Let's say, hypothetically, someone was to make a disparaging statement about Fox News and conclude as a news outlet it is way outside of mainstream political thought. Well, then the follow-up appropriate question could be where does that put Fox News' competitors who get just a fraction of the cable news juggernaut's ratings?
Michael Wolff, a contributing editor and columnist Vanity Fair and CNBC regular, told MSNBC's "Hardball" host Chris Matthews on his Oct. 26 program the White House strategy was to marginalize Fox News the same way conservatives once did to liberals, making "liberal" a word with negative connotations. However, he also made the bizarre conclusion that Fox News, which dominates cable news on a regular basis, is "not very popular."
"It's like the conservatives and the Republicans did to Democrats," Wolff said. "They said everyone is a liberal. You're a liberal. You're a liberal ... and essentially, what they're doing is flipping that back and saying, ‘You're Fox. Oh, you mean like Fox. Oh, you're echoing the Fox opinion.' And the truth is, Fox is not very popular in this country. It may have great ratings, but still we're talking under 2 million people. It's a really marginal, somewhat extreme presence in the United States."
Wolff has made ridiculous comments like this in the past. Last year, after conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh inked a $400-million deal, Wolff told CNBC that the conservative talk show host's days were number with the new era of hope and change that was to be ushered in under the new President Barack Obama. But, that turned out to be untrue. In the months after Obama was sworn in as president, Limbaugh's ratings surged to new highs. And those ratings are something that had Matthews perplexed.
"Why do people who listen to Rush Limbaugh - and he's a hell of a broadcaster - why do they listen to him and say proudly they're dittoheads?" Matthews said. "Isn't that an embarrassing thing to admit that you buy completely what somebody else says?"
According to Wolff, Matthews' premise was right and Limbaugh presence in the conservative movement is a disservice to the Republican Party.
"Well, absolutely, so if you are then - then, if you identify the broader Republican Party with that, then they go, ‘Oh, my God,'" Wolff said. "This is not really where we want to be, and this is where other people don't want to be, either."
Wolff's conclusion: The GOP's leader, an issue the hosts at MSNBC are often troubled with, isn't a political figure - like Sarah Palin for example. Instead, he maintains it is Fox News president Roger Ailes running the show.
"Yes, they're kind of deprofessionalized, and the professionals then become -- become Rush and the people on Fox like Roger Ailes," Wolff said. "So they're going to get to the point where Roger Ailes is running this party. Or even more - you know, I just wrote this book about Rupert Murdoch, and one of the things, the really profound things I learned is how unpopular he is."