A little over a month ago, I spent an entire weekend with former Navy SEALS helping to produce a video for use in the presidential campaign by an outside conservative group. The SEALS I spoke to were very upset about the leaks for the Obama administration regarding the details of the raid which famously killed Osama bin Laden.
One of the questions I asked them was whether the SEAL who killed bin Laden would ever come forward to tell his story for money. They were all pretty certain that would never happen.
So I was as surprised as anyone when word came out this week that one of the SEALS on the bin Laden raid has written a book called No Easy Day, which is scheduled to come out in a couple of weeks under an alias. I was even more shocked when the very next day Fox News reported the real name of the former SEAL who wrote the book.
Now, to be clear, the SEAL writing this book is not doing this for profit. The proceeds from the book will go to help other SEALS in need. And yet, Fox News decided that his true identity, and even his home town, needed to be broadcast nationally.
To be fair, it is certainly possible to have a debate over the journalistic ethics (is there still such a thing?) of outing a former SEAL in this type of unique situation. However, it is not at all arguable that the reaction of the conservative media to this story would be 180 degrees different if the news source had been anyone one else other than Fox News.
It appears as if the conservative media has just simply decided that this story doesn't exist. Fox News has mostly ignored it for obvious reasons, Drudge quickly diminished it, and, as usual, everyone else in the conservative chain has taken their unspoken marching orders. Somehow, the outing is a total non story.
But imagine if you will, if MSNBC or CNN decided to be first to endanger the life of a former SEAL and national hero for no apparent reason. How would the conservative media have responded to that?
As someone who has dealt with most of the top decision makers in the conservative media for years, I can assure that that all the big names on the right would immediately have been at a "high" level of outrage. Some of it might have even been real.
To find out what was really going on, I emailed someone with whom I have been friends for several years who runs a top conservative website and asked him "where is the outrage?" while also implying that a fear of going after Fox was the reason for the silence. I was dumbstruck to get a quick two-line response. The second read "good luck with your future endeavors." I apparently lost a friend, but at least I got sound confirmation that my suspicions are indeed well founded!
The sad reality is that Fox News is completely untouchable in the conservative media. You simply can not be effective in the business that is conservative content unless you have favored status at Fox or at least Drudge (the two are clearly linked). Unfortunately, this means keeping quiet when they commit blatant conservative transgressions (like dumping the Iraq War in favor of Natalie Holloway, taking a dive for Obama during the 2008 primaries, or allowing Sarah Palin and others to undermine Mitt Romney's chances of beating President Obama).
Everyone in the conservative media world knows (or at least should know) that this is really a business and not a cause. Because of the scarcity mentality on the right (liberals have far more media options to go to while Fox basically has a monopoly) it forces career-minded conservatives to treat Fox News as the untouchable "third rail" of right-leaning media members.
As someone who produced a movie which largely defends Fox News in comparison to other news outlets, even I realize that they are hardly perfect and should be criticized when warranted. To not do so is not only hypocritical, but it falls right into the stereotype that liberals have of the conservative universe. In this case, it may also have unnecessarily endangered the life of an American hero.