Howard Kurtz: Fox News is 'edging back toward the mainstream'


Several factors have influenced Fox News president Roger Ailes' shift to the middle, says Howard Kurtz: the debate over extreme rhetoric after U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, the country's distaste with constant partisan sniping, the branding issue posed by Glenn Beck's inflammatory rhetoric, and a desire to boost profits by capturing more mainstream viewers. Of what Ailes calls a "course correction," Kurtz writes, "While Fox reporters ply their trade under Ailes’s much-mocked 'fair and balanced' banner, the opinion arm of the operation has been told to lower the temperature."

Among the nuggets in the story:

  • A prediction from Kurtz: "Next fall’s election could well pivot on whether Ailes is more interested in scoring political points or ramping up ratings and revenue."
  • A description of the way Fox News "plotted how to trap the candidates" in a Republican presidential candidate debate in Orlando, which Kurtz likens to a reality TV show.
  • Ailes' reaction to an AP story reporting that a suicide bomber killed 29 worshipers in a Baghdad mosque: “How do we know they were worshiping? ... I think the AP is so far over the hill, they’ve become left wing, antiwar. Gotta watch their copy.”
  • A sign of how closely Ailes watches his anchors: "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.' "

Related: The timing doesn't match up for Texas Gov. Rick Perry's assertion that he signed an order requiring HPV vaccinations for girls because a woman with cervical cancer lobbied for it. | You can't really judge politicians' truthfulness by analyzing their PolitiFact ratings, but FiveThirtyEight gives it a shot anyway.

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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