September 13, 2016

With Fox News host Chris Wallace’s credibility as a legitimate debate moderator coming under question, Fox cued up Megyn Kelly to defend him. And she did it the Fox way: attacking Media Matters founder David Brock, the guy behind the effort to have Wallace ditched, distorting Brock's reasons, stacking the panel with like-minded guests and “forgetting” altogether that Media Matters just threatened to sue Fox for hacking into Brock’s phone records.

In his letter to the presidential debate commission, Brock explained his objections to Wallace:

It is a glaring conflict of interest that Roger Ailes, who resigned from Fox News in July, simultaneously provides advice to Donald Trump while serving as a paid adviser to Fox News chief Rupert Murdoch—debate moderator Chris Wallace’s boss.

Also troubling is Chris Wallace’s explicit pronouncement that he doesn’t intend to press the candidates to be truthful during the debate he moderates. When Wallace’s Fox News colleague Howard Kurtz asked what Wallace would do if either candidate made “assertions that you know to be untrue,” Wallace asserted, “That’s not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It’s up to the other person to catch them on that.” Ailes and Trump may already be unduly influencing Wallace to favor Trump in the debate. The New York Times’ James Poniewozik was correct when he noted that Wallace’s stated fact-free approach to debate moderating helps Trump the most. The Times noted that “the fact-checking website PolitiFact has found far more false statements from Mr. Trump than from Mrs. Clinton.”

Somehow, Kelly managed to miss most of what Brock wrote. Maybe it was because she was so busy making personal attacks on him. She described him as “a controversial Clinton ally” who is “trying to change the rules.” She gratuitously added that Bernie Sanders’ campaign described him as “one of the worst practitioners in the dark arts of dirty politics.”

“Brock is now demanding that the debate commission boot Chris Wallace, a journalist with a sterling record after more than 50 years in this business,” Kelly said scoldingly.

Worse than that was how Kelly distorted Brock’s protest. She claimed Brock objected to Wallace “because he used to work for Roger Ailes, at this channel right here at Fox News, and Ailes is now reportedly counseling Donald Trump.” Funny, how she left out the part about Ailes being a paid advisor to his replacement.

Kelly did find time to claim Brock “made it his mission to destroy Fox News and pretty much destroy any Republican candidate who comes on the scene.” As if Fox has not done exactly that to Brock, reporter Gabriel Sherman and almost any Democrat. Including Megyn Kelly's attempts to destroy former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Guest Howard Kurtz, Fox’s media critic, also ignored Ailes' “paid adviser” role and said, “You’ve got to kind of twist yourself into a pretzel, Megyn, to follow this argument.”

Kurtz also said, “The commission was independent, that’s why Chris Wallace was chosen.”

Maybe not. Today, Politico reported that “there is wide speculation among media executives” that “Wallace was tapped to moderate the third and final debate to lessen the chance that Trump would skip it.”

Meanwhile, Kelly and her other guest, Fox’s Chris Stirewalt, made fun of allegations (that were not Brock’s) that Ailes is “likely intimately familiar with Wallace’s preparation and debate style.”

KELLY: Now you and I, unlike these idiots were actually in those debate preparation sessions. Every single one of them. You and I actually know how Chris prepares for these debates. Why don’t you enlighten the audience on what role these people had in it.

STIREWALT: God help the poor fool that tried to oversee Chris Wallace’s preparations. Holy crokinole, no way! […] No one is more thorough, no one is more scrupulous. He and his research team were – I mean, as you know – nobody does it better. This is how good they are. And I don’t wonder at all that people of both campaigns would like to have Chris Wallace not doing a debate, ‘cause guess what? Even without, quote unquote, “truth squadding,” he’s going to be the best one, FYI, of all the debates, because he’s the best prepared, he has the best questions and he’s not afraid to put it out there because he doesn’t care about making himself look good, he wants the right question and he wants the right answer and he’s gonna be gangbusters.


KELLY: And just to set the record straight, Ailes is not intimately familiar with Wallace’s preparation and debate style. He did not oversee Wallace’s preparation for the three primary debates. He had nothing to do with our debate preparation. Nothing! It was Wallace, Baier, me, Stirewalt and Bill Sammon. That’s it. We wrote our own questions, no one told me what to write, because there’s been another report out there that Rupert Murdoch got involved, which he didn’t.

I’ll take Kelly at her word but it may depend on how she defined "debate preparation." The fact is, Ailes was famous for micromanaging everything that went on at Fox. As TheWrap reported last year:

A Fox News insider told TheWrap: “There’s very few moments occurring on the network that Ailes doesn’t have a hand in–times that by 100 for a GOP presidential debate.”

Finally, there’s this tidbit that Kelly left out: Media Matters (which Brock is no longer involved with) is threatening to sue Fox for hacking into Brock's and one of their reporter’s phone records:

In other words, there was another conflict of interest going on that Kelly didn’t even distort because she didn’t bother to mention it at all.

Watch the bias above, from the September 9 The Kelly File.

Update: Brock's request was denied by the commission.

Crossposted at News Hounds.
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