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Tuesday, 20 April 2010 07:16

FOX Pulls Hannity from Tea Party Event for Overt Political Support. Now What about the Rest?

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by Jeffrey Joseph

A major part of what has helped FOX build up its audience has involved campaigning on at least the illusion of journalistic credibility. The network has long pushed a saliently conservative, if not specifically GOP-informed, view of the news, so sending Sean Hannity out to a Tax Day Tea Party Rally struck most in the media world as partisan, but not unusual. Selling tickets to the show and promising the raised cash to the Tea Party, however, proved so unethical that it may have FOX executives threatening further action besides pulling Hannity back to New York. Yet with all the outrage about Hannity shilling for the Tea Party, FOX still has plenty to answer for in terms of credibility with so many of the rest of its staff.

Part of the furor over Hannity's plan to sell tickets to his FOX broadcast and redirect the proceeds to directly aid the Cincinnati Tea Party certainly had to do with the recent reference to direct party support as unethical by the generally reclusive Rupert Murdoch. To make the head of the conglomerate look like such a hypocrite so soon after his statement clearly did not bode well for Hannity. Though more often associated with her fantasy work than real journalism, conservative Debbie Schlussel contends that the drama illustrated a split within the FOX hierarchy as Roger Ailes ordered Hannity to return, not other more pro-Hannity executives beneath Ailes. Schlussel has no love for Hannity, so her assertions may turn out to be mostly wishful thinking, but her blogging about his Freedom Alliance association has had major repercussions for Hannity already.

What does make Schlussel's contentions regarding Hannity's possibly questionable status at FOX intriguing is that the network continues to tolerate so many other personalities actively participating in party fundraising. Karl Rove actively promotes political committee American Crossroads, an organization with the expressed purpose of gathering and spending $50 million to help aid Republicans in contests during the upcoming election. Dick Morris has gone on the air at FOX and promoted an "adopt-a-Democrat" program to help Republicans work against Democrats they would like out of office, including said Democrats that live outside of their district. Even the Tea Party darling Sarah Palin continues to actively participate in GOP fundraising. FOX hardly appears to have a problem with making Murdoch look like a hypocrite; it just seems to have a problem lately with using the Tea Party to make him look like a hypocrite.

Something about the recent coverage of the Tea Party, which FOX had previously chosen to vigorously promote, made the Hannity situation untenable. It may have quite a bit to do with the rampant racism displayed at Tea Party rallies that could further tarnish the network's credibility. The fact that FOX has gained unseemly associations with "radical" conservatives and potentially violent harassers almost certainly also had an effect. Perhaps the most unexpected and scathing criticism, though, came from establishment Republican Sen. Tom Coburn's chiding of the network at a town-hall meeting recently.

In seeking to misinform the public about the left, FOX has become so extreme, it has alienated members of the party FOX sought to promote all along. Whereas FOX sought to hype up the Tea Party movements as a resurgence of the conservative movement, events from and relating to the actual rallies have portrayed conservatives, and FOX, as promoters of violence and racism. In turn, the political climate has grown increasingly dangerous for politicians, a recognition that has concerned both sides of the political spectrum and possibly influenced FOX to rededicate itself to helping the establishment GOP rather than the Tea Party.

Sean Hannity's intention to fund the Tea Party using the FOX brand certainly crossed a major ethics line and he deserves a reprimand for it. FOX's choice to allow other personalities to overtly participate in GOP fundraising, even while on the air at FOX, creates a parallel question of the network's integrity, regardless of whether it chooses to acknowledge the situation. A true news network would reprimand all of its personalities for such blatant political bias, especially when the media conglomerate's head tries to denigrate other networks for what he perceives as their bias. Viewers should demand that Murdoch order his contributors to cease raising funds for a political party, whichever it may be, if he wants people to really believe FOX has any credibility -- and in the meantime, choose to Turn Off FOX.

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Originally posted at Turn Off FOX.