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.

“At a time when Holocaust denial is rampant in much of the Arab world, where anti-Semitism remains a serious concern, and where the Iranian leader has openly declared his desire to ‘wipe Israel off the map,’ surely there are greater enemies and threats to the Jewish people than the pro-Israel stalwarts Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and Glenn Beck,” Foxman’s letter concluded.

In another letter appearing the same day, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, vice president of the American Gathering, said that [American Gathering vice president Elan] Steinberg “has no more right than I do to speak in the name of the survivors on this topic.” He added that “in my 30 years of participation in large-scale annual commemorations, I have yet to meet a survivor who expressed support for Mr. Soros.”

In the letter, COMMENTARY was also cited as criticizing Beck’s comments about George Soros’s behavior during the Holocaust. And while Beck’s statements may have been tasteless, Jonathan noted last week that the Jewish Funds for Justice’s campaign certainly doesn’t represent COMMENTARY’s position on the issue.

In fact, three out of four groups that Jewish Funds for Justice quoted in its letter have felt the need to point out their objections to the anti-Beck drive. But despite this fact, the Jewish Funds for Justice’s website is continuing to accept signatures for the letter, which still includes the quotes from the ADL, the American Gathering, and COMMENTARY.

Last week, Jewish Funds for Justice published an open letter in the Wall Street Journal calling on Fox News to sanction Glenn Beck for his “use of Holocaust and Nazi images.” But now the JTA is reporting that two groups cited as critics of Beck in the letter — the Anti-Defamation League and the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors — have clarified that they want nothing to do with the campaign:

“I want to make it clear, for the record, that I do not support this misguided campaign against Fox News, even though my name was used,” Foxman said in a letter published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.

“At a time when Holocaust denial is rampant in much of the Arab world, where anti-Semitism remains a serious concern, and where the Iranian leader has openly declared his desire to ‘wipe Israel off the map,’ surely there are greater enemies and threats to the Jewish people than the pro-Israel stalwarts Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and Glenn Beck,” Foxman’s letter concluded.

In another letter appearing the same day, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, vice president of the American Gathering, said that [American Gathering vice president Elan] Steinberg “has no more right than I do to speak in the name of the survivors on this topic.” He added that “in my 30 years of participation in large-scale annual commemorations, I have yet to meet a survivor who expressed support for Mr. Soros.”

In the letter, COMMENTARY was also cited as criticizing Beck’s comments about George Soros’s behavior during the Holocaust. And while Beck’s statements may have been tasteless, Jonathan noted last week that the Jewish Funds for Justice’s campaign certainly doesn’t represent COMMENTARY’s position on the issue.

In fact, three out of four groups that Jewish Funds for Justice quoted in its letter have felt the need to point out their objections to the anti-Beck drive. But despite this fact, the Jewish Funds for Justice’s website is continuing to accept signatures for the letter, which still includes the quotes from the ADL, the American Gathering, and COMMENTARY.

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The Difference Between COMMENTARY and the Jewish Funds for Justice Rabbis

Earlier today, Alana wrote about the ad in today’s Wall Street Journal taken out by the left-wing group Jewish Funds for Justice in which the organization called for the News Corporation to “sanction” Glenn Beck of FOX News and to force Roger Ailes, that network’s chief, to apologize for remarks Beck has made relating to the Holocaust. Alana rightly noted the one-sided nature of this group’s advocacy about the Holocaust. Though they clearly want Beck canned for what he has said, they’ve never uttered a word of complaint about the numerous misuses of Holocaust imagery by left-wing figures such as Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee or filmmaker Oliver Stone.

In the body of their ad is a quote from a COMMENTARY Web Exclusive article written by me about Beck’s willingness to raise questions about George Soros’s behavior during the Holocaust. In it I made it clear that while we consider Soros’s political stands abhorrent, his alleged activities as a 14-year-old boy during the Nazi occupation of his native Hungary ought to be out of bounds for his critics. As the Jewish Funds for Justice ad states, the piece said Beck’s attack on Soros on this point was marred by ignorance and innuendo, and I stand by that characterization.

At the time, COMMENTARY’s decision to denounce Beck’s behavior was criticized by some who thought that the TV host’s support for Israel and the fact that his target was a man who was no friend to Israel should have obligated us to be silent about his foolish slurs. They asserted that our willingness to lay out our differences with someone with whom we were otherwise in agreement would be used by left-wing groups who have no such scruples. That prediction has been vindicated by the Jewish Funds for Justice.

The difference between COMMENTARY and the rabbis who speak in the name of the Jewish Funds for Justice couldn’t be clearer. We agree that Holocaust imagery and related topics ought not to be abused for partisan political purposes, though we have to say in passing that Beck’s idiotic attack on Soros is nowhere near as great an offense as Rep. Cohen’s calling his Republican opponents Nazis on the floor of the House of Representatives. But unlike those rabbis, we do not do so only when the offenders are people we disagree with on other issues. Had these rabbis sought to denounce both right-wing and left-wing figures that have called their foes Nazis or made specious comparisons to Adolf Hitler or Joseph Goebbels, they might have done so with some credibility. But since they have invoked their status as spiritual leaders as well as the prestige of the Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist movements solely to silence a conservative political speaker whom they dislike, they have none.

Earlier today, Alana wrote about the ad in today’s Wall Street Journal taken out by the left-wing group Jewish Funds for Justice in which the organization called for the News Corporation to “sanction” Glenn Beck of FOX News and to force Roger Ailes, that network’s chief, to apologize for remarks Beck has made relating to the Holocaust. Alana rightly noted the one-sided nature of this group’s advocacy about the Holocaust. Though they clearly want Beck canned for what he has said, they’ve never uttered a word of complaint about the numerous misuses of Holocaust imagery by left-wing figures such as Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee or filmmaker Oliver Stone.

In the body of their ad is a quote from a COMMENTARY Web Exclusive article written by me about Beck’s willingness to raise questions about George Soros’s behavior during the Holocaust. In it I made it clear that while we consider Soros’s political stands abhorrent, his alleged activities as a 14-year-old boy during the Nazi occupation of his native Hungary ought to be out of bounds for his critics. As the Jewish Funds for Justice ad states, the piece said Beck’s attack on Soros on this point was marred by ignorance and innuendo, and I stand by that characterization.

At the time, COMMENTARY’s decision to denounce Beck’s behavior was criticized by some who thought that the TV host’s support for Israel and the fact that his target was a man who was no friend to Israel should have obligated us to be silent about his foolish slurs. They asserted that our willingness to lay out our differences with someone with whom we were otherwise in agreement would be used by left-wing groups who have no such scruples. That prediction has been vindicated by the Jewish Funds for Justice.

The difference between COMMENTARY and the rabbis who speak in the name of the Jewish Funds for Justice couldn’t be clearer. We agree that Holocaust imagery and related topics ought not to be abused for partisan political purposes, though we have to say in passing that Beck’s idiotic attack on Soros is nowhere near as great an offense as Rep. Cohen’s calling his Republican opponents Nazis on the floor of the House of Representatives. But unlike those rabbis, we do not do so only when the offenders are people we disagree with on other issues. Had these rabbis sought to denounce both right-wing and left-wing figures that have called their foes Nazis or made specious comparisons to Adolf Hitler or Joseph Goebbels, they might have done so with some credibility. But since they have invoked their status as spiritual leaders as well as the prestige of the Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist movements solely to silence a conservative political speaker whom they dislike, they have none.

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Soros-Funded Jewish Group Calls for Fox to Sanction Glenn Beck

In the Wall Street Journal this morning, an organization called Jewish Funds for Justice sent an open letter to Rupert Murdoch asking him to sanction Fox News host Glenn Beck for using “Holocaust and Nazi images” on his show:

We respectfully request that Glenn Beck be sanctioned by Fox News for his completely unacceptable attacks on a survivor of the Holocaust and Roger Ailes apologize for his dismissive remarks about rabbis’ sensitivity to how the Holocaust is used on the air.

Jewish Funds for Justice was referring to an episode of Beck’s show that looked into left-wing philanthropist George Soros’s actions as a child during the Holocaust. As Jonathan wrote at the time, Beck’s portrayal of Soros as a teenage Nazi collaborator was inappropriate and unnecessary.

But as wrong as Beck’s Holocaust references were, the intentions of this open letter are questionable, to say the least. First, Jewish Funds for Justice is actually funded by Soros, which makes the group’s campaign appear to be more of a personal vendetta than anything else.

