Mediaite’s Colby Hall writes that Roger Ailes is the most powerful political figure in America. I suppose it would be oh so easy to get caught up in the recent hype surrounding Glenn Beck as Hall does here…

In discussing the power and influence of Ailes, one has to start with the ratings – as we reported this Monday, FNC is consistently beating all other networks combined. Prime time has long been the province of Fox’s dominance, but now that Glenn Beck is getting O’Reilly like numbers at 5pm, it’s safe to say that they are just getting started.

Oh really? FNC has other Becks in the pipeline that we don’t know about? Beck is an aberration, the exception to the rule. Daytime on cable news does not usually pull down those kinds of numbers and historically never has, but not for the lack of trying however. Beck is a phenomenon but it is a phenomenon unto Beck itself, not FNC. And not Roger Ailes.

But the power of Fox News goes beyond total eyeballs — their influence is actually shaping policy and taking down federal officials in an unprecedented manner. First, there is the Health Care debate – no outlet has had more influence than Fox, who went so far as to claim that the Obama Administration was attacking FNC.

Then there’s the resignation of Van Jones as “Special Advisor for Green Jobs at the Council on Environmental Quality,” almost entirely as a response to the investigations and allegations of Glenn Beck, who also lead thehe “9/12 Project.” This not only made a lot of news (which lead to a weekend ratings win), but it forced its competitors to cover the event in a way that didn’t also mention Fox News or the event planner Glenn Beck.

Again, this is hypberbole. A more reasoned analysis would show that FNC has scored hits on various fronts during its entire run on the air, going all the way back to Clinton. This is nothing new. FNC is not so much an originator of news exclusives or big stories as it is, for lack of a better word, an aggregator of what’s already bubbling on the right side of the internet. FNC takes what’s already brewing and sharpens the story and puts it out on the air (and this isn’t a tactic FNC alone uses, most of the news networks follow this strategy to one degree or another). And most of what Hall attributes to Ailes here is actually attributable to Beck.

As to whether FNC or Beck should have been mentioned in competitors stories on the 9/12 Project rallies, that’s open to debate. What’s the story here? The rallies or those who were behind them? Depending on how you answer that question, you may or may not choose to mention either FNC or Beck.

Most recently, of course, there is hidden camera video capturing ACORN employees behaving in ways that are not befitting of any organization – particularly one that receives so much federal funding. Nonetheless, the continued (some might say relentless) airing of that video tape effectively convinced the US Senate to vote overwhelmingly to discontinue millions of dollars of funding to ACORN, just within a week based of that hyped-up video.

This is something that wasn’t done by FNC. It aired on FNC but wasn’t commissioned by FNC or instigated by FNC. This is an important distinction which Hall fails to account for. FNC didn’t go out and pound the streets to create this ACORN video. It fell in their lap, so to speak. Again, this goes back to my point about FNC being an aggregator of what’s going on on the right side of the spectrum.

Perhaps the best example of the influence of Fox News is this: on the day after Obama’s Health Care speech, all other networks and news outlets were talking about Joe Wilson’s outbursts. Fox News, however, was introducing the ACORN video. Which issue is a bigger story today and actually lead to legislation?

Hall is suffering from a bad case of short term memory syndrome here. If we had posited the above question the day after Obama’s speech, the answer would be different than it is now. Ask the same question in another month and the answer may yet change again. Which makes the answer all the more meaningless. Moreover, this is not that big a deal in terms of news stories. It’s a compelling and interesting story but it’s not some earth shattering game changer (except for maybe ACORN and its employees future obviously). What it is, is the latest example of one news outlet coming out with a story that everyone else picks up on and runs with. It happens all the time and not just on FNC. It happens on MSNBC and it happens on CNN. It happens on ABC, CBS, and NBC.

I’ll give you two examples of the lack of influence of Fox News (to the degree that Hall makes it out to be anyways). FNC, I would argue and have argued in the past, tells stories that nobody else does. Two example of that which I like to point out are the Klamath Basin water fight of many years ago and the UN Oil for Food Scandal. FNC was way out in front on both of those stories. They were compelling stories. Important stories. And how quickly did the rest of the MSM jump on what FNC was doing? On one story, Klamath, not at all. On Oil for Food, not until very late in the game…certainly not as fast as they jumped on ACORN.

My point: Just because FNC puts out something that the rest of the MSM starts jumping on is not an indicator of FNC’s influence but rather the MSM’s interest in covering the story. Too many times in the past the MSM has ignored FNC stories, hardly a positive indicator of FNC’s influence.

