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Robin Gerber Headshot

The Fox Fairness Fantasy

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Keith Olberman needs to go on red alert. Hillary Clinton says Fox News Channel has treated her more fairly in terms of coverage than MSNBC. Could it be that the channel using the most objectified, smutty and often inane images of women during the video feed that accompanies stories is mending its ways? Is it possible that Fox will soon allow women on-air who aren't talking blond mannequins? If so, Clinton will have cracked the mirrored ceiling in the penthouse of sexist television. Whether she wins the presidency or not, that's quite an accomplishment.

Hillary said she was referencing an "independent" study, probably the one by the Center for Media and Public Affairs which does have this finding: "coverage of the candidates on Fox News Channel's "Special Report with Brit Hume" was very similar to that of the broadcast networks. FOX's coverage of Hillary Clinton was evenly balanced -- 50% positive and 50% negative comments, compared to 51% positive and 49% negative on the "big three" networks. The tone of FOX's coverage of Romney and Obama was also within one percentage point of the broadcast networks." The report goes on to say that Fox has the most issue-oriented coverage compared to the networks.

Could I have been hallucinating all those times I've forced myself to watch Brit Hume and thought he was thoroughly un-tethered from the normal meaning of "fair and balanced?" Thankfully for my peace of mind, a quick look at the funders of CPMA provides the hint that they may be more than a tad biased. CPMA is underwritten by Scaife, Earhart, Olin, Bradley -- the usual suspects who keep the right-wing think tanks and their downstream TV and radio punditry in business.

I can see why Hillary might jump on a study like this without vetting it. She's really upset with MSNBC, and with good reason. Way, way back before she announced, she had Chris Matthews verbally pat her on the head and suggest that maybe she should just stay in the Senate and become Majority Leader before taking on the big, bad presidency. With a few bloopers in between, he graduated to recent comments about the source of her success resting on Bill's infidelity. For this he gave up a mea culpea. Then came the most recent demeaning imagery about Chelsea suggested by David Shuster, which earned him a hand-slap suspension.

It's enough to make even Fox News Channel look good to a female candidate. But they're not. Both Fox and MSNBC need more Keith Olbermans and Anderson Coopers, men who aren't afraid to call sexism by its real name. And, of course, they need more women who are hired for being smart and tough and in tune with women's concerns -- and who are allowed to look as pasty, flabby and disheveled as some of the men do.

I'm betting that if we had a woman president we would see a lot more women in those anchor chairs. In fact, Hillary could help that along. Eleanor Roosevelt used to hold women-only press conferences. Maybe Hillary should announce that if these men can't recognize and overcome their prejudices against women, she'll start doing the same.