It’s also interesting that Soros and his organizations have suddenly become so sensitive to anti-Semitism. That’s certainly a new development.

Anti-Semitism and Holocaust imagery didn’t seem to bother Soros back in 2004, when his organization MoveOn.org aired a video comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, which the ADL rightly denounced as “vile and outrageous.”

And it was Soros who apologized back in 2003 for anti-Semite Mahathir Mohamad, who said he understood why people believe that “Jews rule the world by proxy.”

Soros has also blamed anti-Semitism on U.S. and Israeli policy. “There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” he said, adding that if “we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish.” Soros has also funded anti-Israel groups, including J Street.

And of all the people in recent months who have used Holocaust or anti-Semitic rhetoric — including Helen Thomas, Oliver Stone, and Rep. Steve Cohen — it’s telling that Jewish Funds for Justice has come out only against Glenn Beck, especially since Beck’s statements were far less offensive than those of the others.

The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Jewish Funds for Justice has no real interest in combating anti-Semitism — unless, of course, it helps the group’s political goal of demonizing conservatives.

And if that’s the case, then this letter is far more offensive than anything Beck has ever said on his show. Anti-Semitism is a serious charge, and throwing it around based on a political motive isn’t just counterproductive; it’s dangerous.

In the Wall Street Journal this morning, an organization called Jewish Funds for Justice sent an open letter to Rupert Murdoch asking him to sanction Fox News host Glenn Beck for using “Holocaust and Nazi images” on his show:

We respectfully request that Glenn Beck be sanctioned by Fox News for his completely unacceptable attacks on a survivor of the Holocaust and Roger Ailes apologize for his dismissive remarks about rabbis’ sensitivity to how the Holocaust is used on the air.

Jewish Funds for Justice was referring to an episode of Beck’s show that looked into left-wing philanthropist George Soros’s actions as a child during the Holocaust. As Jonathan wrote at the time, Beck’s portrayal of Soros as a teenage Nazi collaborator was inappropriate and unnecessary.

But as wrong as Beck’s Holocaust references were, the intentions of this open letter are questionable, to say the least. First, Jewish Funds for Justice is actually funded by Soros, which makes the group’s campaign appear to be more of a personal vendetta than anything else.

It’s also interesting that Soros and his organizations have suddenly become so sensitive to anti-Semitism. That’s certainly a new development.

Anti-Semitism and Holocaust imagery didn’t seem to bother Soros back in 2004, when his organization MoveOn.org aired a video comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, which the ADL rightly denounced as “vile and outrageous.”

And it was Soros who apologized back in 2003 for anti-Semite Mahathir Mohamad, who said he understood why people believe that “Jews rule the world by proxy.”

Soros has also blamed anti-Semitism on U.S. and Israeli policy. “There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” he said, adding that if “we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish.” Soros has also funded anti-Israel groups, including J Street.

And of all the people in recent months who have used Holocaust or anti-Semitic rhetoric — including Helen Thomas, Oliver Stone, and Rep. Steve Cohen — it’s telling that Jewish Funds for Justice has come out only against Glenn Beck, especially since Beck’s statements were far less offensive than those of the others.

The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Jewish Funds for Justice has no real interest in combating anti-Semitism — unless, of course, it helps the group’s political goal of demonizing conservatives.

And if that’s the case, then this letter is far more offensive than anything Beck has ever said on his show. Anti-Semitism is a serious charge, and throwing it around based on a political motive isn’t just counterproductive; it’s dangerous.

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Why FOX Is Crowing

The 2010 cable news ratings are in — and it was an unprecedented rout.

FOX News has the top dozen rated shows on cable news. Thirteen FOX News programs draw more than 1 million viewers; three draw more than 2 million; and one program, The O’Reilly Factor, draws more than 3 million. In fact, the 11:00 p.m. repeat of The O’Reilly Factor, which ranks eighth (1.41 million viewers), easily outdistanced the top-rated program on MSNBC, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, which ranked 13th (1.035 million viewers).

CNN’s top-rated show, Larry King Live, finished at number 18 (672,000 viewers). Things were so bad for CNN in 2010 that Nancy Grace of Headline News ranked ahead of King, who has now retired from his nightly hosting duties.

