August 22, 2003

Fox: Unfair and Unbalanced

Not a big surprise...

Making Light: Federal judge denies Fox's request for injunction: NEW YORK (AP): A federal judge on Friday denied Fox News Channel's request for an injunction to block humorist Al Franken's new book, whose title mocks the Fox slogan "fair and balanced." U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said the book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right is a parody protected by the First Amendment. "There are hard cases and there are easy cases," the judge said."This is an easy case. This case is wholly without merit, both factually and legally."

Posted by DeLong at August 22, 2003 04:33 PM | TrackBack


The case is without merit - factually...

Isn't that a good description of Fox "News". I wonder how Fox reported this story?

Posted by: Hal McClure on August 22, 2003 06:11 PM

"Fox News: Unfair And Seriously Unbalanced".

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 22, 2003 06:12 PM

I agree with Judge Chin that Fox’s request for an injunction is without merit. But not all judges are as sensible as Chin. For example a Manhattan judge issued an injunction against Viacom to stop it from using the name “Spike TV.” It seems Spike Lee (who makes awful movies) thinks he owns his given name “Spike.” New York recognizes no property rights to first names, yet Lee got an injunction. How would Lee like it Spike Jones laid claim to that name?

As to Fox News, I don’t see that it is any worse than the other networks. Is CNN any more honest? How about PBS, who refuses to allow Steven Emerson airtime because Muslim organizations complained about him? Emerson has appeared on all other networks and provides valuable information on the penetration of the US by radical and dangerous Islamic organizations. These news networks are primarily in the business of entertainment under the cover of news, and that includes CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS and the like. Once a very long time ago, in the days of Edward R. Morrow, CBS had integrity, but alas not any more. An old book “Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye” by Metz detailed the downfall of the CBS new organization. A more modern book, “Bias” by Goldberg presents further evidence of the deterioration of the CBS news department. One of Goldberg’s comments in particularly telling: “I learned more from reading one article in Commentary Magazine about Middle East terrorism than in 20 years at CBS.”

Posted by: A. Zarkov on August 23, 2003 12:05 AM

Whew. So my own title will hold.

Faux News is quite exceptional in being unfair and unbalanced.

Anne - Fair and Balanced Now and Then

Posted by: anne on August 23, 2003 07:06 AM

A. Zarkov

In my view CNN and PBS are a far cry from Cronkite, Brinkley, and what journalism used to be. But are they more honest than Fox News? Yea - even Rush Limbaugh is more honest than Fox News. If Cronkite were a 10 and Limbaugh were a 1, I'd rank CNN at 7 to 8 and I would have to go very negative to rank Fox News.

Posted by: Hal McClure on August 23, 2003 07:19 AM

"The Fox court papers had referred to Mr. Franken, a former 'Saturday Night Live' writer and performer and an unabashed liberal, as a 'parasite' who appeared shrill, unstable and 'increasingly unfunny.'"


Fairly Balanced Forever

Posted by: anne on August 23, 2003 07:21 AM

Even better ending in

Posted on Sat, Aug. 23, 2003
Fox's bid to block Franken book is denied
Associated Press

NEW YORK - Calling it an easy case, a judge rejected Fox News Channel's bid to block liberal humorist Al Franken's new book, whose cover mocks the Fox slogan "fair and balanced."

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said the book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," is a parody protected by the First Amendment.

"There are hard cases and there are easy cases," the judge said Friday in a Manhattan courtroom. "This is an easy case. This case is wholly without merit, both factually and legally."

The network had argued the book's cover, which features the word "Lies" over images of Fox prime-time host Bill O'Reilly and conservative pundit Ann Coulter, could trick some consumers into believing the book was associated with Fox.

Franken called the ruling a victory for the First Amendment and satirists everywhere - "even bad satirists."

He also said he was grateful for the publicity: publisher Penguin Group added 50,000 copies to the original run of 270,000 after Fox filed suit, and rolled out the book Thursday instead of its planned September release date.

"In addition to thanking my own lawyers," Franken said, "I'd like to thank Fox's lawyers for filing one of the stupidest briefs I've ever seen in my life."

Fox trademarked "Fair and Balanced" as a slogan in 1998. It was seeking an injunction barring Penguin Group from using the cover or any other promotion including those words.

On Friday, the book was listed at No. 2 on's best seller list, behind "The South Beach Diet."

Fox spokesman Paul Schur said the network was considering its options.

"We don't care if it's Al Franken, Al Lewis or Weird Al Yankovic," he said. "We're here to protect our trademark and our talent."