In some circles its commonplace to dismiss Fox News because of their perceived poltical bent. But to pigeonhole the FNC viewership as only comprised of “right-wing nutjobs” is wrong, as so many self-defined “tolerant” media consumers often do. The sheer ratings dominance of Fox strongly suggests that the breadth of their audience crosses over the aisle to both moderates and liberals alike. Why? Precisely because of their incredible influence on the debate, and frankly, the programs on FNC are very well produced and entertaining, regardless of where you stand on the issues.

On this point Hall and I are in agreement to a certain extent. I think Hall’s being too melodramatic though. It’s been long documented that FNC’s audience crosses over party lines. No need to write this up in a breathtaking manner as a suggestion.

President Obama has long spoken about renewing sense of civility in the policy debate and developing a bi-partisanship approach as goals for his administration. Yet, his administration made the odd decision to not include Fox News in an effort to drum up support for his Health Care agenda. Perhaps the smartest thing he can do is engage with FNC, since they seem to have all the power right now. Thanks to Roger Ailes.

This is a non-sequitur. And Hall should know the reasons why team Obama has been playing hardball with FNC (for backstory see this). I don’t agree with what the Administration is doing but FNC has made it easy for them to do so.

More to the point: How does any of this pertain to Roger Ailes being the most powerful political figure in America? Hall doesn’t say. He puts that as the headline but then totally fails to support his claim. Most of Hall’s examples pertain to Glenn Beck, which in theory should make Beck the most powerful figure in America. But Rush Limbaugh may still have something to say about that.

Ailes isn’t the most powerful political figure in America. I would put Ailes as the most powerful TV News executive in America. But as a political figure Ailes works too far behind the scenes and out of the public eye to directly guage his influence on politics. His network is a powerful source for news. But it is one of many open to political junkies. It is must see TV but it isn’t the only must see TV in cable news.

I do not want to diminish or undercut FNC’s accomplishments, because they are extensive. It just bugs the hell out of me to see someone fall all over themselves penning a hyperbolic story that doesn’t even support the argument it wants to make. If you want to praise FNC, praise it for what it is, not what it is not. If you want to praise Roger Ailes, praise him for what he is, not what he is not.

14 Responses to “Wrong…”

  1. The ACORN story only matters to those it always mattered to: Right wing news junkies. The college students’ investigation, hand-delivered to Glenn Beck, led to the wider MSM covering it, and heads rolling. But it’s not on Average Joe’s radar. He doesn’t care much now, and will care even less by the mid-terms. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m reporting it as a reflection of ‘the power’ of FNC this hyperbolic article is claiming. If only your true believers remember the story 6 months from now, you can’t claim to have moved the discussion.

    The Joe Wilson story has much more legs in the general marketplace, which has since been exaserbated by Maureen Dowd and Jimmy Carter casting it in racial terms. College-students/Beck/FNC can lay claim to spearheading the ACORN story, but President Obama will be talking about race and health care this Sunday.

  2. asleeporawake Says:

    But if Beck was smart, he’d totally give Ailes credit. Just saying.

  3. Beck is a phenomenon to FNC he didn’t pull those numbers on Headline News. Thats for darn sure!

  4. unclearthur Says:

    Beck is a phenomenon to FNC he didn’t pull those numbers on Headline News. Thats for darn sure!

    I don’t think he could have gotten away with going as full-blown crazy on HLN as he is on FNC. Altho’… Lou Dobbs…

  5. @joeremi ACORN should matter to all tax payers. Tax payer dollars go to support ACORN and if they’re helping rip off the government by giving illegal advice on taxes. That is a big story. It also makes ACORN into a bit of a political leper. Obama payed ACORN a good chunk of change to help get him elected. People might forget the story in a month, but what about the next election? Will Obama be able to throw money at ACORN? Talk about legs on a story!

    Joe Wilson only matters because he said something that a lot of people were thinking and saying. The whole racial angle is stupid and will not get traction beyond people that obsess about race all day long. Long term legs? Sorry, no go.

    Both stories are big in that both provoked a vote in congress.

    As far as Beck goes. I think he’s a bit quirky and would much rather listen to Rush than Beck.

  6. Beck is a phenomenon to FNC he didn’t pull those numbers on Headline News. Thats for darn sure!

    That was a different show on a different network. You can’t compare the two. Beck hasn’t shown coattails on FNC so far. Which is why FNC is putting Beck everywhere as much as possible. That’s what I mean by Beck is a phenomenon unto itself and not FNC.

  7. Ithule, the story was analysis of FNC’s power. My comment was analysis of the story, and of the media strength of the various political events mentioned therein. I made no effort to express my personal opinion about ACORN, Joe Wilson, or racial issues. “Average Joe” was intended as a generic, not a reflection of my name.

  8. I doubt Glenn Beck could have reached anywhere near this level of success on any network other than FNC, but the phenomenon is absolutely of his making and not Roger Ailes’. I think his star will fade but what do I know about such things?

