F.U.D.

Well, well, well…the media blogosphere certainly has been busy today. But then what would you expect when a major newspaper puts out a story that uses the words “Roger” and “Ailes” in it. We had accusations, denials, recriminations, finger pointing, finger wagging, and snark. And that was just on Twitter. But there were a few things that transpired today which I do want to touch on. So let’s start with the snark…

I was already sick of this story by mid-morning. So someone called into the control room…gee like that never happens in cable news. Say what you will about Ailes and his operation at FNC, the media does seem to hyperventilate quite a bit more when his name is attached to the story. There’s no justification for it really.

So I was bored with the story. Yes, I believe the Mediaite story that it was really Shine who called in. I still wasn’t certain on the accusation that Rivera’s mic had been cut off or not (more on that later). Rivera coming out and saying that it wasn’t didn’t sway me any. Unfortunately, Geraldo has a documented track record of embellishment so I can’t give his denials the same weight as I would someone else like, say, Bret Baier. Besides, FBN managed to convince Don Imus that an FBN leak didn’t come from FBN, so who is to say that Rivera wasn’t similarly “spun”?

So the story was kind of dull for me. Not much to add on and I was going to let it slide. But then Mediaite’s Joe Concha had to shoot his mouth off.

It wasn’t so much that Concha took on Alter. Alter’s original anecdote as reported by Brian Stelter had been pretty thoroughly thrashed by this point and there was more than enough contradictory evidence to cast serious doubt that Alter’s reporting was on target. No, what got me burning was Concha getting reckless and taking on Stelter. You could paint the walls with the sarcasm dripping from this Concha paragraph…

Fear not: Stelter—not exhausted yet from Tweeting minute-by-minute details of his media tour promoting his new book on morning television (already 42 percent off on Amazon)—is a pro. He’ll undoubtedly present a fair and balanced (pun intended) account of what really happened after Geraldo Rivera and Eric Bolling turned a segment on Fox & Friends in November into the verbal version of WWE Raw over what really, really happened in Benghazi.

Concha immediately follows up with this gem straight out of Bizarro World…

But while Stelter has some nice access over at MSNBC, Fox News probably feels like Pyongyang to him when it comes to getting information from the media relations folks over there. Why? Because Stelter has never been kind to Fox News, which isn’t a shock given his current employer’s perceived ideology (the New York Times hasn’t endorsed a Republican Presidential candidate since 1956).

Concha has either a short memory or a very convenient one. It takes two to tango and FNC and FBN have done their fair share of sabotaging Stelter over the years. And yet FNC and FBN have no problems opening their doors to Stelter when they feel like it.

So what’s Stelter supposed to do when FNC decides to not respond, assuming FNC was given plenty of warning about Stelter’s deadline? Not publish? If FNC was given plenty of time to respond and chose not to, which they definitely have a history of doing and following a logic that apparently makes sense to nobody else but them, then FNC itself shares some of the blame for what happened next. They could have put this to bed easily. They apparently chose not to. They apparently chose to let this explode all over the internet and get Alter’s story out there and then decided to shoot it down by handing their version of the story over to Mediaite. Again, this is predicated on the notion that Stelter gave FNC plenty of time to respond and they chose not to…something only Stelter and FNC know the truth to.

Now, call me cynical…call me a conspiracy theorist. But is it outside of the realm of the plausible that FNC chose to let the story spread precisely so that when they knocked it down, Alter looks even worse than he would have if they had given it to Stelter? I have no idea, though I kind of admire the Machiavellian aspect of that kind of thinking.

But back to the video tape. You know…the video tape? The thing that at one point was the heart of this story back before the accusations, denials, recriminations, finger pointing, finger wagging, and snark? Yeah…that thing.

I finally got to see the unedited version. I am absolutely convinced his mic got cut. There is no question about it. Here’s what Mediaite’s Andrew Kirell wrote

Around 7:20 into the video, long after Rivera has made his dissenting points clear and the argument has seemingly winded down, critics like Alter, et al, believe the audio dips in his microphone. At no point during the segment is Rivera inaudible.

It’s easy to miss. Most people won’t catch it. You need the volume turned up to even have a shot at it. But I’ve worked with audio long enough and seen enough dead mic TV to tell the difference. It wasn’t just that Rivera’s audio “dipped”. It changed its qualities. It was clear and sharp one second. It took on a more distant echo-y sound quality the next. You don’t get that from a microphone that’s on and attached to your person. You get that when another microphone nearby pics up your voice and you have no working microphone on your person. That kind of sound is unmistakable. We’ve all seen enough newscasts where mics malfunction. If there’s more than one person on the set you will hear the other person’s voice more often than not. How loud their voice comes across TV depends on the proximity to the other live mic(s) and the volume of the mic-less orator.

