Fox News' numbers speaks for themselves. In the first quarter Fox was the second most watched channel in primetime. It bagged the top spot among nine out of ten cable shows. It made CNN and MSNBC look like amateurish high school student broadcast facilities. In the second quarter Fox did even better with an astonishing ratings jump more than thirty percent higher than the first quarter.
Their runaway number one audience, ad, and ratings recruiter is President Obama. Yet, Obama keeps pitching Fox. First he publicly tried to shoo everyone away from the network. Then he blocked its request to interview so-called pay czar Kenneth Feinberg. This got the dander of even some moderate Democrats up. They recognize that he's making a cardinal blunder in propping up Fox through the backdoor with his attacks.
It also ticked off the major TV networks. Free Speech, First Amendment, the right to broadcast, and accessibility were the issues that made them see red about Obama's ham-handed effort to punish Fox. Hey, it's Fox the president dumps on today -- it could be us tomorrow.
Obama just can't seem to help himself with his obsessive need to bash Fox and gorge its ratings binge. Fox, of course, giddily loves every swipe that he takes at it. It should. Having the president attack you is the best advertising in the world without having to spend a nickel on it.
The puzzle is not so much that Obama hasn't figured out that he's the best pitch man for Fox. But that he hasn't learned that bad mouthing the right side media gabbers only makes them bigger than life.
Take Limbaugh. In January, Obama took the ill-fated step and made him his momentary punching bag. The predictable happened. The Media Research Center found that Limbaugh's ratings soared through the roof. Radio affiliates that carried Limbaugh's syndicated show floated on Cloud Nine with the listener stampede to his show. Limbaugh quickly saw the goldmine, mined it for all it was worth, and hasn't missed a beat since.
The incident further coronated him as the de facto mouthpiece for the GOP. It set in stone GOP opposition to anything that Obama and the Democrats come up with, and gave the legion of Obama baiters and loathers more ammunition to blast him on the airwaves, in chat rooms, websites, and even more despicably in race baiting cartoons, emails, Facebook and Twitter posts.
Obama, it seemed at one point, knew enough not to be a salesman for his critics. During the campaign when Republican rival John McCain dredged up Sarah Palin some Team Obama members foolishly saw this as a chance to go dirty with him and her. Obama quickly saw the folly of this. He publicly congratulated her for being the VP pick and then said not another mumbling word about her. He understood that he was running against McCain, not Palin. Despite her mind boggling incompetence and unfitness, she was a woman, a mother, had an afflicted child, and was the darling of the rabid right. Beating up on her would simply rally the hordes of Christian fundamentalist and ultra conservative troops and inflate her (and the politically moribund McCain) to colossal proportions in the media. The lesson from ignoring Palin obviously didn't last.
Obama's pummeling of Fox won't do anything to shove down the station's huge ratings numbers. It will only boost them. You'd think the president would figure out by now he's their star, unpaid pitchman.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press), will be released in January, 2010.