The judge also took direct aim at Fox for bringing the case and criticized the "fair and balanced" trademark itself as weak because the words are used frequently in what the judge called "the public marketplace."

"It is ironic that a media company, which should be protecting the First Amendment, is seeking to undermine it," Chin said.

In court, Fox sought to convince the judge Franken was harming the network by using its slogan to sell books. Fox lawyers said it was not clear to consumers that the book was a parody or joke.

"It's a deadly serious cover," Fox lawyer Dori Hanswirth said. "And it's using the trademark of Fox News to sell itself."

The judge pointed out the book cover also features pictures of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

"Is someone going to think they are affiliated with Fox?" Chin said, to laughter in the courtroom.

Posted by: marc on August 23, 2003 08:06 AM

"'Bias' by Goldberg presents further evidence of the deterioration of the CBS news department."

Not at all. "Bias" was simply a radical right attempt to intimidate the media along the lines of Billy Slots Boy Bennett.

Posted by: lise on August 23, 2003 08:58 AM

Ever notice how every Friday, the Administration trahes another environmental safe-guard? Friday begins the weekend "low importance" news cycle, and the Administration knows how to play the game. Pretend to care about the environment Monday through Thursday, and trash on Friday. This Administration is horrid on the environment as on so many other matters.

Fouling the Air

In defiance of Congress, the courts and the requirements of public health, the administration is on the verge of effectively repealing a key section of the Clean Air Act. According to a report yesterday in The Times, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to issue a final rule next week that would allow thousands of industrial sites, including hundreds of old coal-fired power plants, to make major upgrades without installing new pollution controls, as currently required by law. Eliot Spitzer, New York's attorney general, has rightly vowed to sue the moment the rule becomes final. We are eager to hear Gov. Michael Leavitt of Utah, President Bush's nominee to run the E.P.A., try to defend this decision when he comes up for confirmation in September — especially in light of his own clean-air director's vigorous opposition to the change.

Posted by: jd on August 23, 2003 09:04 AM

Lise, specifically, what is incorrect in Goldberg’s book? Have you read the book? Goldberg presented a number of specific case histories where CBS distorted the news it reported. I have yet to hear anyone refute his charges. Do you think Goldberg is lying when he says he suffered career destroying retaliation after he wrote an op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal?

Posted by: A. Zarkov on August 23, 2003 10:05 AM

A. Zarkov

Yes, on reading the book and listening to interviews. Whether there was retaliation against Goldberg for the WSJ commentary, we can not say. I sincerely hope there was no retaliation, for that is intolerable, but it is surely possible. My impression was strongly that Goldberg was only stifled in terms of the commercial bent that comes with network news, never with a particular slant. Goldberg tries to make the case that liberal slant was the issue, but I was not at all convinced.

I will consider again in light of your remarks.


Posted by: lise on August 23, 2003 10:46 AM

"'I don't know if Fox is arguing that its viewers are less sophisticated than buyers of Mr. Franken's book,' Judge Denny Chin added dryly."

Posted by: anne on August 23, 2003 10:53 AM

"In my view CNN and PBS are a far cry from Cronkite, Brinkley, and what journalism used to be. But are they more honest than Fox News? Yea - even Rush Limbaugh is more honest than Fox News. If Cronkite were a 10 and Limbaugh were a 1, I'd rank CNN at 7 to 8 and I would have to go very negative to rank Fox News."

Fox is more honest than the others, because despite its silly slogan it makes its conservative bias clear. CNN and PBS seek to conceal their bias, but it's there.

Fox did make a fool of itself with the lawsuit against Al Franken. The suit was so dumb that several of the Fox regulars made fun of it on the air.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on August 23, 2003 10:54 AM

Fox reaction to Franken verdict: pretend it's not happening

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

How's this for "fair and balanced?"

To answer Tom's question, I flipped on Fox News. Nothing in the last 10 minutes, including the crawl across the bottom of the screen, which is harping Bush's complete bullshit about increasing the salmon, the ELF attack on a bunch of Hummers, and other assorted GOP spinnables.

Out of curiosity, I went to Story's there. OK, they're rivals. So then I went to Yahoo news. Prominent on the front page. Google News. Front page with a picture. Google News search... literally hundreds of news outlets are running the story.

And on the Fox front page... nothing. Looked all over. Wow.

So then I went to the Fox news search page (4:46 pm PDT -- two hours after the news first broke) and entered the term "Al Franken."