The genius of Roger Ailes is that he not only brought the network to the top but, once there, continued to build on its dominance. We’ve never seen anything quite like this. It’s no wonder that FOX News provokes such envy and animus from its competitors. They not only can’t beat FOX News; they can hardly compete with it anymore.

The 2010 cable news ratings are in — and it was an unprecedented rout.

FOX News has the top dozen rated shows on cable news. Thirteen FOX News programs draw more than 1 million viewers; three draw more than 2 million; and one program, The O’Reilly Factor, draws more than 3 million. In fact, the 11:00 p.m. repeat of The O’Reilly Factor, which ranks eighth (1.41 million viewers), easily outdistanced the top-rated program on MSNBC, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, which ranked 13th (1.035 million viewers).

CNN’s top-rated show, Larry King Live, finished at number 18 (672,000 viewers). Things were so bad for CNN in 2010 that Nancy Grace of Headline News ranked ahead of King, who has now retired from his nightly hosting duties.

The genius of Roger Ailes is that he not only brought the network to the top but, once there, continued to build on its dominance. We’ve never seen anything quite like this. It’s no wonder that FOX News provokes such envy and animus from its competitors. They not only can’t beat FOX News; they can hardly compete with it anymore.

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On Roger Ailes’s Apology

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for comments he made comparing NPR executives to “Nazis.” The ADL accepted the mea culpa pretty quickly (too quickly, some say), but there is still a great deal of criticism of Ailes emanating from the media.

“The ADL has repeatedly placed its alliance with Israel’s supporters over its stated reason for existence, and excused inexcusable instances of bigotry, even anti-Semitism,” wrote Ben Adler at Newsweek. “The most recent example is the league’s quick forgiveness of Ailes.”

Adler is right that Ailes’s comments were off-base. But to call his words anti-Semitic is not just an extreme overreaction; it’s also outrageously unfair. A single foolish statement can’t be examined in a vacuum. Ailes’s consistent public support for Israel is a major indicator of his respect for the Jewish community. In fact, the award he received from the Jewish Community Relations Council in 2005 says just that.

Moreover, Ailes’s initial statement needs to be examined in context. The Fox News chairman said that NPR executives were “of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude.” He didn’t praise Nazism. He didn’t claim that Nazis never existed. He didn’t accuse Jews of running the media, pushing the U.S. into international wars on behalf of Israel, bamboozling non-Jews out of money, or other such nonsense that regularly erupts from the mouths of vicious anti-Semites.

Again, that’s not to say that Ailes’s words were acceptable. The Fox News Channel has a longstanding problem with its use of Nazi comparisons. Glenn Beck has been a repeat offender, likening aspects of the progressive movement to the Third Reich, while Bill O’Reilly has previously described the Huffington Post’s comment policy as “the same exact tactics that the Nazis used.” (Of course, conservatives aren’t alone in these remarks. The political left has also made its fair share of Nazi comparisons.)

But perhaps by apologizing, Ailes is acknowledging that this type of rhetoric is problematic. It will be interesting to see if he also re-evaluates the nature of the comments thrown out so casually by his network’s hosts.

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for comments he made comparing NPR executives to “Nazis.” The ADL accepted the mea culpa pretty quickly (too quickly, some say), but there is still a great deal of criticism of Ailes emanating from the media.

“The ADL has repeatedly placed its alliance with Israel’s supporters over its stated reason for existence, and excused inexcusable instances of bigotry, even anti-Semitism,” wrote Ben Adler at Newsweek. “The most recent example is the league’s quick forgiveness of Ailes.”

Adler is right that Ailes’s comments were off-base. But to call his words anti-Semitic is not just an extreme overreaction; it’s also outrageously unfair. A single foolish statement can’t be examined in a vacuum. Ailes’s consistent public support for Israel is a major indicator of his respect for the Jewish community. In fact, the award he received from the Jewish Community Relations Council in 2005 says just that.

Moreover, Ailes’s initial statement needs to be examined in context. The Fox News chairman said that NPR executives were “of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude.” He didn’t praise Nazism. He didn’t claim that Nazis never existed. He didn’t accuse Jews of running the media, pushing the U.S. into international wars on behalf of Israel, bamboozling non-Jews out of money, or other such nonsense that regularly erupts from the mouths of vicious anti-Semites.

Again, that’s not to say that Ailes’s words were acceptable. The Fox News Channel has a longstanding problem with its use of Nazi comparisons. Glenn Beck has been a repeat offender, likening aspects of the progressive movement to the Third Reich, while Bill O’Reilly has previously described the Huffington Post’s comment policy as “the same exact tactics that the Nazis used.” (Of course, conservatives aren’t alone in these remarks. The political left has also made its fair share of Nazi comparisons.)

But perhaps by apologizing, Ailes is acknowledging that this type of rhetoric is problematic. It will be interesting to see if he also re-evaluates the nature of the comments thrown out so casually by his network’s hosts.

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The Unmasking of NPR

On the matter of the firing of Juan Williams by NPR, I wanted to add a few thoughts to what has already been said and written. The first is that this incident will not soon fade from memory; rather, it will be seen, over time, as an important moment that further discredited liberal media institutions. It took well-known but fairly abstract truths — NPR is taxpayer supported and dominated by a liberal political culture — and gave it a name, a context, and a human face. The fact that NPR’s Vivian Schiller turned out to be monumentally inept and mean-spirited may have been known to a few others before NPR cashiered Williams; now that fact is known by millions of others. Consequently, NPR will suffer a serious blow to its reputation and pay a considerable price (hopefully) in terms of funding.

Second, what was unmasked during the last week was the extent to which modern liberalism (at least as embodied by NPR) is antithetical to classical liberalism, which celebrated open-mindedness, a diversity of thought and opinion, and the spirited exchange of ideas. The depth of intolerance at National Public Radio is so deep that even a liberal like Juan Williams was thrown to the curb. His sin is not only that he didn’t parrot the Party Line closely enough; it was also that he didn’t parrot the Party Line at the appropriate Party Outlets.

Which leads to observation number three: the degree to which Fox News not only obsesses liberals but also blows their circuits.

The genius of Roger Ailes wasn’t simply to build the most successful cable news network in history; it’s that in the process, he has caused liberals from President Obama and his top aides to NPR to make stupid errors — errors rooted in their intense hatred for Fox News. They cannot stand the fact that Fox shattered the liberal media monopoly in television journalism. But what truly drives the left around the twist is that Fox News is thriving — and with each attempt to discredit it, the network grows more popular, more powerful, and more dominant.

Out of this most recent controversy, Juan Williams will come out just fine. NPR, on the other hand, has emerged disgraced. All in all, not a bad outcome.

On the matter of the firing of Juan Williams by NPR, I wanted to add a few thoughts to what has already been said and written. The first is that this incident will not soon fade from memory; rather, it will be seen, over time, as an important moment that further discredited liberal media institutions. It took well-known but fairly abstract truths — NPR is taxpayer supported and dominated by a liberal political culture — and gave it a name, a context, and a human face. The fact that NPR’s Vivian Schiller turned out to be monumentally inept and mean-spirited may have been known to a few others before NPR cashiered Williams; now that fact is known by millions of others. Consequently, NPR will suffer a serious blow to its reputation and pay a considerable price (hopefully) in terms of funding.

Second, what was unmasked during the last week was the extent to which modern liberalism (at least as embodied by NPR) is antithetical to classical liberalism, which celebrated open-mindedness, a diversity of thought and opinion, and the spirited exchange of ideas. The depth of intolerance at National Public Radio is so deep that even a liberal like Juan Williams was thrown to the curb. His sin is not only that he didn’t parrot the Party Line closely enough; it was also that he didn’t parrot the Party Line at the appropriate Party Outlets.

Which leads to observation number three: the degree to which Fox News not only obsesses liberals but also blows their circuits.

The genius of Roger Ailes wasn’t simply to build the most successful cable news network in history; it’s that in the process, he has caused liberals from President Obama and his top aides to NPR to make stupid errors — errors rooted in their intense hatred for Fox News. They cannot stand the fact that Fox shattered the liberal media monopoly in television journalism. But what truly drives the left around the twist is that Fox News is thriving — and with each attempt to discredit it, the network grows more popular, more powerful, and more dominant.

Out of this most recent controversy, Juan Williams will come out just fine. NPR, on the other hand, has emerged disgraced. All in all, not a bad outcome.

