Bill Clinton: MSNBC 'Has Become Our Version of Fox'

Next month's Esquire magazine has an interview with Bill Clinton wherein the former President said MSNBC "has become our version of Fox":

ESQUIRE: Mr. President, as we're going into an election year that will likely scorch the earth, we want to talk with you about the notion of American consensus for the common good and why that is in so much trouble right now, and we want to find consensus on some things. As impossible as it might have seemed twenty years ago, there is now no figure of greater consensus in America than you. How did that happen? What is different between now and then? Why does the politics seem so much more caustic now than even then?

CLINTON: Well, it is more caustic now, but don't forget, when I was there, there were radio talk shows accusing me of murder, killing guys on train tracks in Arkansas, and of running drugs in western Arkansas, that kind of stuff. [...]

I also think that the diffusion of the media has complicated things. For example, I was just watching — I don't know if you heard what I said in the other room — I was just watching MSNBC, and they had a woman that used to work for me and a couple of other people on there, and they were talking about the Republican primary. And I was laughing. I said, "Boy, it really has become our version of Fox." And I say that because think of the economics of running cable channels. Suppose you and I bought a cable channel, and he [pointing] bought another. You know that to make a living out of it, you've got to get about eight hundred thousand viewers for all your major programs. So you can get eight hundred thousand, and you won't be as wealthy as Fox, but you'll do okay. And now if you get a slice that's that small and still viable — and you know it's not like when we just had NBC, CBS, and ABC. That's all there was. Everybody had enough market share that they knew would guarantee some comfortable level of profit. And yet there was enough competition that everybody could keep each other honest, and when the Vietnam War came along, they could send fifty-five-year-old reporters to Vietnam for extended stays. They could afford to have correspondents in Europe to report. Correspondents in Asia. All that's changed now. And so the good news is you can get a lot of information off the Internet for free and in a hurry. But I think the breaking up of the media, which is otherwise kind of healthy, has contributed to less actual reporting and a louder, more contentious, more divisive public discourse, highlighting conflict, sometimes falsely.


Whether intentional or not, the former President nicely described MSNBC in that last sentence: "less actual reporting and a louder, more contentious, more divisive public discourse, highlighting conflict, sometimes falsely."

Can't argue with that.

On the other hand, Accuracy in Media's Don Irvine noted, "MSNBC does provide a clear alternative for liberals to Fox News, especially when compared to CNN, but since making that commitment to the liberal cause they have struggled to achieve even a fraction of the success that Fox has had. And that isn’t likely to change any time soon, even with Clintons’ endorsement."

Indeed, but I would suggest that Fox isn't nearly to the right as MSNBC is to the left.

In extended weekday primetime, MSNBC viewers are treated to six straight hours of perilously liberal discourse from perilously liberal anchors very often without any Republican or conservative voices offering counterpoint.

By contrast, during those same six hours, Fox viewers are treated to the extremely fair and balanced Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox Report with Shepard Smith, and On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.

With the departure of Glenn Beck, the only hardcore conservative in Fox's extended primetime lineup is Sean Hannity who has at least one liberal guest on his show every night.

Despite his right-of-center leanings, Bill O'Reilly could hardly be called a right-wing ideologue as his program features almost as many liberal guests as conservatives.

The new addition to the lineup, The Five, features former Democratic strategist Bob Beckel making it far-less dogmatically skewed than anything on MSNBC's extended primetime schedule.

Add in MSNBC's new tact of giving writers for the far-left magazine The Nation their own shows - Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry - and the extremities of ideological dogma being explored by this so-called news network can't possibly be compared to Fox.

But there's another stark delineation between the two networks as Hot Air's Tina Korbe points out: "Unlike some MSNBC personalities who feign objectivity, Fox talk show hosts are pretty transparent about their biases. I argue that that 'owning of bias' is really the way to go."

And that is likely what moderate and conservative viewers find most distasteful about MSNBC.

It's one thing to have opinionated anchors trying to advance an agenda. It's quite another having them dishonestly hide behind a veil of impartiality while doing it.

Maybe this is why Fox soundly beats MSNBC in ratings virtually every hour of every day.

With this in mind, Mr. Clinton can keep his version of Fox.

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Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.