It looks as if Fox News has a new way of trying to book guests. Hosts say something incredibly stupid or offensive and then tell people if they don’t like it, they should come on the show to talk about it.
Take Jeanine Pirro. She suggested over the weekend that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s Islamic beliefs meant she might not be loyal to the U.S. Constitution. After a Fox News colleague who happens to be Muslim called out Pirro, Fox News publicly scolded her.
Pirro didn’t apologize, but said that just because “one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution.”
And then she added: “I invite Rep. Omar to come on my show anytime to discuss all of the important issues facing America today.”
Next up, Tucker Carlson. Media Matters dug up some old audio of Carlson making numerous misogynistic and offensive comments during radio interviews with shock jock Bubba The Love Sponge. The awful comments — and they are pretty awful — were made between 2006 and 2011. Carlson said that Media Matters “caught me saying something naughty,” but did not immediately apologize.
His statement then said: “Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I’m on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch. Anyone who disagrees with my views is welcome to come on and explain why.”
These incidents are not making things easy for Fox News, which is trying to take the moral high ground after being attacked on a couple of fronts last week. First, Jane Mayer’s impactful story in the New Yorker detailed the cozy relationship between Fox News and President Donald Trump. Then the Democrats excluded Fox News from its party’s presidential debates.
When you’re a network often criticized for espousing sentiments that are sexist, racist, xenophobic and anti-Muslim, comments such as the ones made by Pirro and Carlson make those criticisms hard to defend.
It has been a bad few days for Fox News, although Pirro and Carlson seem to be subscribing to the any-publicity-is-good-publicity philosophy and trying to turn the controversies into ratings. Their bosses should not feel the same. As CNN’s Brian Stelter said on his network, Fox News employees should be upset over Pirro’s comments.
“Where are the news anchors on Fox saying, ‘I don’t want to work in this kind of place. This is unacceptable. Jeanine Pirro should not be allowed to be on this network reading this script that she’s written that’s been put in the teleprompter.’ Where are those news anchors today?”
It all couldn’t come at a worse time: This week, Fox is holding a big event for advertisers to promote its news brand.
Bubba The Love Sponge speaks
For those following the Tucker Carlson story who don’t know, Bubba The Love Sponge is a longtime morning radio host who has spent most of his career in the Tampa Bay market. He also was at the center of the Hulk Hogan sex tape story that helped bring down Gawker.
The Tampa Bay Times’ Christopher Spata caught up with Bubba on Monday. Bubba, whose real name is Todd Alan Clem, told the Times that Carlson was not angry with him.
“He assured me he’s not mad at me, and said we’re still friends,’’ Bubba said. “I don’t think this will affect Tucker one bit. He’s way too big of a star and a commodity for something said on a comedic forum to take him down.”
Last month, CNN took some heat for naming Sarah Isgur, the spokesperson for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as a “political editor” to help coordinate the network’s 2020 presidential coverage. It was an odd hire, not because of her politics, but because she has no journalism experience. Well, she’s switching jobs before even starting. Instead of being a “political editor,” Isgur will be a “political analyst.”
The Washington Post’s Eric Wemple writes that CNN embarrassed itself:
“We can confirm that this episode exposes the perils of living on the narrow median strip of American politics. As we’ve argued before, CNN hired Isgur because of its efforts to stay in the middle lane. And it presided over her role reduction because of its efforts to stay in the middle lane. Hire people you believe in; stand behind them.”
This is Sunshine Week, which focuses attention on access to public information, open government and journalism’s role in promoting transparency. The American Society of News Editors launched the first Sunshine Week in 2005. This year, ASNE, The Associated Press and Associated Press Media Editors will mark the occasion by looking at the loss or diminishment of local news coverage.
If your organization is running or publishing any Sunshine Week-related content, let Poynter.org managing editor Barbara Allen know at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could see your work in our weekly local journalism roundup.
Taking on a giant
This is a strange hire: Fox has signed up former Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and will produce a college football pregame studio show to compete against the ESPN powerhouse “GameDay,” according to the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand.
Outside of family, friends and a few Ohio State diehards, does anyone even like Urban Meyer? He botched domestic assault allegations against one of his former assistant coaches and, as USA Today columnist Dan Wolken notes, he has never been particularly warm or charismatic, although he certainly knows the game. It also seems unlikely that a Fox pregame show can rival the tradition and content of ESPN’s “College GameDay.”
Check it out
A pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and his wife are doing what they can to protect the young women of Uganda from sex slavery in this inspirational feature by the Detroit Free Press’ Jeff Seidel.
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Favorite story of the day: Guy is leading the Iditarod. He yells at one of his dogs for fighting with another dog. So all the dogs quit running.
Check out Poynter’s Ren LaForme’s latest Try This! newsletter for digital tools. This week’s main topic: Calendars might be the next great online publishing tool.
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Upcoming Poynter training:
- Summit for Reporters and Editors in Multi-Platform Newsrooms (seminar). Deadline: March 25.
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