October 13, 2009

Eric Burns from the invaluable Media Matters weighs in on Antia Dunn's statement on Reliable Sources that Fox News is an arm of the Republican Party. Burns warns that they are even more dangerous and powerful than that and I agree with him.

O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Eric Burns, president of Media Matters for America, a not-for-profit group that monitors conservative misinformation in the media. Welcome.

BURNS: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Why has the White House finally come out and stated the obvious, that the Fox News Channel is opinion journalism masquerading as news?

BURNS: Look, Anita Dunn has it exactly right with her description of Fox News. I said as much on this program just two weeks ago. But I take it a step further, Lawrence. I think that what we have all thought of as a conservative news organization has really morphed itself this year into a 24/7 political operation with a very specific goal. And that is to destroy this presidency, and destroy any sort of progressive policy agenda that the American people voted for in November.

That's their goal. They have set it. You saw it at the top of the clip. And I think that that's what we are dealing with. And so Anita Dunn is absolutely right to call them out for that.

O'DONNELL: Strategically for the White House, why would they choose now to raise attention to Fox's attacks on the White House?

BURNS: Well, you know, Fox's attacks on the White House-attacks on the White House have gotten more and more vicious. They have been going on for quite a while. But they have gone on a czar witch-hunt, which we have all seen. Most of it based on specious facts or no facts at all, especially in the case of the recent case of Kevin Jennings, Department of Education official, that Sean Hannity repeatedly claimed condoned statutory rape. Media Matter was able to completely disprove that.

And they've got-they've got a big board of 30 or so of these folks that they have actively targeted and said they are going to go after and try to get fired.

That doesn't sound like a news organization. That's a political operation. I certainly, Lawrence, have been involved in campaigns, as you have. And that certainly sounds a lot more like what you see out of a political campaign.

O'DONNELL: Is part of the White House method here to, in effect, quarantine the misinformation Fox News puts out? Because sometimes Fox News will generate one of these phony controversies, and then other outlets will pick it up, because they are covering the controversy? They don't-not covering the thing that started it, the falsehoods that Fox promoted to start it.

BURNS: I think quarantining Fox News is something that is very important. We have worked to do that, the misinformation coming out of Fox News. It's very important. It's something we have worked to do very hard at Media Matters, and I think successfully in the past. As I said, it is - Fox News has really morphed and changed into a political organization.

They're much more dangerous. They're much more powerful. So I'm not sure that's enough to get the job done. Folks are going to have to really go at Fox News.

And really Fox News isn't a story. You have to understand that we have, you know, Mike Huckabee and others, you know, Dick Morris, openly raising money for their political action committees on Fox News. We have Fox News hosts, like Glenn Beck, organizing political activists-partisan political activist protests, the 9/12 rallies, the Tea party protests. Fox did 22 segments promoting those Tea party protests, 37 paid teaser advertisements on that.

They are deeply, deeply involved in the political activities of the conservative movement. And I would say that they are essentially directing them, from all available evidence.

O'DONNELL: I think there is very little evidence that Fox is going to respond in any kind of positive way to this White House criticism. Don't you agree with that?

BURNS: I don't think so. I will tell you what, from the guy that-that created the Willie Horton ad, who is running Fox News, I don't know what anybody can really expect. We are going to have to get tough-

O'DONNELL: Yes, not much to expect there. Right. Eric Burns, president of Media Matters for America, thanks for your time tonight.

BURNS: Thank you, Lawrence.

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