    While he was the first to really get into the ACORN story, I doubt it would have gotten any traction had FNC’s hard news shows not also focused on it. As for the MSM, they wouldn’t even acknowledge the scandals until this week when they had to at least mention it after the Census Bureau dumped ACORN.

    Which gets to what I think is the aspect Colby Hall’s article misses: It isn’t the brilliance of Roger Ailes that has garnered FNC its “power”; It’s the failure of the MSM and competing cable news organisations to be the proactive and skeptical fourth estate. With so many avenues available for Americans to find out what’s going on nowadays, the old model of selective dissemination that News Corp’s competition clings to simply no longer cuts it.

  9. The Dems may want to tread lightly with this “Racist” meme they are pushing big time. Rasmussen just came out with their latest poll and only 12% are thinking “racist” images.


    They better be careful. Folks that are not racist DO NOT like it when you call them such.

    Been to 5 T Partys and have not seen racists stuff anywhere. And no…Nazi theme is not racist. Its stupid…but it is not racists. Its juvenile just as it was when the BusHitler stuff was going from the Left.

  10. asleeporawake Says:

    I wrote about this in another thread but Beck’s claim that ACORN was going to benefit from “billions” in federal funding is false. That figure represents the combined total funding that organizations like ACORN were eligible for–but that funding was designed to go to many different agencies across the country, not just ACORN. IN fact, over the past 15 years they’ve received approximately 50+ million in federal funding, averaging just 3.5 million a year, which isn’t a lot for a large agency with locations in multiple cities across the United States. Meanwhile KKR and Halliburton were robbing this country blind, overcharging billions upon billions for their “services” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not to mention the corporate bailouts to the white-collar criminals in this country. Why is this all centered upon Obama and his administration (as if I didn’t know) when Bush was front and center for the vanishing act of trillions in American taxpayer funds over the past 8 years? Where was Fox at then? That’s right, serving as chief cheerleaders for the Bush administration, just as they are for the GOP today. And people get upset about the other media outlets and their alleged cheerleading for Obama? Yeah, just as soon as you stop worshipping at Fox (and Beck’s) altar, I’ll try to care about the fake outrages created by Fox and Beck on a daily basis against the Obama administration (while ignoring the real outrages that continue to be perpetuated by government including funding white-collar criminals).

  11. Asleep:

    I can’t research everything but have so far only found one Glenn Beck/ACORN reference in which he claimed “billions”, but this was regarding an interview with James O’Keefe: “I mean, I remember when I was 25 and 20 years old like Hannah is and just completely invincible and, “Well, nothing will ever hurt me.” Do you realize that there are hundreds of billions of dollars at stake and you are dealing with some of the most nefarious people on the planet today?”

    Nor could I find any report attributed to FOX News claiming ACORN was receiving anywhere near that sum of money. And what exactly does Halliburton have to do with the price of ACORN nuts? Overcharging “billions and billions”? You are aware, I’m sure, that the entire Iraq War from its inception until now has cost less than just the Stimulus Bill that passed earlier this year? But again, this is also irrelevant to your misguided point.

  12. unclearthur Says:

    The Dems may want to tread lightly with this “Racist” meme they are pushing big time. Rasmussen just came out with their latest poll and only 12% are thinking “racist” images.


    They better be careful. Folks that are not racist DO NOT like it when you call them such.

    You’re paraphrasing the poll, and getting it wrong.

    Twelve percent (12%) of voters nationwide believe that most opponents of President Obama’s health care reform plan are racist. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of voters disagree, and 21% are not sure.

    I don’t know ANYone who thinks ‘most’ of the opponents of heathcare reform are racist. I do think that most of the most virulent and outrageous protesters are at some level.

    Face it – most people who oppose something aren’t so moved to charge across the country to hold signs. You have to REALLY be hot about it to devote your life to opposing something, and nothing generates that much rage like good old fashioned hatred.

  13. You have to REALLY be hot about it to devote your life to opposing something, and nothing generates that much rage like good old fashioned hatred.

    I’m gonna try a little turn-about. Let’s see how this goes:

    Using your logic, I’ve come to realize something about the protesters from the Bush era… most of them were anti-religion, who hated Christianity and Judaism (of which GWB based much of his life), and everyone who’s a part of it. I mean, they carried really nasty signs against Bush… but they couldn’t possibly have been against his policies (or Democrats/Liberals)… there had to be something MORE. Simply put, they were REALLY trying to repress religious speech. I have no evidence of it… but it’s what I believe must have been the REAL cause.

    Dumb dumb stupid.

  14. Nah, Blue, they just hated kids dying in a stupid war.

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