Here’s what I think happened: FNC wanted to end the segment. It was already long and Doocy had been trying to ease Rivera out of the segment to no avail. Finally, someone killed his mic. Whether it was on orders or not, I have no idea…and I really don’t care. The segment was long and Rivera wouldn’t stop. Something had to give. So his mic got killed and the segment was walked out to commercial with Rivera still chirping during the toss.

But because Rivera was still chirping and chirping loudly, and because he was close enough to Doocy and Doocy’s mic (and probably Carlson’s and Kilmeade’s) that one or more of their mics picked up his voice. Not with the same quality mind you…that much is obvious as when Doocy and Rivera cross-talk and Doocy’s audio is sharp as a bell and Rivera’s isn’t.

So it appears to me that at least one part of Alter’s anecdote was dead on after all. Rivera’s mic did get cut.

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7 Responses to “F.U.D.”

  1. fritz3 Says:

    Nice analysis Spud. It sounds quite plausible and since I have no interest in actually wasting 7 minutes of my life listening to Geraldo and Bolling whine I’ll happily take your word for what happened.

    When you say “I was already sick of this story by mid-morning. So someone called into the control room…gee like that never happens in cable news.” it pretty much coveres my view of the ‘story’ as a whole.

    It’s interesting that Jonathan Alter has said nothing (that i’m aware of) on the subject as yet and that this ‘story’ appears to be more about a personal spat between Brian Stelter and Joe Concha rather than one between Alter and FNC.

  2. fritz3 Says:

    ^^coveres > covers Sorry.

  3. Alter has said plenty on Twitter…

  4. is Spud the lost son of Rosemary Woods?

  5. fritz3 Says:

    “Alter has said plenty on Twitter…”

    ^^Thanks Spud. Alter is sticking to his story and, I imagine, hoping FNC sticks to theirs giving the story some legs. A feud with FOX is great promotion for his book; particularly when the video evidence is, apparently, on your side.

  6. ^ betting Fritz loves snorkeling videos

  7. Ha! Spud seems to have crawled in bed with my old friend, MEDIA MATTERS Oliver Willis. Fishbowl_DC blog’s analysis:

    Mediaite‘s Andrew Kirell posted the full video from the segment in question, noting that “At no point during the segment is Rivera inaudible.”

    Oliver Willis over at the anti-FNC Media Matters disagreed. He also posted the full video, claiming to hear “a change in Rivera’s microphone volume.”

    What you can take away from watching and listening to either clip…

    Mediaite‘s Kirell is right that there is no point where Rivera is inaudible. Even heading into the next segment on immigration, River can be heard sarcastically saying something to the effect of, “Oh great… Now we’re going to get lynched.” He says that while another FNC host is in the middle of a voice over.

    Though Rivera is never inaudible, he is, at points, unintelligible. That is either due to the cross talking taking place on set or, as Willis implies, a change in Rivera’s audio levels. Willis writes that Rivera can still be heard because his voice “appears” to be picked up by another host’s mic.

    Eliana Johnson, who identifies herself as a former FNC producer, wrote on Twitter, “From a former producer perspective, I don’t think mic was cut. Should’ve been!”

    A separate opinion from Dave Kolesar, a senior broadcast engineer at WTOP: “It sounds to me like the person in the control room simply turned Rivera’s microphone down but not quite off, because he was shouting over the hosts. Whether the controller intended to mute Geraldo entirely, I don’t know. But when you’re shouting in a studio, there is always some ‘bleed-through’ to other microphones, which gave Geraldo’s voice the ‘hollow’ sound at the very end of the clip.”

    Here’s what’s not being said…

    Even if Rivera’s audio levels had been tampered with, that’s not proof that he was muzzled for his opinions. In any newsroom, it is common to reduce the mic levels of a show’s guest while the lead host or anchor does a voice over or a news package airs. This way, the show avoids any Jesse Jacksonesque “cut his nuts off” incidents. FNC may have actually experienced such a moment with Rivera. His apparent mentioning of “lynch” in the midst of a voice over on immigration isn’t exactly something producers want to hear.

    At this point, it’s FNC’s word against Alter’s. But even if Alter’s assertion that Rivera had his mic cut is accurate, the actual tape makes it impossible to prove.

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