Fox News, MSNBC: Partisan Mirror Images

By Beacon Staff

The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg has an extremely insightful story on how different coverage of the presidential candidates looks on any given day, depending on whether you’re watching conservative Fox News or liberal MSNBC.

The perfect example of hypocrisy by the networks’ star hosts is illustrated by the coverage of the flap over Sarah Palin’s $150,000 expenditure on her wardrobe. MSNBC hosts interrupted their scheduled segments to talk about the “news” for hours when the story broke, while Fox News left it alone until the following day, and then covered it by remarking how pathetic it was for news outlets to devote attention to such a minor detail. Rewind a year or so back, however, to the furor of Democratic candidate John Edwards’ $400-haircuts, about which Fox News hosts gleefully attacked the former North Carolina senator. I love stories like this:

When Politico.com reported on Oct. 21 that the Republican National Committee had spent $150,000 on clothing for Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, Mr. Olbermann interrupted his 8 p.m. program on MSNBC to promote the story and discuss it, as did Rachel Maddow, whose program follows.

Fox News Channel reported it first the next morning, on “Fox & Friends,” in a segment in which the report was described as sexist and unfair, and Bill O’Reilly and Ms. Van Susteren later criticized the news media on their programs for giving it as much attention as they had.

“It was ridiculous,” said Mr. O’Reilly, singling out The New York Times in particular for covering the purchase.

That was a role reversal from spring 2007, when news broke that former Senator John Edwards had paid $400 for a haircut out of his Democratic presidential campaign account.

Mr. Olbermann named Mr. Hannity the “Worst Person in the World,” a running feature on his program, for making fun of Mr. Edwards’s haircut and showing video of him styling his hair before an interview.

Mr. O’Reilly had said of Mr. Edwards at the time: “He runs around telling Americans the system is rigged, while paying $400 for a haircut. This guy is a one-man sitcom.”

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research Center, said, “To some extent, they are reverse images of each other.”

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