The results? The first story listed: "Comedian Al Franken Apologizes to Ashcroft." Swear to God. It's over two days old. I clicked through a series of results pages -- couldn't find the verdict. I've got the screengrabs to prove it, if the issue ever comes up.

But Fox can't say they don't know... according to a Google News search, one of the very first outlets to post the Reuters wire piece... Fox News, here.

So even Fox's search engine is as rigged as the news itself.

Hold on... just double-checked the Fox front page... it's now a tiny bit at the very, very bottom.

Whoopee. Verrrrrry fair and balanced. Trumpet and holler for weeks, then duck and run when you lose. Contemptible.

PS -- O'Reilly just came on. No mention of the Franken verdict whatsoever in the tease.

What a shock.

Posted by: Tom Tomorrow on August 23, 2003 12:55 PM

If you really want bias try PBS. Bias when reporting the news often acts more in what is not reported, than the way something is reported. PBS does both. Let’s look at something specific: acid rain. A lot of people believe acid rain is a major problem, but it isn’t. The US government spent several hundred million dollars on a multidisciplinary and comprehensive study on the effects of acid rain, and published a large report on the findings the early 1990’s. The studies included a census of the ph levels in Adirondack lakes, effects on buildings, forests and various plant species. I know some of the people who did laboratory experiments on plants. The gist of the report is that acid rain is not a significant and general environmental problem. PBS (and many others) refused to air the results of the report. One of my friends contacted PBS and was told that they didn’t consider the findings of the report newsworthy. Bias is what’s not covered.

Even when they cover something, PBS does it a biased fashion. For example, I heard a PBS radio program on a detailed history of the Arab wars against Israel. This program had many parts, lasting hours, and was full of minutia. Was it fair and balanced? Not a bit. They presented comments from many historians, but failed to inform the listener that some of them were revisionist historians like Benny Morris. They did have commentary from Michael Oren author the recent book “ Six Days of War.” But PBS failed to air some significant facts from Oren’s book, like any mention of “Operation Dawn,” the Egyptian plan for a pre-emptive air strike against Israel on May 30, 1967. Minutes before launch, Nasser called off the strike because Brezhnev threatened loss of Soviet aid if they carried out the strike. Again and again during the broadcast PBS slanted the history in favor of the Arabs. They seem to especially like the Palestinians. I’d like to remind PBS that Palestinian terrorists target and kill Americans. Americans like Leon Klinghoffer, an innocent tourist aboard the cruise ship Achilles Lauro, who was shot in his wheelchair and dumped overboard. I expect better from a news organization supported by my taxes.

Posted by: A. zarkov on August 23, 2003 12:57 PM

A. Zarkov

Got it. Should have known, but you pretended to be reasonable for a while. You are a typical radical right troll, and so, of course, PBS and CBS and NBC and ABC are the enemy. A radical right troll is a troll is a troll. Got it.

Posted by: Ari on August 23, 2003 01:25 PM

Bernard Goldberg [reporter who is not afraid to say that women should be kept at home and out of the work force] rubbish rubbish rubbish -

[Bernard] Goldberg has written ''Bias,'' a book larded with specific examples to support his point of view. Although he refers to ''the two or three conservative friends I have,'' he may pick up a lot more of them on the strength of this assault. He examines television's coverage of such issues as race, AIDS and homelessness to eyebrow-raising effect. All this, he says, supports the idea that most of those who shape these stories tilt to the left....

Posted by: dahl on August 23, 2003 01:37 PM

Faux News is in its own class of extreme right wing bias.

Posted by: Emma F&B on August 23, 2003 02:32 PM

Joe W.

You suggested that Fox News is honest as it makes its conservative bias clear. I beg to differ. Yes - their bias is very clear but not because they tell us they are biased. They keep saying they are "real news" when it is crystal clear that much of their news is even more dishonest than what we hear on Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh admits his bias - Fox does it. But they are doing a poor job of hiding it for certain sure. Question - why defend them? They are honest conservatives out there that must be embarrassed by Fox News.

Posted by: Hal McClure on August 23, 2003 03:30 PM

Joe W.

You suggested that Fox News is honest as it makes its conservative bias clear. I beg to differ. Yes - their bias is very clear but not because they tell us they are biased. They keep saying they are "real news" when it is crystal clear that much of their news is even more dishonest than what we hear on Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh admits his bias - Fox does it. But they are doing a poor job of hiding it for certain sure. Question - why defend them? They are honest conservatives out there that must be embarrassed by Fox News.

