Howard Kurtz has two notable stories on political bias in today's "Media Notes" column -- first, a spicy review of how all the liberal journalists loathe Fox News and its chieftain, Roger Ailes. Second, New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse spouted that her splenetic speech at Harvard in June saying Team Bush has created a "law-free zone" and decrying religious "fundamentalists" taking over our government were a "statement of facts," not opinion! The Ailes interview is entertaining:
Vanity Fair recently pegged Ailes as No. 44 on its New Establishment list, calling him "the most powerful news executive in America." But it also called him "the man who gives the Bush administration a major media outlet" and described Dick Cheney -- who demands that his hotel TVs be preset to Fox -- as his "big loyal friend."
"Vanity Fair is a left-wing rag," says Ailes, adding a moment later that its editor, Graydon Carter, is a friend. Ailes says the magazine's item is "just blatantly false" because he has met Cheney only a half-dozen times. Responds Carter: "Roger is the smartest guy in TV. Unfortunately, he's working for the wrong side."
The Cheney reference was based on the vice president's decision to grant his only interview after accidentally shooting a hunting companion to Fox's Brit Hume. Ailes says Hume asked all the necessary questions, and "the only thing he didn't do was be disrespectful to him, which is what the left wants."
The liberal view was crystallized last week when Bill Clinton unloaded on "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace, who had pressed him about his record in fighting al-Qaeda. Clinton defended his tenure and accused Wallace of conducting "a nice little conservative hit job."
"I wouldn't want to be a waiter in a restaurant and bring him the wrong dish," Ailes says. "When you lean in and poke at journalists and try to intimidate them, it's a mistake."
Kurtz added this nugget, which I'll have to look up: "Despite its 'fair and balanced' mantra, Fox is widely viewed as conservative, with nearly seven in 10 national journalists in a 2004 survey citing it as an especially conservative news outlet." Is that about Fox, or is it about polling a group of liberal media elitists?
Kurtz's item on Linda Greenhouse is remarkable for her declaration that when she's running down the Bush administration as a law-defying cabal of religious hijackers, it's just stating the facts:
She aired some of them in June when she was honored at Harvard, saying that "our government had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha and other places around the world. And let's not forget the sustained assault on women's reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism."
Don't those remarks, publicized last week by National Public Radio, go too far for a beat reporter covering such issues at the high court? Greenhouse says her comments were "statements of fact," not opinion, as underscored by the court striking down the administration's policy of holding terror suspects without charges.
"The notion that someone cannot go and speak from the heart to a group of college classmates and fellow alums, without being accountable to self-appointed media watchdogs, means American journalism is in danger of strangling in its own sanctimony," Greenhouse says.
Reaction to Greenhouse's speech is not where the sanctimony begins. Greenhouse herself was soaking herself in her own tears of sanctimony in her remarks.