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Fox News' Two Step: Playing Noble While Pandering To The Base

Fox has it both ways: A Muslim-bashing rumor is fed into mainstream discourse for the core audience, but then advertisers, as well as gullible dupes in the mainstream political culture, are treated to Shep Smith rebuking right wing nonsense.
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I didn't watch the Bernie Sanders town hall on Fox last night, but he's getting good reviews for it, like this one, from Politico:

Bernie Sanders entered the Fox's den on Monday night — and he not only survived the hourlong encounter, but often dominated.

Appearing at a Fox News-hosted town hall, smack in the middle of Trump Country, the Democratic presidential front-runner played the part, swatting down tough questions from the hosts about health care, defense spending and his newfound wealth. At one point, the Vermont senator even led the network’s audience in a call-and-response that found them cheering loudly for his policies.

But as The Washington Post's Philip Bump tells us, after the town hall, Fox went on the attack.

After Sanders completed his closing statement ... the heavy machinery of Fox News swung into motion as the network transitioned into [Martha] MacCallum’s nightly show.

MacCallum interviewed the network's politics editor, Chris Stirewalt. The two discussed the focus of a number of the anchors' questions: How Sanders would pay for his proposals. They agreed that it was a weak spot in his rhetoric.

MacCallum then spoke with two guests, economist Art Laffer and businessman Andy Puzder....

Both Laffer and Puzder were disparaging of Sanders’s arguments.

The next guest? Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law and representative of his reelection campaign.... Baier [had] promised Sanders that they would ask Trump for his tax returns....

"Oh, my gosh. We’re back to the tax returns!" [Lara Trump] replied....

“It seems to be a good talking point, though, for the Democrats, because Russia was not sticking, as we saw,” she added....

An hour later, Sean Hannity's program began.

"We saw Crazy Bernie on the air tonight," Hannity said. "Whew. That was hard to watch. Bernie Sanders for two hours! Wow. Gee, let's hear every Communist idea we possibly can."

Fox wants advertisers to believe that it isn't what it actually is -- a channel that feeds paranoia and rage to bubble-dwelling liberal-haters all day and night -- so the programming is interrupted every now and then for moments when non-Republicans are treated as human beings and an occasional right-wing idea is looked at with skepticism. These moments pass quickly, but if they become viral, Fox wins -- the channel is still the epicenter of conservative fury, but people outside the bubble are lulled into believing that Fox can play fair.


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It also happened yesterday afternoon, when Fox was covering the Notre-Dame fire.

During two separate occasions on Monday afternoon, Fox News anchors Shepard Smith and Neil Cavuto had to dump out of interviews after their guests wildly speculated and parroted conspiracy theories that the blaze that suddenly destroyed much of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was an intentionally malicious act.

... Smith interviewed witness Philippe Karsenty, the deputy mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine and a controversial right-wing media figure. Early in the call, Karsenty suggested that the Notre Dame blaze ... was a terrorist attack....

Smith interrupted, informing Karsenty ... that he would not allow such speculation on air....

Karsenty, meanwhile, continued to try to raise the possibility—without evidence—that the fire was intentional....

“No, sir, we’re not doing that here, not now, not on my watch,” Smith exclaimed....

Several hours later, Cavuto had a similar experience with Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who immediately raised the notion that this inferno was tied to other church burnings.

... Cavuto went on to request that Donohue avoid bringing up his suspicions as no connections have been made by officials. The Catholic League leader, however, was unable to help himself....

The Fox News anchor interjected, [telling] Donohue that while he appreciates his time, “we cannot make conjectures about this.” Cavuto then dropped the call.

We're supposed to congratulate Smith and Cavuto for taking a stand against rumormongering and bigoted speculation -- but why were these two guests on the air at all?

Karsenty isn't the deputy mayor of the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine -- he held that office years ago, but now he's simply a member of the town council. A more important fact about him is that he's fought a years-long legal battle to demonstrate that footage of the death of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy killed on the Gaza Strip in 2000 was fabricated. This has become his life's work. A quick trip through YouTube also finds him endorsing Donald Trump in 2016 ("French patriot, Philippe Karsenty calls it urgent for Americans to elect a strong-man to defend western civilized people from Islamic socio-political conquest"), when he's not being interviewed by Dennis Prager, Roger Simon of PJ Media, or Jamie Glazov of David Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine.

Of all the people in Paris, this is the guy Fox asks about the Notre-Dame fire? That's not an unfortunate mistake -- Fox wanted Karsenty on the air, and also wanted Shepard Smith to shut him down. Fox has it both ways: A Muslim-bashing rumor is fed into mainstream discourse for the core audience, but then advertisers, as well as gullible dupes in the mainstream political culture, see Smith rebuffing Karsenty. Lather, rinse, and repeat with Cavuto and Bill Donohue, a veteran right-wing provocateur and verbal bomb-thrower.

Don't fall for it. It's not responsible behavior on Fox's part. It's Fox pleasing the base while fooling the alleged sophisticates.

Republished with permission from No More Mister Nice Blog

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