Posted by: Hal McClure on August 23, 2003 03:31 PM

re: PBS & Palestinians

I have seen several Frontline episodes which were highly, highly critical of Arafat and the palestinian leadership. One episode was basically about how Arafat walked out of a very significant and fairly generous peace proposal at the end of the Clinton administration, without even bothering to negotiate. The episode was filled with democrats heaping scorn on Arafat - just because they didn't do it in an internet/usenet/blog manner, doesn't mean it wasn't obvious. The message of the episode could be summarized as "Arafat would rather have conflict & receive attention than have peace and be a tin-pot dictator of an oil free 3rd world state".

So, PBS is not monolithic when it comes to presentations on Israel and Palestinians.

Posted by: vsa on August 23, 2003 04:33 PM

If Fox didn't report the verdict in the Al Franken suit that *is* pretty lame. On the other hand Fox didn't stop several of its commentators from implying that they thought the suit was silly.

Fox News isn't really a news channel at all. It's a commentary channel, and a lively and enjoyable one at that. Nobody really believes that Fox is "fair and balanced". I certainly don't, even though I agree with Fox's bias on many of the issues.

I will say this, Fox's commentary is more balanced and sophisticated than it used to be. Lately they haven't been a bit shy about criticizing President Bush's lack of adequate planning for postwar Iraq. That said, Fox is clearly a Republican channel (and CNN is a Democratic channel).

PBS's radio programming is biased to the point of dishonesty, especially in their reporting on the Israeli-Arab dispute. I used to listen to PBS a lot, but I got tired of their yuppie narcissism and whiny political correctness. But the PBS television news program is pretty good. It really does try to be "fair and balanced".

Posted by: Joe Willingham on August 23, 2003 04:50 PM

Frontline is a good program. But the glory days of public television are long over. Remember those great British dramas like "I Claudius", "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "The Singing Detective"? Or Ken Burns' masterful documentary on the Civil War? Today what we get are crappy shows about antiques and how to invest your money and pop music of the seventies.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on August 23, 2003 05:01 PM

Joe W.

You state - and I agree - that Fox is not really a news station but more of a commentary channel. The problem is that THEY call themselves a "news" station as in "real news" that is "fair and balanced". I'm glad we are finally in agreement. Fox can do whatever they want - but isn't false advertising unfair play?

Posted by: Hal McClure on August 23, 2003 05:31 PM

I should have said “NPR” (radio) instead of PBS (television). Yes, Frontline has done some reasonably balanced broadcasting. And yes, Joe the glory days of the 1970’s and 1980’s seem to be over. However circa 1994, we got “House of Cards,” which was very good, in fact better than the novel by Michael Dobbs it was based on. Fox News like CNN and the rest are generally boring, with little informative content.

Back to Goldberg. Here is what Janet Maslin said in her New York Times review of “Bias.”

“In the end, the observations in ''Bias'' about the economics of television are as disturbing as what he has to say about women in the work force (they should stay home, but television is afraid to say so)”

Here is what Goldberg actually said in “Bias.”

“That aside, aren’t there any voices we might hear from the other side, from all those women who would rather not work outside the home, who would rather spend more time with their children, and who would like to see their political leader fight for tax cuts so they could work less …” [“Bias” p. 175, Regnery Press 2002]

As I read that, Goldberg is calling for TV news (in this case NBC Peter Jennings) to be more “fair and balanced” by giving another viewpoint. He didn’t say anything about what women should, or should not do with respect to working. Janet needs to read the text she reviews more carefully.

Posted by: A. Zarkov on August 23, 2003 07:08 PM

>false advertising unfair play

It is unfair, and it counts off on their grade. I suspect most Fox fans are smart enough to see through their bias. To me their slogan comes across as a sort of joke, a bit of impudent irony.

On the other side we have the *New York Times*, a once great newspaper that has destroyed its reputation through its dishonest and tendentious reporting. I don't read it anymore. I read the *Washington Post*. It's a Democratic paper with integrity. With *The Wall Street Journal* and the WaPo each party has a great newspaper.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on August 23, 2003 07:16 PM

Mr. Zarkov is on the money as usual.

Liberals don't realize how snobbish and elitist they are. Only 15% of the American population calls itself liberal, but they want to impose their views on everyone else. If you don't agree with them you they say you are ignorant or racist or sexist, or maybe just plain white trash.

Expound left-liberal views on most subjects to working class and lower middle class people and they will give you the fish eye. They can't afford the luxury of an unrealistic view of the world.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on August 23, 2003 07:30 PM

This discussion is in the twilight zone. The WSJ a worthwhile paper? Well, I suppose, if you stay far, far away from the editorial pages - which purvey junk economics and horrible investment advice on a regular basis.

