THE BLOG
07/07/2005 11:00 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

First Thoughts

I'm a bit puzzled by fellow Huffington Post blogger David Sirota's complaint that
Fox News' top anchorman, Brit Hume, gave us a glimpse into just how cynical, greedy and disgusting the right-wing's outlook on the world is:

"My first thought when I heard - just on a personal basis, when I heard there had been this attack and I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought, 'Hmmm, time to buy.'"

- Fox News's Brit Hume, 7/7/05

That's right - his first thought after hearing about the awful terrorist attack in London today wasn't "how tragic," or "let's say a prayer for the dead," or "how can I help the victims" - his first thought was, there was a terrorist attack, how can I personally profit off it? In fact, his impulse to use the bloodshed to make himself money was so intense, he actually voiced it on national television (FYI - in case you'd like to voice your displeasure, Brit's email address is brit.hume@foxnews.com and his office number is 202-824-6300).

Before getting so upset at Mr. Hume, wouldn't we need to know a little about the order in which he "heard there had been this attack" and "saw the futures this morning"? I mean, if he heard about the attack at 5 am, sympathized with the victims, after a while turned to more mundane matters, then saw the futures information, and then thought "time to buy," would it really be particularly callous? Without knowing the sequence, we can't really accurately say "after hearing about the awful terrorist attack in London today . . . his first thought was, there was a terrorist attack, how can I personally profit off it."

More broadly, "time to buy" might mean "I can personally profit off this," or it might mean "this is an important piece of news for financial reasons as well as for political and humanitarian reasons." ("Time to buy" can mean "time for investors to buy," not just "time for me to buy.") He is, after all, a newsman; thinking through the implications of a world event is pretty important for him. So without knowing more, we can't really accurately say that he was thinking about how he'd "personally profit off it," rather than what important financial stories might come of this.

Finally, when people say "my first thought," do they always literally mean "my first thought"? According to the excerpt that Mr. Sirota links to, Hume was asked about the stock market implications of the attacks. He then responded with the "first thought" line. In context, it seems quite plausible that "first thought" means the first thought that's actually germane to the questioner's question. His first thought might have been "what an outrage"; his second thought might have been "oh, the baby's crying"; his third thought might have been "gotta go to the bathroom"; but his first thought relevant to the question (even if it was his seventh thought) was the one about it being the time to buy futures.

This is a pretty long explanation, I realize, but the point is a simple one: Given all this ambiguity and uncertainty, is there really enough there to get outraged, to start a telephone and e-mail campaign, and to trumpet that this shows that Hume's (or the entire right wing's) outlook is "cynical, greedy and disgusting"?