During Friday night's season debut of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, the host asserted that Fox News was ruining American politics.
People always talk about Washington, that politicians can't get along. I think that maybe the people are polarized, and the politicians just reflect that. And I feel like the reason people are so polarized is Fox News. I think of all the things that changed in America, Fox News changed the most.
It used to be the John Birch Society came to your door once a year. Now they're in your TV in your living room every day, and we don't even know how to talk to each other. It's like we have a language barrier because of what they're hearing on Fox News.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC's chief foreign correspondent, had a different slant on the issue. "I do think, though, that people, the legislators, the Congress are not reflecting the American people.” But her point was lost as she mentioned Hillary Clinton going to Iowa, and then they debated whether she was running for president.
At that point, former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour joined the fray by stating: "In fairness, Fox News doesn't have a monopoly on television taking sides. Take tonight, for instance. Bill Maher is a big personality in American politics."
"Well, thank you," Maher responded.
Barbour then stated that Maher has those “two moderates” Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore pretending to be anchormen at his impending comedy show town the street at the Warner Theater. "And let's see, we've got these four Republican Congressmen, and you're trying to decide which one to assassinate" in his Flip-a-District program. (He picked Rep. John Kline from Minnesota's Twin Cities suburbs.)
"I think you have a better argument that each side just talks to its side, listens to its side," Seinfeld interjected. "That's polarizing. To blame it all on Fox News doesn't seem fair."
Mitchell rejoined the discussion by asking: "Could you argue that there are a lot of people out there who are just fed up with everything that happens in this city [Washington, D.C.] and aren't voting, aren't involved? That's the sort of silent majority of middle, moderate, thoughtful people who just want thoughtful people" to run the government, she added.
"With all due respect, the opposite of Fox News is not really me," Maher claimed. "It's MSNBC, which does not get near the ratings of Fox News because I think there is something in the conservative brain that wants to be hearing the same thing over and over, and doing the same thing over and over."
When Mitchell -- the host of Andrea Mitchell Reports on that cable channel -- did not respond to his comment, Maher added: "'Liberals like different.' They may say: 'Oh, there's a new restaurant' and visit it. Meanwhile, conservatives say: ‘No, I go to the diner, and I get the Number 5 every day.’"
Those of us, including y'all ... grew up in the time when we had three networks and two big newspapers, and they all had the same message the same way. Fox News was the first thing to came along that gave a conservative point of view.
And now, as you say, there are big networks that are very, very left, and I think there's a huge market in the middle of the United States. I think people want to hear common sense, straight talk, problem solving. They want people to get things done.
Seinfeld then asserted that such a channel would not be "as entertaining as hysteria."
The final guest, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, said: "We forget, you know, Fox is politics as entertainment, and that's where they get their viewers. And so their demographic is older. That’s going to be a problem for Fox. I’m not defending them, because they weren’t very kind to me during the presidential campaign.” He said the young people, the “millenials,” will change politics.
None of the panelists addressed the concept that since Fox News gets such high ratings, its viewers are more likely to be thought leaders who tell their families and friends what they have learned from that cable channel.