Wednesday, October 6

Olbermann on Foxgate

OLBERMANN:  Fox News makes up quotes from John Kerry and doesn‘t do any background checks on another group claiming to support him.

Apologies issued, but where‘s the national outrage that Dan Rather got?

And the impact on the election of “Saturday Night Live”?

Stand by.


OLBERMANN:  They meant to put that into the public discourse.  Fox News says, it did not.

But the gag reporting by its chief political correspondent, Carl Cameron, including made-up quotes attributed to John Kerry, was not supposed to be put on its Web site last Friday as actual news, entitled “The Metrosexual and the Cowboy.”

Fox says it was drawn from what somebody did not know was a farcical script written by Cameron, placed in the wrong part of its news computer, and simply rewritten by somebody else.

This, even though the mock script quoted the senator as saying, “Didn‘t my nails and cuticles look great?  What a good debate.”  And “I‘m a metrosexual.  He‘s a cowboy.”

The network issued an apology, calling it a poor attempt at humor and a lapse in judgment, and said Cameron had been, quote, reprimanded.

Fox was just getting back on its feet when another political correspondent, Jane Roh, filed a report about a parody group called Communists for Kerry.

One problem—she forgot to mention it was a parody, and she forgot to mention the group was actually pro-Bush.

Fox‘s response to that—Roh was duped.  She actually believed the folks were serious.

The faux news stories got some media attention, but not a fraction of the CBS Killian memos saga.

Is that appropriate?  Or is there a political bias there, or what?

Joining me now, Professor Robert Thompson of Syracuse University, where he founded and directs the Center for the Study of Popular Television.

Professor Thompson, good evening.



OLBERMANN:  Well, let‘s try to get some perspective.  Are these Fox gaffs even in the same league as what we think we know happened at CBS?

THOMPSON:  Well, they‘re not, insofar as they‘re not claiming that Kerry did something that he could be court-martialed for.

It‘s on a Web site, as opposed to “60 Minutes.”  And they apologized for it, really, really quickly, as opposed to CBS, which kept saying, you know, the sources were false, but the spirit was true.

Fox never said the quotes were made up, but the spirit was true. 

Which I suppose they could of.

John Kerry‘s cuticles did look pretty good on Thursday night.

OLBERMANN:  There is an irony to this thing, in particular, because of all the people on the air at Fox News, Carl Cameron probably gets the least amount of grief about purportedly having a political agenda.

But let‘s say somebody, whose neutrality was equally respected at CNN or at MSNBC, made up quotes about George Bush and they wound up on those Web sites for a similar period of time.

Would we not already be living in the middle of a second maelstrom of, these people are trying to influence the election, get Congress to investigate?

THOMPSON:  The first debate would be history.

Could you imagine if Jennings or Brokaw or, heaven forbid, Rather had put this on one of their respective Web sites?

And, you know, there should be a hue and cry about this.  Even though it was a silly story, even though it was relatively easy to find out—or to realize that it was fake—let‘s remember that Rather, in fact, put something on from a source that due diligence was not done upon.

Here you‘ve got a guy who made up the quotes, put them in there.  And I don‘t care how it got on the air, that stuff shouldn‘t be happening.  Those kinds of things shouldn‘t be being written in the newsroom and put in places where they can get on to the Web site.

I think the people at CBS were responsible for that.  Heads ought to roll.  I think the same thing ought to happen over at Fox News.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any chance, any hope, that two gaffs by the troops from fair-and-balanced-land might make any measurable percentage of the news consumers and the politically active people of this country on all sides step back from the brink of politicizing literally everything in news, and say, you know what?  This has just gotten too heated.  We need to go back to the days when fair and balanced was not just some meaningless brand name.

THOMPSON:  Well, you would have thought that this may have really made a splash.

But it‘s—when that Dan Rather story broke, my phone rang all day long.  Today I could hear the crickets in the background and see the sagebrush blowing across my telephone.

This has really been, I think, under-reported.

The second story, the Communists for Kerry thing, you have a hard time locating that story on the Internet when you‘re looking for it.

So, I think in the end, probably, we‘re not going to hear much about this at all after tonight.

OLBERMANN:  To Fox‘s credit, though, as you said, they did—they apologized for it and they damage controlled brilliantly, as opposed to CBS, which did neither brilliantly.

So, that may be a factor in addition to anything else.

Well, Professor Robert Thompson of Syracuse University.  As always, sir, we appreciate your time tonight.

THOMPSON:  Thank you.


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