To normal people, the Fox News Channel is just one cable TV channel among hundreds or thousands on their set-top boxes. To a very tiny minority of Americans, though, FNC is the very apotheosis of evil in America, even “worse than Al Qaeda” as the deranged Keith Olbermann once put it back when he was employed.
For these people, Fox News is something to be not only feared and loathed, it’s also something to make up stories about. The latest lefty to come out with a tall-tale about Fox News is MSNBC contributor and veteran purveyor of conventional group-think Jonathan Alter. The former Newsweek editor claims in an upcoming book that FNC chief Roger Ailes ordered liberal pundit Geraldo Rivera’s microphone silenced during a particularly heated debate last year over the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya:
A few days before the presidential election last November, Roger Ailes, the chief executive of Fox News, ordered that Geraldo Rivera’s microphone be cut off after Mr. Rivera angrily defended the Obama administration against charges levied by others on Fox. So says a forthcoming book about the 2012 campaign by Jonathan Alter, a columnist for Bloomberg View and a contributor to MSNBC, a Fox competitor.
That would be a fun little story—if only it were true.
The segment was indeed a heated one (which we covered here at NB at the time) but as Andrew Kirell notes at Mediaite, at no time was Rivera’s microphone cut off. The recorded tape shows that Alter’s story is false as does some actual reporting done by Kirell:
Mediaite has learned from a Fox News spokesperson that Ailes never called the control room that morning, but rather, Bill Shine (Fox’s EVP of Programming) did. Shine did not order Rivera’s mic to be cut. Instead his call was to urge the show to move on because the segment had come to its conclusion, as the EVP seemed to believe that two Fox personalities calling each other liars with an escalating tone made for bad morning television and could potentially alienate their audience if it continued.
One has to wonder from where Alter got his anecdote. In the clip itself, viewable here, it does not look like Rivera’s mic was ever shut off at any point during the segment. […] It would make sense that Shine and other brass at Fox would want to move on, given the morning audience’s viewing habits.
Later that night, Rivera appeared on Fox again to debate Bill O’Reilly on the same exact subject. If Fox brass was really seeking to squelch Rivera’s dissent on Benghazi and not bring attention to his beliefs, the number-one most-watched show on cable news isn’t exactly where one would send him.
Rivera corrected the record as well on Twitter as he made a cheeky reference to his primary opponent during the debate, current “The Five” co-host Eric Bolling:
“Contrary to published accounts no one at Fox News ever either cut my mic or told me what to say But I do advocate cutting Eric Bolling’s mic.”
Bolling also batted back the Alter story on Twitter saying: “Hmm no one asked me & I was there promise, no mics cut,”
The tape of the segment supports the Fox News position as well.
As of this writing, Alter has yet to issue a correction or an apology for his false statement. Responding also via Twitter, Alter has gotten defensive instead:
6:32pm 5/13: Poor reporting by Mediaite. If you're going to do a story at least watch the WHOLE tape
6:33pm 5/13: This is what Fox does--just lie, give incomplete tapes (twice in 12 hours) to confuse them. My book is accurate.
6:49pm 5/13: The Geraldo comment about getting lynched, heard on Doocy's mic, is right before the commercial break. I wish I had saved it off YouTube.
7:02pm 5/13: @mediaite is just a sap for Fox for "getting to bottom" of story without watching tape all the way to commercial or reading the book
8:36pm 5/13: That is NOT the full video. Doesn't have Geraldo's voice, barely audible, saying "Oh great, great, now I'm gonna get lynched."
3:59am 5/14: Geraldo says mic not cut; my Fox sources continue to say it was. Tape unclear. I shldnt have settled for "no comment"
Alter repeated himself numerous times referring to “the full video” which supposedly vindicated his reporting. Andrew Kaczynski of Buzzfeed found the latter portion of the show and uploaded it here:
As you can see and hear, it is true that Rivera did indeed say “Now I’m going to get lynched again” and that it cannot be heard via his own microphone but that was because co-host Gretchen Carlson was exiting the extremely long segment and neither Rivera nor anyone else was expected to speak during this “outro.” Additionally, his comments were not about Libya but rather discussing the idea of in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants.
Since that video was posted, Alter has acknowledged it being online but he has failed to retract his allegation. We do not expect that he will do so.