By Patricia Wilson-Smith
I have a stunning confession to make.
Prior to my activities as an Obama supporter and volunteer, I was a closet Fox News fan.
My affinity for Fox News began a few years back, when CNN was still a doddery, boring news channel, struggling to stem the tide of defections to the then new and exciting Fox News Network. I thought I was ‘different’, and ‘hip’ for watching the new upstart, and let’s face it, Fox News did usher in the age of cool graphics, cutting edge shows, and opinion-based journalism that now reigns supreme even at CNN with the likes of Lou Dobbs (cringe) and Anderson Cooper (yummy).
Please don’t get me twisted – I understood even then that their reporting was totally right-leaning, and often chuckled to myself at the notion that they were ‘fair and balanced’ even as I laughed at their on-air antics, but what can I say? I just really liked the on-air personalities and the fancy graphics. Pretty colors.
Also, because Sean Hannity had been a radio personality here in Atlanta, I’d followed his career all the way to Fox News. The show he did here was of course most definitely right-winged, but he at least seemed level-headed in his discussion of the issues of the day, and I saw nothing in him that seemed unfairly biased at all. And so, when he eventually made his way to Fox News, and well, blew up, I understood and even appreciated his success.
It all of course started to change when Fox News’ coverage of Election ’08 kicked in. I was amused by Hannity’s “Stop Hillary Express”, because it was proof positive that like the Clintons, the boys at Fox never saw Barack Obama coming. And so I was of course not surprised when as it became apparent that Barack Obama would be the Democratic nominee, Fox and Sean Hannity decided to turn both barrels on him. It was then that I began to drift over to MSNBC and CNN to check out what was happening on the political reporting front, and it became patently clear that Fox was, let’s just say, a bit biased in it’s reporting. I went cold turkey on them then, because I wanted to hear only the positive news about my candidate for one, and also because I realized just how far the other cable news networks had come in retooling their shows, their on-air personalities, etc., to become more entertaining and informative while I had been languishing at Fox News.
What I did NOT see coming was how crazed the folks at Fox would soon become over the prospect of an Obama presidency, and the desperate, almost manic zeal with which they would soon begin attacking Senator Obama and all things African-American in order to sway the American people to their way of thinking. It would almost be funny if it weren’t so….unfunny.
For me, it all boils down to Fox News holding Senator Obama to a higher, more ridiculous standard than they ever would any white candidate. From their railing on about the absence of a lapel pin of the American flag on his suit jacket (when there is scant little evidence that ANY of the other candidates ever wore one) to their insistence on repeatedly running photos of him wearing Kenyan garb and using it to question his allegiance to radical Muslims – Fox has clearly and unfairly tried to strike fear in the hearts of the American people with this kind of rhetoric. But that’s only the beginning. The kind people of Fox News, and the myriad of pundits with which they associate have proven over the course of the last several months to be not only inconsistent standard bearers, but borderline racists, who are either actually panicked over the prospect of a black man becoming President, or doing a damned good job of making us all think they are.
Case in point – what the hell is a ‘terrorist fist jab’? When I learned that blonde bomb shell and Fox News host E. D. Hill had uttered these ridiculous words to describe the fist pound (as the mainstream media has NOW come to call it) that Michelle and Barack gave one another on the night that he clinched the nomination, I was mortified. I think it would have been perfectly appropriate to tease the Senator and his wife about what some might view as an unconventional salutation, but to characterize it as a ‘terrorist fist jab’ was just – dumb and racist. Period. And I guess I really didn’t want to believe that the guys and dolls at Fox were stupid racists – I wanted to believe that they just had strongly held views about their politics. Silly me.
Then of course, we have the ‘Fox & Friends’ crew, lamenting for a full TWO HOURS over Barack’s assertion that his grandmother was a ‘typical white person’ when he described how she might see people on the street that she might fear; this as news reports were breaking regarding the breach of the candidates’ passport files by Justice Department employees, and right after Senator Obama’s historic speech on race. It was like they hadn’t heard a single word of the speech, or chose to ignore its relevance. Either way, so blatant was their coverage that day that even Chris Wallace – himself a conservative Fox News personality – had to break in on air and ask them to make it stop, in what I consider to be one of the rare displays of balance I’ve seen on Fox since the election began.
