In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, her classic work from 1818, Dr. Victor Frankenstein brings life to the lifeless. Larger and more powerful than an average man, Dr. Frankenstein's creation strikes fear in the hearts of those it encounters. Remember, this monster was only man-like -- a far cry from the real thing.
With Halloween just around the corner, Fox News president Roger Ailes -- a former Republican communications guru -- is looking more and more like the news industry's Dr. Frankenstein. For months now, he has been putting the finishing touches on his first monster, Fox News Channel, just as its bride, Fox Business Network, is showing signs of life.
His main tactic has been all too apparent: steal conservative media figures from real news networks like CNN, MSNBC, and ABC in order to build something new from the pieces -- something that only superficially resembles a legitimate news outlet.
Last spring, conspiracy-loving crybaby Glenn Beck claimed that Ailes wooed him over to Fox News from CNN Headline News by stressing the conservative network's opposition to the president. Beck even told one newspaper that Ailes had likened Fox News' battle against Obama to the Alamo.
Then there was Tucker Carlson in May. Fresh off yet another canceled show -- first with CNN and then with MSNBC -- and a brief stint on ABC's Dancing With The Stars, the conservative man-boy cable host known for his bow-tie fetish landed with a bang at Fox News, declaring, "I've waited a long time to get here."
Luring two big right-wing names to Fox News Channel's roster allowed Ailes to focus on Fox Business Network, his answer to NBC Universal's successful business news outlet, CNBC.
Since its launch in late 2007, Fox Business has been plagued with horrible ratings. In fact, CNBC sometimes outperformed the new conservative business outlet by a margin of 10-to-1. It's hardly surprising, then, that Ailes has turned his focus to the struggling network.
Just last month, Fox Business announced that it would begin carrying a weekday simulcast of Don Imus' radio program. Imus is, of course, far better known for his long history of outrageous and at times racist and sexist comments than for his business-reporting chops. In fact, he'll likely represent the word "business" in his new employer's name about as well as his new colleagues represent the word "news" in Fox News Channel.
Imus comes to Fox Business from the little-known and little-watched RFD-TV, his television home following his high-profile firing from MSNBC and CBS radio in 2007 for referring to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos."
September would prove to be a barn burner of a month for Ailes. In addition to Imus, John Stossel, a correspondent for the ABC newsmagazine 20/20, also announced his intention to join Fox Business. Stossel will no doubt feel right at home -- he has a long history of denying the scientific reality of global climate change and promoting a cornucopia of right-wing myths and distortions. So much so that Fox's Chris Wallace described Stossel as a "very natural fit at Fox because he is a contrarian, and he's a conservative."
So what's next for Fox Business? Well, according to recent reports, CNN's immigrant-bashing conspiracy theorist Lou Dobbs met with Ailes over dinner last month. Could Dobbs be taking his loony quest for President Obama's already-available birth certificate to Fox Business? It seems plausible. Years before CNN turned over its airwaves to Dobbs for his nightly broadcasts of immigrant-smearing hysteria and right-wing fringe causes of the day, Dobbs was something of a respected financial news anchor.
Surely, Imus, Stossel, and Dobbs won't be enough to breathe new life into Ailes' monster bride of a network. He's going to need a few more high-profile names before he's able to shout "It's alive!" from the rooftops. But who?
Perhaps Ailes could sign Michael Savage, the third-highest-rated radio host in America, who was fired by MSNBC in 2003 for describing a caller as "a sodomite" and telling him to "get AIDS and die." While he's at it, he could also snatch up Pat Buchanan, the former CNN and MSNBC host who currently serves as resident cranky uncle and political commentator for the latter. Surely, they could use someone with his decades-long history of racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, defending of Hitler, and whitewashing of the Holocaust.
We might as well refer to Ailes as Dr. Fox-enstein at this point. After all, his relentless abuse of the journalistic form is just as frightening as Shelley's chilling fictional tale of scientific experimentation run amok -- perhaps more so.
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. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns by email.
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