Will Fox News Enforce Its "Zero Tolerance" Policy On Recent Error? [UPDATE]

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Back in November Fox News Channel, in response to a series of widely reported on-air mistakes, issued a memo that stated:

Effective immediately, there is zero tolerance for on-screen errors. Mistakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the "mistake chain," and those who supervise them. That may include warning letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination, and this will all obviously play a role in performance reviews.

Well, it's time for the zero-tolerance patrol to take on the "mistake chain" and to start disciplining whoever put this graphic up on last week's Fox And Friends:

Now, I'm no math expert, but it would appear that those poll numbers, which should add up to 100 percent, add up to 120 percent. Throughout the news organization, Fox seems to be struggling with the concept of correctly depicting poll results:

But the error goes a little bit deeper. Here's the actual question, and the actual results, from the Rasmussen poll the first graphic, above, is citing:

3* In order to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming, how likely is it that some scientists have falsified research data?

35% Very likely
24% Somewhat likely
21% Not very likely
5% Not at all likely
15% Not sure

In a letter sent to Fox News' Senior Vice President Michael Clemente, Media Matters For America's Ari Rabin-Havt draws a bead on what went wrong between the publication of the poll results and Fox News' attempts to grapple with same:

Rasmussen asked respondents, "In order to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming, how likely is it that some scientists falsified research data?" According to the poll, 35 percent thought it very likely, 24 percent somewhat likely, 21 percent not very likely, and 5 percent not likely at all (15 percent weren't sure). However, it appears Fox News' graphics department added together the "very likely" and the "somewhat likely" responses to give the "somewhat likely" group 59 percent of the responses. Then, Fox included the 35 percent who answered "very likely" as its own group (even though it was already included in the "somewhat likely" group). The "not very likely" and "not likely at all" were also added together to get 26 percent, and the 15 percent who were unsure were not included in the graphic.

The erroneous percentages Fox & Friends showed in its graphic added up to 120 percent (even without the 15 percent who responded that they weren't sure). More importantly, Fox News' presentation of the data made it seem as though 94 percent of Americans think it's at least "somewhat likely" that climate scientists falsify their research data.

Rabin-Havt concludes, "I look forward to hearing how this new policy will be enforced in this case."

UPDATE: So, here's who should be fired/warned/sent a stern letter/have their performance review adversely effected: Fox And Friends producer Lauren Petterson, who gave a pretty nonsensical explanation for this gaffe to Michael Calderone at Politico.

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