How Scared Is Fox? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 18 2012 @ 1:27pm


Megyn Kelly's producer tells Newsweek that they are fully booked for today and have not responded about any slots Thursday and Friday. There is also no promise of any correction of the factually untrue statement that I have been "out there saying that Sarah Palin didn't give birth to her own child." I have never said that and, in fact, have taken extreme care never to say that. 

By even raising the question at all, I suppose, I grant the notion that Palin might have done something completely nuts credibility. My sin is in considering that she was crazy enough to do such a thing. The more I learned about her, the more plausible it is that she might be that crazy. And so I have stated that this story, in my mind, is not credible as it stands. And maybe some think that is itself so outrageous it disqualifies me from being a journalist.

But outrageous things do happen in public life. John Edwards, for example, was two-timing a wife who was dying of cancer. Was that such a vile allegation that asking him if it was true was not "actual journalism"? He lied, of course, until the National Enquirer got the story. Bill Clinton was crazy enough to screw an intern in the White House while being hounded by the far right for his previous sexual adventures.

There is a very critical distinction between saying something or writing something that you do not know is true, and asking a public official to clear up genuine questions about the stories she has told in public, while declaring herself an "open book." I have never proposed a single conspiracy theory. I just wanted evidence that Palin's remarkable, bizarre story is true – which would help her, if she's telling the truth, not me. I asked publicly and I asked the McCain campaign privately. I did what a journalist, in my mind, should do: get information and data, not just statements and blather. I also draw a distinction between a blog and a column or essay. I have never written at length about the Palin Trig stuff in a column or essay, because it's what Mickey would call "undernews". It's something blogs can do that other more formal formats in journalism cannot: ask questions, air debates, get conversations going that aren't supposed to be the final truth, but a provisional search for it.

And this wasn't some free-floating no-win question. It was a simple request for a document of some sort – conveyed privately if need be to a journalist – to put this matter to rest. That's not asking someone a question they cannot answer. Or using the device of "asking questions" to perpetuate a smear. And I might add of course that this blog also aired every single dissent on this and every single piece of evidence that backed up Palin's story. And that as soon as Palin removed herself from the pursuit of public office, I've barely covered her at all.

Kelly thinks this is not "actual journalism." And you can see why: her own channel employs said public figure.

They have a deep conflict of interest in covering or discussing her. And so, in the world of Kelly, actual journalism is never asking very difficult questions of a candidate you might eventually employ (which includes most Republicans who have ever run for national office or any Democrats who hate Obama). It is demonizing other journalists asking for easily available evidence, and then smearing that journalist and lying about his work on air without inviting him on to discuss his own arguments or allowing him a right to reply. Also: actual journalism according to Kelly means never correcting factual errors.

Ask yourself: there's a controversial cover-essay in Newsweek. The writer is prepared to come on and debate it. Why would Fox not even consider it? I've been on Hardball and tonight I'll be on Anderson Cooper's show. But Fox brings on two hired guns to talk about my piece, and actually blur out my name on the screen for some reason (either to make sure I remain air-brushed out of reality, or to deceive people that Newsweek is somehow institutionally making the point of my essay). Rich Lowry, moreover, says I cannot be trusted reporting on Palin. Rich Lowry. Here is how Rich Lowry, an "actual journalist" reacted to Palin's convention speech:

I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America. This is a quality that can't be learned; it's either something you have or you don't, and man, she's got it.

That's "actual journalism", according to Fox. But a tightly argued essay, backed up with evidence and data for every point, isn't. And neither is demanding accountability from public officials when they make bizarre claims like experiencing contractions while giving a speech. No Fox reporter has ever asked Palin about that. And they never would and never will. Because Fox, in the end, is about power and money, not truth.