Fox News' favorite media reporter, NewsBeast's Howie Kurtz, has a new piece out about how Roger Ailes has gone soft, "repositioning" Fox News to be less overtly racist and "pull[ing] back a bit on the throttle" of inchoate conspiratorial rage directed against Obama. Kurtz's source for this objectively verifiable fact is Fox chief Roger Ailes, so you know it's true.
[Ailes] calls it a "course correction," quietly adopted at Fox over the last year. Glenn Beck's inflammatory rhetoric-his ranting about Obama being a racist-"became a bit of a branding issue for us" before the hot-button host left in July, Ailes says. So too did Sarah Palin's being widely promoted as the GOP's potential savior-in large measure through her lucrative platform at Fox. Privately, Fox executives say the entire network took a hard right turn after Obama's election, but, as the Tea Party's popularity fades, is edging back toward the mainstream.
Fox is mainstream now! No more ranting about Obama being a racist, no more transparently political attacks on any person or entity who opposes the agenda of the GOP.
- When Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade had a fit two weeks ago about Obama's "chintzy" use of a binder clip to hold together a copy of his jobs bill? That was a mainstream observation.
- When Fox News' web site randomly linked the April suicide of a George Washington University student to an Obama speech? Mainstream.
- When host Eric Bolling complained in June that Obama was inviting too many "Hoods in the Hizzy" accompanied by a graphic of a black man with a flashing gold tooth, or in May that Obama was "chugging 40's" while tornadoes ravaged Missouri, or in April that his newly released long-form birth certificate "looked photoshopped"? Those were the views of a mainstream rising star at a mainstream network that has backed off its recent flirtation with Tea Party hysterics.
Hilariously, many of the things Kurtz brings to bear as evidence that Fox News has softened are in fact indications that the man he was speaking to is emotionally unstable. For instance:
The talk turns to terrorism. Ailes is angry about an Associated Press report that 29 worshipers were killed by a suicide bomber in Baghdad's largest Sunni mosque during prayers. "How do we know they were worshiping?" he demands. "I think the AP is so far over the hill, they've become left wing, antiwar. Gotta watch their copy."
This, Kurtz believes, is something that belongs in the "softening" column: The fact that Roger Ailes is suspicious of the term "worshiper" to describe people who were murdered in a mosque, during a prayer service, during Ramadan, in Iraq, and that he regards the use of such a loaded term by the AP as beyond the pale and a signifier that the AP is opposed to war, which is a bad thing. What if they were doing sex things in that mosque, or building bombs, or burning Israeli flags? Whatever happened to just reporting the facts, AP? Let's stop listening to them now.
Another thing that Kurtz takes as evidence that Ailes is "acting less like a political operative" is that he yells at Shepard Smith when he's insufficiently sensitive to the Republican party line:
Ailes keeps a wary eye on anchor Shepard Smith, who occasionally backs aspects of the Obama record: "Every once in a while Shep Smith gets out there where the buses don't run and we have a friendly talk." And Ailes likes to tease O'Reilly: "You gonna suck up to Obama so you can get another interview at the next football game?"
And then this is the very next sentence:
Democrats have noticed the change. Says former Obama aide Anita Dunn: "You have the sense that they're trying to at least appear less of the hyper-partisan political network they had been."
This is true! One reason you get the sense that Fox News is trying to appear less hyper-partisan is that they got Howie Kurtz to write an article maintaining, falsely, that they are in fact less hyper-partisan.
[Image via Getty]