On Friday night’s "Inside Washington," panelists trashed Ross Buettner’s story in the New York Times playing up a close relationship between Fox News boss Roger Ailes and GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. Newsweek’s Evan Thomas said "I think this was the New York Times thinking that Ailes is Darth Vader, because they made him out to be this monster who’s given all this time to Giuliani, but the story itself and the graphics supporting it didn’t support the story." Others agreed. "There’s nothing in this story," said columnist Charles Krauthammer. Colby King of the Washington Post scornfully added, "This is exactly why newspapers in trouble," and said they acted like a tabloid. Thomas concluded, "It says more about the paranoia of the New York Times than anything else."
Clay Waters at our New York Times monitoring site TimesWatch dropped his own hammer on the story, with the unique angle of how the Times has almost never noted the friendship and partiality of Rick Kaplan toward Bill Clinton, who served as an executive producer at ABC and then ran CNN during the Clinton era. (He’s now running Katie Couric’s sinking newscast at CBS.) Waters found the Buettner story’s numbers weren’t impressive. The reporter showed that Fred Thompson was not far behind Giuliani in Fox News minutes:
Since the beginning of this year, Mr. Giuliani has appeared for 115 minutes in interviews on Fox. More than half of those minutes, 78, were spent with Mr. Hannity, co-host of the 'Hannity & Colmes' talk show. Mr. Hannity, a conservative who has spoken of his admiration for Mr. Giuliani, makes his own decisions about bookings, a spokeswoman said.
Mr. Giuliani's on-air time was 25 percent greater than that of his Republican competitor Mitt Romney, and nearly double that of Senator John McCain of Arizona. Fred Thompson, who has yet to formally announce his candidacy, came in second to Mr. Giuliani with 101 minutes of Fox interviews.
Hannity has spoken admiringly of Giuliani – and Thompson, and Romney. But Hannity has not endorsed Giuliani, and regularly says the top tier of candidates are these three men. Here’s how the exchange on the local Washington PBS station WETA unfolded, transcript by MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
GORDON PETERSON: There was a piece in the New York Times this week about the amount of time Rudy Giuliani is getting on Fox News, which is run by his buddy Roger Ailes. Evan, did you see that piece?
EVAN THOMAS: Yeah, and I think this was the New York Times thinking that Ailes is Darth Vader because they made him out to be this monster who's given all this time to Giuliani, but the story itself and the graphics supporting it didn't support the story. I don't think there really is any evidence that -- yes, he goes on the Hannity show a lot, Giuliani does, but aside from that, I don't think there's-
PETERSON: He got 115 minutes on Fox, he got seven minutes on ABC, 19 on CBS, six on NBC, and 13 on MSNBC.
MARGARET CARLSON: But that's the difference between cable and a network. I only read the headline of the story, and I came away thinking, well, sure.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: There's nothing in this story. Of all these minutes on Fox, about two-thirds is on Hannity, and Hannity books on his own. So Roger Ailes isn't in the loop. If you compare the minutes that Giuliani has on Fox, he gets less than Biden has on CNBC.
CARLSON: But the great fact in the story is that Roger, Roger went to the wedding. That was the great fact in the story, the third wedding.
COLBY KING: See, boys and girls, this is why-
PETERSON: This sounds like the military thing where Roger Ailes wasn't in the chain of command when he got the 150 minutes.
KING: This is why newspapers are in trouble. This is exactly why newspapers are in trouble. To devote that kind of space to that kind of an issue is, now, people don't want, who read it? Who read it?
THOMAS: It says more about the paranoia of the New York Times than anything else.
CARLSON: Well, I think Rupert Murdoch is not going to stop that if you read the New York Post. He devotes a lot of time to that kind of story.
KING: That's the Post, but when another newspaper starts to act like a tabloid, then what do we have? And that's exactly what the New York Times did.
Even Margaret Carlson grasping at the wedding of Giuliani to third wife Judith Nathan is not the strongest evidence of endorsement or political bias. After all, the New York Times itself reported that ABC's Barbara Walters was a guest at the Rudy-Judi wedding, too.