When Brit Hume retired as the anchor of the Special Report program on Fox News in 2008, some people were concerned that Bret Baier might not be able to maintain the balance between delivering “straight news” and attracting viewers from across the political aisle.
Now, more than a decade later, Baier has made the job his own so well that a recent “hit job” on him fell “embarrassingly flat” despite the writer’s emphasis on any criticism from others in cable TV news.
According to an article written by Caleb Howe, a writer for Mediaite, Baier was the target of a “hatchet effort” from The Hollywood Reporter that was intended to “impugn his often-touted credibility and impartiality as being a ‘misnomer.’”
Howe was referring to “a hit job” by THR reporter Jeremy Barr:
Over his 11 years as anchor of the 6 p.m. news show Special Report, Bret Baier has cultivated an image as the consummate down-the-middle, straight-news anchor.
FNC “points to Baier” when defending against criticism of its programming, which is no doubt the reason that Barr decided to challenge that by speaking to “more than a dozen cable news insiders and industry observers.”
Cable news insiders? And because they're anonymous, we don't know if they're from CNN or MSNBC, or disgruntled ex-Fox employees. Barr quoted an anonymous source as noting: “’I think the partisanship comes through very slyly,” while a former colleague added: “He leans pro-Trump now.”
As proof, Barr pointed to an April 15 item that “raised eyebrows” and was entitled: “Sources Believe Coronavirus Outbreak Originated in Wuhan Lab as Part of China’s Efforts to Compete With U.S.”
The article was based on “classified and open-source documents and evidence” that the network did not “directly view.” Howe noted that the item was supposed to prove that Baier was either wrong or grossly ill-informed by conservatives to suggest the virus was man-made.
At least David Shuster, formerly of both Fox News and MSNBC, is on the record asserting “Baier doesn’t attack the network he works for, nor does he criticize the network’s opinion hosts when covering the news.” That “fairly innocuous observation” is delivered as a blow to Baier’s objectivity for some reason,” Howe noted.
“Some current and former colleagues see that as a positive attribute,” Barr continued. “There’s no chatter, no back-biting; he stays out of that fray,” an ex-colleague said. “Bret seems to be above that fray, and that’s to his credit.”
“Despite the premise, and the headline, and the tweets,” Howe stated, “the article is loaded with people who have nothing but glowing reviews of Baier and his work."
That includes ABC’s Jon Karl, who stated: “Bret Baier is one of the most respected guys in the business. He is a straight shooter and a true reporter.”
Compared to Baier’s “subtle partisanship,” a person who knows both Baier and Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace says that Wallace’s political leanings “are nearly impossible to discern.”
Howe concluded: “Was it a hit job gone awry? Was the original thesis or pitch not backed up by the reporting? Because the end result is messy without any insight into Baier.”