What follows is the inaugural column of a person we are calling The Fox Mole—a long-standing, current employee of Fox News Channel who will be providing Gawker with regular dispatches from inside the organization.
I always intended to keep my mouth shut. The plan was simple: get hired, keep my head down and my views to myself, work for a few months, build my resume, then eventually hop to a new job that didn't make me cringe every morning when I looked in the mirror.
That was years ago. My cringe muscles have turned into crow's feet. The ten resumes a month I was sending out dwindled into five, then two, then one, then zero. No one wants me. I'm blacklisted.
I work at Fox News Channel.
The final straw for me came last year. Oddly, it wasn't anything on TV that turned me rogue, though plenty of things on our air had pushed me in that direction over the years. But what finally broke me was a story on The Fox Nation. If you're not a frequenter of Fox Nation (and if you're reading Gawker, it's a pretty safe bet you're not) I can describe it for you — it's like an unholy mashup of the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post and a Klan meeting. Word around the office is that the site was actually the brainchild of Bill O'Reilly's chief stalker (and Gawker pal) Jesse Watters.
The Nation aggregates news stories, gives them provocative headlines, and invites commenters to weigh in. The comments are fascinating actually, if you can detach yourself enough to view them as sort of the id of the conservative movement. Of course, if you can't detach yourself, then you're going to come away with a diminished view of human decency, because HOLY MOLY THESE PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE THE BLACK PRESIDENT. I'm not saying they dislike him BECAUSE he's black, but a lot of the comments, unprompted, mention the fact that he is black, so what would you say, Dr. Freud?
The Fox Nation moderators, realizing that they had a problem on their hands, did the absolute bare minimum, hiring one or two college kids to comb the comments for the most egregiously racist postings, and putting in automatic text filters that blocked various key words. Of course the intrepid commenters quickly found ways around these filters using letter substitutions and spacings, which is why many comments complain about our "n@gger president" and the "M u s l i m in the White House."
So the site has become the seedy underbelly of the Fox News online empire. It's surprising that we even have an online empire, considering that our fan base is mostly septuagenarian technophobes.
The post that broke the camel's back might be familiar to some of you, because it garnered a lot of attention and (well-deserved) ridicule when it hit last August. The item was aggregating several news sources that were reporting innocuously on President Obama's 50th birthday party, which was attended by the usual mix of White House staffers, DC politicos and Dem-friendly celebs. The Fox Nation, naturally, chose to illustrate the story with a photo montage of Obama, Charles Barkley, Chris Rock, and Jay Z, and the headline "Obama's Hip Hop BBQ Didn't Create Jobs."
The post neatly summed up everything that had been troubling me about my employer: Non sequitur, ad hominem attacks on the president; gleeful race baiting; a willful disregard for facts; and so on. It came close on the heels of the Common controversy, which exhibited a lot of the same ugly traits. (See also: terrorist fist jabs; Fox & Friends madrassa accusations; etc.)
The worst thing about the Hip Hop BBQ incident is that we didn't back away from it. Bill Shine, who is a rather important guy—sort of Roger Ailes' main hatchet man, and the go-between for Ailes and most of the top talent—bafflingly doubled down and defended it. The story still exists on the Fox Nation site, headline and photo montage intact, to this very day.
That was it for me. It wasn't that the one incident was so bad, in and of itself. But it was so galvanizing, and on top of so many other little incidents, that I guess it just finally pushed me over the edge.
So here I am. And I come bearing gifts. The video above is of Mitt Romney and Sean Hannity bantering before the taping of an interview for the "Hannity Vegas Forum" in February. Of note: Romney professes his and his wife Ann's well-known love of horseriding, praising the qualities of the "Austrian Warmbloods" that his wife rides—the are "dressage" horses, he notes—while maintaining his own preference for the "smoother gait" of his own "Missouri foxtrotter."
Now there's nothing wrong with Mitt and his wife loving horseback riding. But remember this video next time Romney attacks Obama for golfing. The inherent elitism and snootiness of golf is NOTHING compared to competitive horseback riding. And I think Mitt loses points with the GOP base for his correct pronunciation of dressage. To GOP-voter ears it sounds not only gay, but even worse, French.
Elsewhere in the video you will see the two men discussing the possibility that this very footage may one day be leaked, as they warn one another against primping too carefully. "You don't want to have John Edwards moment," Hannity says. "Did you see that?" Romney replies: "Oh, yeah I saw that. It's one thing to do it for a second. It's another thing to do it for an hour." (And it's quite another for Newt Gingrich's wife to groom him like a circus walrus.)
Later, Hannity's producers ask him to change his necktie mid-interview. Here's a little TV trick for you: The show was splitting the Q-and-A over two nights, and they wanted to make the second night look like a fresh, new encounter rather than a rehash from last night. So they made sure to change Hannity's tie lest eagle-eyed viewers spot the repeat. Romney, to his credit, refuses to play along. Offered a pink tie, he says, "I'm not going all Donald Trump today." That day, Trump had announced his endorsement of Romney. In the portion of the interview that was broadcast, Romney said he was grateful for Trump's support, and that "he is a man who'se created a lot of jobs, and he shares my concern about China."
"So why not just leave Fox News?" you might ask. Good question! I've asked myself that same thing many times. And I am leaving. Sooner rather than later, I'm guessing. But I can't just leave quietly, can I? Where's the fun in that? So I'm John McClane-ing this shit. I'm inside the building, crawling through the air vents, gathering intel, and passing it along to Carl Winslow.
(Note: Please don't misunderstand, and take my Die Hard metaphor as a threat of violence. Like most left-wingers I abhor actual violence, but am still hopelessly enthralled by the Hollywood machine that glorifies it. Also, that was a 20th Century Fox movie. Synergy!)
Watch this space for future dispatches from the Fox Mole.