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Fox Dominates Cable News Ratings

According to the Huffington Post, Fox News continued its complete domination of cable-news ratings in July. The network averaged 1.85 million viewers in primetime for the month — more than CNN, MSNBC, and HLN combined. The top 11 rated programs, each with a total of more than a million viewers, belong to Fox News (three programs topped two million viewers). As a point of comparison, no other program on any other cable network was able to draw as many as a million viewers (Hardball with Chris Matthews, for example, was able to draw only a little more than half a million watchers).

The dominance of Fox News is an extraordinary media phenomenon. Roger Ailes is a genius at his profession. And the success of Fox News continues to cause liberals to vent and fume, pout and lash out, whine and act irrationally. Sometimes breaking up a quasi-monopoly will do that to people.

In any event, it’s time for liberals to make their own inner peace with a Fox-dominated cable-news world. If they don’t, they will continue to go around the bend.

According to the Huffington Post, Fox News continued its complete domination of cable-news ratings in July. The network averaged 1.85 million viewers in primetime for the month — more than CNN, MSNBC, and HLN combined. The top 11 rated programs, each with a total of more than a million viewers, belong to Fox News (three programs topped two million viewers). As a point of comparison, no other program on any other cable network was able to draw as many as a million viewers (Hardball with Chris Matthews, for example, was able to draw only a little more than half a million watchers).

The dominance of Fox News is an extraordinary media phenomenon. Roger Ailes is a genius at his profession. And the success of Fox News continues to cause liberals to vent and fume, pout and lash out, whine and act irrationally. Sometimes breaking up a quasi-monopoly will do that to people.

In any event, it’s time for liberals to make their own inner peace with a Fox-dominated cable-news world. If they don’t, they will continue to go around the bend.

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RE: They’ve Got a Friend

Free Mara and Juan! That seems to be the consensus among some politically diverse voices in Politico’s forum discussing NPR’s me-too effort to delegitimize Fox News.

Liberals who appear on Fox don’t like NPR’s gambit and warn that Fox has a pretty big audience: “I don’t always agree with FOX’s reporting, and I certainly don’t ever agree with the ideological rantings of some of the network’s commentary hosts. Having said that, however, FOX has become a permanent part of the cable news landscape. Those of us on the left should continue to challenge the network’s reporting when we find it unfair, but we all need to recognize that FOX is here to stay.” (Well, not if David Axelrod and Obama’s wish comes true, but grown-ups generally agree that Fox will remain a dominant force in TV news for a long time to come.)

To their delight, conservatives think NPR has goofed by letting its biases hang out. (“It’s a playpen for the left, subsidized by the American taxpayer, exceeded in its biases only by Pacifica Radio, another tax subsidized playpen straight out of the late ’60s.”) They are only too happy to point out that the Left is never so unappealing as when their revulsion at true diversity — the diversity of opinion — is showing. (Bradley Smith: “This episode is also part of the disturbing pattern of intolerance on the left to any differing views.”)

But Diane Ravitch of Brookings and NYU (not exactly a card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy) puts her finger on why the story is really so amusing and quite relevant: it confirms just how absurd was the White House’s anti-Fox crusade, which kicked this all off:

The efforts by NPR to persuade Mara Liasson and Juan Williams to stay away from Fox News is as ridiculous as the White House’s campaign to delegitimate the network as the propaganda wing of the Republican party. … These efforts to castigate, isolate, and stigmatize Fox News must surely have a chilling effect on the free flow of information and opinion. The American public does not need either the White House or NPR to censor what it hears.

There is nothing so farcical as “open-minded” liberals trying to squelch opposing views, and frankly nothing quite so unhelpful to their own cause. Really, what better proof is there of Fox’s journalistic bona fides and NPR’s lack of the same than this episode? (Without Roger Ailes, how many people would even know who Mara Liasson is?) And once again, Fox — thanks to the White House and the liberal shushers over at NPR — gets another round of free publicity. Remarkable.

Free Mara and Juan! That seems to be the consensus among some politically diverse voices in Politico’s forum discussing NPR’s me-too effort to delegitimize Fox News.

Liberals who appear on Fox don’t like NPR’s gambit and warn that Fox has a pretty big audience: “I don’t always agree with FOX’s reporting, and I certainly don’t ever agree with the ideological rantings of some of the network’s commentary hosts. Having said that, however, FOX has become a permanent part of the cable news landscape. Those of us on the left should continue to challenge the network’s reporting when we find it unfair, but we all need to recognize that FOX is here to stay.” (Well, not if David Axelrod and Obama’s wish comes true, but grown-ups generally agree that Fox will remain a dominant force in TV news for a long time to come.)