And it goes on an on. Fox News dived all over a story from Insight, the online internet publication owned by the Washington Post, that reported that Senator Obama had attended a madrassah in Indonesia as a child, a type of school where young muslim extremists are educated. They later had to broadcast ‘clarifications’ regarding the story, which was of course false, but have yet to do a complete 180 on the essence of the story’s message.
We’ve had Liz Trotter, another Fox news reporter, crack a joke about assasinating Obama, graphics displayed during news stories referring to Michelle Obama as Barack’s ‘baby mama’, and a host of other reporting that has begun to make Fox News look like they’ve lost their collective minds. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING tops Sean Hannity’s lunatic ramblings night after night, after miserable night, over what he sees as Senator Obama’s radicalism, evidenced of course by his association to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
Hannity’s blatant attempts at keeping the Trinity United Church of Christ and a handful of comments made by its former pastor over the span of 30 years alive and well in the minds of Americans is also racist, pure and simple. Racism after all, has been defined as an intolerance of another race or other races, and what Sean Hannity has displayed in his constant, never-ending reporting about Senator Obama, Reverend Wright, Michelle Obama (and her lack of pride in her country), etc., etc. is precisely that – intolerance. Intolerance of the black experience, intolerance of a man’s right to choose how and where he worships, intolerance of ideas different than his own – intolerance.
The idea that in a 2008 America, there are still people who don’t understand that many in the black community are still vocal about the ravages of economic and social inequality that have weighed our collective progress down since slavery is amazing to me. And that a man as intelligent, as thought-provoking and learned as I thought Sean Hannity was can’t seem to get past his flag-waving, love-me-or-leave-me American ideas long enough to acknowledge same is, well, disheartening.
And this, I think has been the most disappointing aspect of Fox News’ post-racial melt down, because as I said before, I never thought of Sean Hannity as a racist before – just a staunchly conservative, opinionated personality.
Only those who refuse to acknowledge the differences in who we are as black people, and what our experiences in this country have been would listen to his rantings and hear anything other than crap. And yet, with the launching of his ‘Stop Radical Obama Express’, he’s turned up the dial on the fear-mongering, race-baiting, and plain old lies all in order to quell the tide of support for a man who has never displayed even an ounce of intolerance for those different than himself in the twenty-plus years he has been a public servant. Mr. Hannity questions the judgement of Senator Obama over his association with Rev. Wright, but not John McCain’s over his involvement in the Keating 5 scandals of the late-eighties. He harangs Michelle Obama over the idea that this campaign has made her proud of her country for the first time in her life, but gives Cindy McCain a total pass on her past drug addiction and theft, and she and her father’s role in the same Keating scandals. And most disturbingly, he continues to drive home the idea that Senator Barack Obama is too ‘radical’ to be President, citing his ties to this controversial figure or that one, never bothering to expend a moment of airtime exporing the violent flip-flopping and pandering that John McCain has had to do in order to get and stay in the good graces of the Republican conservative wing.
But I guess he wouldn’t, would he? Because then he WOULD be fair and balanced. I don’t think that any of us that have set our sights on the transgressions of the Fox News Network want special treatment for Senator Obama or anyone else. I think we’d like for them to a) really try and be more responsible in their reporting, and b) take a deep and somber look at the level of bias they’ve introduced into this election cycle and put the brakes on it. It does nothing but harm the process, and I believe that most honest, good-hearted Americans are not buying it anyway.
If that weren’t true, Senator Obama would not be smoking John McCain in the polls in so many important swing states, as he is as of this writing. Sean, you are a brilliant guy – can’t you and your buddies at the network find a way to fight this battle based on the issues and not the fears of the American people? I hope you can, because BWFO is watching you, dude, all of you, and we’re going to shoot the tires off of the “Stop Radical Obama Express”. Believe that.