2012 was a dismal year for Fox News. The PR arm of the GOP failed to fulfill its prime directive: advancing the interests of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. It spent much of the year constructing an alternative reality that left millions of its flock in shock when President Obama won an overwhelming reelection. It refused to accept the facts on the ground and denigrated polls (even its own) when the results conflicted with the fictional narrative it was peddling. And perhaps most painful of all, Fox surrendered its ratings lead to MSNBC. Two-thirds of its primetime lineup (Hannity and Van Susteren) dropped to second place behind the competition on MSNBC (Maddow and O’Donnell). However, Fox’s travails did not occur for lack of effort. It was clearly operating at the top of its capacity to distort and deceive. In the process it unleashed some of the most feverishly biased reporting, even for Fox News. What follows are a few of the worst departures from ethical journalism by Fox in the last year.
The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward revealed that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes had dispatched a Fox News defense analyst, to Kabul, Afghanistan to recruit Gen. David Petraeus as a GOP candidate for president. The notion of a news network soliciting candidates for political office is a perversion of the role journalists play in society. In response, Ailes claimed that it was “a joke” and that he “thought the Republican [primary] field needed to be shaken up.” Where Ailes got the idea that it was his right and/or duty to shake up the GOP primaries is unexplained. News people are supposed to report the news, not make it. Woodward’s story affirms that Fox News is a rogue operation. Its intrusion into the political process debases journalism by breaching all standards of ethical conduct. And it debases democracy as well by exploiting its power and wealth to manipulate political outcomes.