To their delight, conservatives think NPR has goofed by letting its biases hang out. (“It’s a playpen for the left, subsidized by the American taxpayer, exceeded in its biases only by Pacifica Radio, another tax subsidized playpen straight out of the late ’60s.”) They are only too happy to point out that the Left is never so unappealing as when their revulsion at true diversity — the diversity of opinion — is showing. (Bradley Smith: “This episode is also part of the disturbing pattern of intolerance on the left to any differing views.”)

But Diane Ravitch of Brookings and NYU (not exactly a card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy) puts her finger on why the story is really so amusing and quite relevant: it confirms just how absurd was the White House’s anti-Fox crusade, which kicked this all off:

The efforts by NPR to persuade Mara Liasson and Juan Williams to stay away from Fox News is as ridiculous as the White House’s campaign to delegitimate the network as the propaganda wing of the Republican party. … These efforts to castigate, isolate, and stigmatize Fox News must surely have a chilling effect on the free flow of information and opinion. The American public does not need either the White House or NPR to censor what it hears.

There is nothing so farcical as “open-minded” liberals trying to squelch opposing views, and frankly nothing quite so unhelpful to their own cause. Really, what better proof is there of Fox’s journalistic bona fides and NPR’s lack of the same than this episode? (Without Roger Ailes, how many people would even know who Mara Liasson is?) And once again, Fox — thanks to the White House and the liberal shushers over at NPR — gets another round of free publicity. Remarkable.

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Edwards the Phony

Matt Drudge has posted this headline on his site: “Editor For SC Largest Paper: Edwards Is ‘A Big Phony.’” That claim may qualify as the understatement of the political year. John Edwards has gone from what U.S. News & World Report describes as “the happy-face centrist” to the Candidate from the World of Kos. Has any ’08 candidate traveled so far (to the left), so fast, and in such a transparently false manner?

There are the predictable flip-flops. Today Edwards says the Iraq war was a mistake; in 2002, he insisted that “Saddam Hussein’s regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies. . . . [W]e must be prepared to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, and eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction once and for all.”

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Matt Drudge has posted this headline on his site: “Editor For SC Largest Paper: Edwards Is ‘A Big Phony.’” That claim may qualify as the understatement of the political year. John Edwards has gone from what U.S. News & World Report describes as “the happy-face centrist” to the Candidate from the World of Kos. Has any ’08 candidate traveled so far (to the left), so fast, and in such a transparently false manner?

There are the predictable flip-flops. Today Edwards says the Iraq war was a mistake; in 2002, he insisted that “Saddam Hussein’s regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies. . . . [W]e must be prepared to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, and eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction once and for all.”

Having been an early supporter of the war on terror, he now refers to it as a “bumper sticker.” John Edwards is now a passionate critic of NAFTA—after having had nice words to say about it just a few years ago. Once upon a time he expressed concern about government spending; today, he is a champion of it. He raged against “shameful lending practices” that are “devastating communities”—and then we found out he was employed in a firm that engaged in predatory lending practices. The multi-millionaire owner of a 28,000-square-foot home targets the rich in his speeches. On and on it goes.

Edwards is also leading the campaign against Fox News. He was among the first Democratic candidates to refuse to take part in Fox-sponsored debates, prompting this withering reply from Roger Ailes: “The candidates that can’t face Fox, can’t face al Qaeda.”

And sometimes what reveals the most about a candidate is not his stance on issues, but how he acts. John Edwards’s actions range from the funny (the high-priced haircuts and this widely-mocked video of the candidate’s carefully attending to his hair) to the disturbing. For instance, according to the political consultant Bob Shrum, during the 2004 campaign Edwards told Kerry a highly personal story about his son’s death. Edwards said it was a story about which he had told very few people. In Shrum’s account, Edwards told Kerry “that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body….” Shrum says Kerry was “queasy” because Senator Edwards had recounted that story before, in almost the same language.

This story, by itself, is unsettling. In the context of the Makeover of John Edwards, it is unnerving. One senses that Edwards is unanchored philosophically, that he is thirsting for political power and willing to remake himself in order to gain it.

He is Bill Clinton without the interns.

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