Posted by: Ian Welshq on August 23, 2003 11:16 PM

Further, while only 15% of the population thinks of themselves as "liberals", the majority of the population supports almost every major position that can reasonably be identified as "liberal". It's like feminism - no one wants to admit to being one, but far more people have the basic views of one than acceptance of the label would seem to indicate.

Posted by: Ian Welsh on August 23, 2003 11:19 PM

A. Zarkov,

Eric Alterman's "What Liberal Media?" specifically and fully debunks Benard Goldberg's "Bias." Alterman's book is the definitive text on the general subject of media bias for those open to objective data.

Posted by: CMike on August 23, 2003 11:35 PM

Ian, why do you think the American people have elected a Republican Senate and House? It's clear enough - they understand that liberalism is a compendium of bad ideas.

The Democrats are determined to trash society, as the Labour Party has done in Great Britain and the Social Democrats have done in Europe. The American people know this, so they vote Republican in large numbers, despite the many and obvious faults of the GOP.

Liberalism, aka Social Democracy, turns reason upside down. Laziness, stupidity, incompetence, ineptitude and criminality are treated as virtues. Merit as a criterion for promotion is replaced by arbitrary ethnic quotas.

Whatever liberalism touches it poisons. Look at how education in this country in Europe and Great Britain, and increasingly in the USA, has been flushed down the toilet. It is as though the West has a deep urge to commit suicide

Posted by: Joe Willingham on August 24, 2003 12:00 AM

Ian, what specifically has Alterman debunked about Goldberg’s book? Do you think Goldberg did not suffer retaliation for his op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal? Do you disagree with Goldberg’s assertions about the AIDS, or the timidity of the media in dealing with feminism? Even if Goldberg is entirely wrong, that alone does not make CNN, PBS, CBS, ABC and NBC more “fair and balanced” than Fox. What about all the other examples? Have you ever heard a contrary expert opinion on global warming on any of the major networks? Do you ever hear a contrary opinion about secondary tobacco smoke anywhere outside of technical journals? One thing is certain; the New York Times has not endorsed a Republican for president since Eisenhower. That does not make the NYT wrong or biased, but it does put NYT editorial opinion outside mainstream America.

Posted by: A.Zarkov on August 24, 2003 12:31 AM

Bernard Goldberg is a radical right wing hack and is not to be trusted as a reasonable reporter. Fortunately, CBS News is now rid of such "bias." Let's get women out of the work place to be "Fair and Balanced." Blah, blah, blah. Faux News will be pleased to air all such propaganda....

Posted by: lise on August 24, 2003 06:25 AM

Remember, there is no global warming. I know cause I know cause I know cause I know. These horrid scientist types who worry about global warming know nothin about nothin. I know there is no global warming could be no global warming will be no global warming, but after all are there no air conditioners?

Posted by: lise on August 24, 2003 06:33 AM

Funny, went from urban public school to Cornell to Princeton. Terrible education. Terrible. Other half went from public school to public junior college to UCLA to Harvard. Terrible education. Terrible. Imagine how ban education must be at Oxford and Cambridge. Imagine going to school in Paris. Paris ooohhh. Terrible. Dutch schools, Swedish schools. Ooohhh. Terrible.

Posted by: jd on August 24, 2003 07:03 AM

To be fair and balanced I must say I'm in agreement that ORiley is party to the FOX disinformation service. But, mostly Bill OReily
is a BORE. I watched the original live BookTV
broadcast of this now INFAMOUS encounter. My problem with Al Franken is he wanted to make a case that Bill OReily was a LIAR, but what he proved was that O'Reily was IGNORANT. Not knowing
the difference between a PEW and a POLK award was the essence of the debate. In the end it seemed to cheapen Frankens arguement. With all the misinformation and misrepresentation that goes on
in rightwing journalism I think Al could have picked a more meaningful example. The pettiness of the whole encounter seemed wrongheaded to me.
Of, course the suit by Fox proved IGNORANCE beyond a shadow of a doubt

Posted by: greg on August 24, 2003 09:12 AM

The TV chat format doesn't seem to be conducive to good political analysis from any side. That's why I find the blogging phenomenon an encouraging development. A blogger gets continual feedback, and correction of his or her factual errors. Plus he or she has the space to get into the subtleties and complications of an issue.

The debate format on TV is particularly tedious and unproductive. It's better to let people of various points of view speak by themselves and let the viewer decide who has the better case.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on August 24, 2003 01:33 PM
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