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Fox Nation: The Seedy Underbelly of Rupert Murdoch's Evil Empire?

07/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

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He's called former Vice President Al Gore an "evil enabler" for speaking at Netroots Nation -- an annual conference that draws thousands of progressive blog enthusiasts. He's likened Markos Moulitsas, founder of the progressive blog powerhouse Daily Kos, to white supremacist David Duke. He's even accused The Huffington Post of using the "same exact tactics that the Nazis used."

To say that Fox News golden boy Bill O'Reilly is no fan of progressive blogs is an understatement akin to claiming the Hatfields and McCoys were mildly displeased with each other.

In fact, just last week, O'Reilly hosted a panel of lawyers who attempted, in vain, to explain that the conservative host's "rights" aren't violated by private criticism.

Back in March, while promoting its newly launched website TheFoxNation.com, Fox News ran advertisements telling viewers that it was "time to say 'no' to biased media and 'yes' to fair play and free speech."

In short, Fox News was jumping headfirst into the blogging world with just the snake oil necessary to cure what ailed O'Reilly -- a fair, honest, bias-free version of what he sees the left serving up.

It didn't take long for The Fox Nation to prove those fancy Fox News promos demonstrably inaccurate -- instead, it seems to have said "yes" to biased media and "no" to "fair play" from Day One.

In its first 24 hours, the website labeled Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) a "[d]angerous duo," linking to an Agence France-Presse article that simply reported that Dodd and Frank "promised President Barack Obama on Monday they would work with the White House to enact a sweeping overhaul of US financial regulatory structures by year's end."

Visitors to The Fox Nation were no doubt confused when they clicked on the link provided by the website to the AFP article in question only to find that it in no way characterized Dodd or Frank as "[d]angerous."

That was Day One. In the two months that followed the website's launch, The Fox Nation has displayed an uncanny ability to mislead readers, twist the truth, spread wild conspiracy theories, and misrepresent the reporting of legitimate journalists and media outlets.

At times, the website has been downright frightening. In early May, it ran a photo of a rifle pointed in the direction of a photo of Obama's head. The headline associated with the rifle image asked: "Why Are Gun Sales Surging?" One can only imagine what O'Reilly and his ilk would have said if a progressive blog -- or a legitimate news outlet, as Fox purports to be, for that matter -- had done the same thing to President Bush.

Debunked conspiracy theories are also finding new life on the website. A headline in late May asked: "Should Obama Release Birth Certificate? Or Is This Old News?" But contrary to the question, the Obama campaign released a copy of Obama's birth certificate, posting it on the campaign's website last year. It also reportedly provided the original document to FactCheck.org, whose staff concluded in an August 2008 post that it "meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship."

About the use of questions like the one just highlighted: In what appears to be an attempt to ward off criticism, The Fox Nation, like the on-screen text on Fox News, often employs the use of questions for its headlines rather than straightforward assertions. It's as if they are pre-emptively saying, "We made no such statement. We simply asked a question."

What has the website asked its readers? Of same-sex marriage, it wondered, "Are 'Triad' Marriages Next?" Following the reported suicide of a Freddie Mac executive, one headline asked, "Was It Suicide?" After the Department of Homeland Security declassified an April report detailing potential increases in right-wing extremism, the website queried, "Is Homeland Security Targeting Tea Parties?" Of course, these are the very same tea parties that Fox News and The Fox Nation went to great lengths promoting.

The Fox Nation has had loads of questions, especially when it comes to Obama's Supreme Court deliberations and his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. The website asked, "Why Aren't White Males Being Considered for Supreme Court?" and "Is it Empathy? Or Is Obama Shredding the Constitution?" Of Obama's nominee, the website inquired, "Sotomayor Argued Death Penalty Is Racist... Is She?"

So, is TheFoxNation.com simply the seedy underbelly of Fox News parent company chairman Rupert Murdoch's evil, right-wing media empire?

Boy, that was easy, wasn't it?

Karl Frisch is a Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary.