Four producers for Dan Rather were fired when they did not double check documents they used in a "60 Minutes II" piece about Bush's service in the National Guard. Eventually, Rather was moved out of the anchor desk and pushed out of CBS entirely. Most of this was based on the perception that they were slanting a story. The independent panel selected to investigate the National Guard story said they found no evidence of a political agenda against Bush, but that the documents should have been more thoroughly vetted.
Now, we have an instance of Fox News Channel clearly and indisputably slanting their whole lineup of news against the Democratic Party in an internal memo sent by the Vice President of News, John Moody. Instead of covering the Republican losses in the elections, they choose to focus on, and in some cases invent, stories of how insurgents might be emboldened by the Democratic victory. They push the story line of Democratic infighting on a day that had bitter Republican finger pointing on who was responsible for their momentous losses. And they call a Democratic legislator a "political hack."
Now imagine if the Vice President of News of any of the networks had called an elected Republican a political hack? What do you think the reaction would be by conservatives? Is there anyone who would make the argument that they wouldn't ask the person be fired immediately? Why should Fox "News" Channel be held to a different standard?
There is an answer to that question. They should be held to a different standard because they are clearly not a real news organization. Their job is to slant the news in favor of a conservative point of view. They defend Republicans and attack Democrats on a daily basis. Only a blind man can't see it. Just read Newshounds or Media Matters on any given day. They have hundreds of examples.
And all of that is okay. They have the right to present any point of view they like. The only problem is that the rest of the media treats them as if they are a real news organization. They are not in the business of news, they are in the business of opinions (and less charitably, some might say propaganda).
It's not that they make stuff up as much as it is that they slant every story to emphasize something that leans against the Democrats and in favor of the Republicans. Read the memo again. Almost every sentence is taking a small and less relevant story in the news and spinning it to far greater prominence for the purpose of a clear agenda.
And the important thing is not that Fox does this, it's that the rest of the media and real news organizations give them any credence. They don't hold Fox to the same journalistic standards, but take news and spin from them as if they have the same credibility as a legitimate news organization.
This leaked memo has two very good examples. First, Fox emphasizes Democratic infighting on a day when there was tremendous Republican infighting. Second, instead of asking how the White House will deal with this setback and change their Iraq policy, they ask if Democrats can solve Iraq. Plus, they say ahead of time, that they will push that story for the next two years. What kind of a news organization would make a decision to push a news story for the next several years without knowing what the real news would be in those next two years? The kind that doesn't care about the news, but cares about its agenda.
Unfortunately, we see the meme of Democratic infighting and Democrats "lack of a plan" in Iraq -- which by the way is absolutely false -- repeated robotically throughout the mainstream press. The fact that Democrats have several well thought out positions on Iraq, including a detailed plan by Senator Biden which might one day be adopted by the Iraq Study Group is completely ignored as the Fox spin gets repeated throughout the media. This is the part that is unacceptable. It's one thing for Fox to be manipulative, it's another for the mainstream press to get manipulated and be oblivious to it.
Finally, though it is mainly the spin that's the problem, Fox also flat out makes up stories based on the dictates of higher ups like John Moody. Newshounds again has an excellent example. Right after this memo is written, one of Moody's minions, Martha MacCallum, carried out his marching orders by reporting that "insurgents were cheering in the streets" in Iraq with absolutely no proof or sourcing.
Will there be an independent panel put together to investigate MacCallum's unsubstantiated story or John Moody's clearly partisan orders that directed her? Will they be fired? Or will Fox News Channel simply go the way of the World Wrestling Federation and simply admit that it's all an act -- they don't really cover news, they spin the news?
If they make that admission, I am perfectly comfortable with John Moody staying on with Fox. He is delivering what they pay him for -- someone who slants the news, not reports it.
Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheYoungTurks