"Countdown" host Keith Olbermann highlighted an alleged internal Fox memo sent to staff they day after Democrats took control of the Congress on his Nov. 15 show.
He talked to documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who examined other similar memos put out by the network in his movie “Outfoxed.”
This is a transcript from the show.
One of the most ingenious aspects of the false charge of an intentional liberal bias in the news media is the unstated inference that if there is a liberal bias there by necessity cannot be an intentional conservative bias.
A new piece of hard evidence that there indeed a conservative bias in at least one quarter of the media, a Rosetta Stone of jaundiced journalism.
It’s apparently a printout of a channel's daily editorial memo, marching orders e-mailed to key staffers on how and where to slant the news. And how to adjust the facts to match the political conclusions and not the other way around.
Dated November 9th, the morning after Democrats secured control of both houses, obtained by the huffingtonpost.com, it states:
“The elections and Rumsfeld’s resignations were a major event but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption.”
Then it brings out the old, a vote for Democrats is a vote for terrorists chestnut:
“Let’s be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled Congress.”
Then there’s another dig at the new majority:
“The question of the day and indeed for the rest of Bush’s term is what’s the Dem plan for Iraq? This could be a very short live shot for Jim Angle, but he’ll try.”
And finally a reiteration for the network to continue to try the scare the crap out of the American people:
“We’ll continue to work the Hamas threat to the U.S. that came hours after the election results. Just because Dems won, the war on terror isn’t over.”
The Columbia Journalism Review pointed out that hours after that memo was issued Fox News live desk host Martha McCallum reported from New York that there were,
“Some reports of cheering in the streets on behalf of the supporters of the insurgency in Iraq that they’re very pleased with the way things are going here and also with the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld.”
Now, that’s a coincidence. Let’s explore the journalistic slight of hand.
ROBERT GREENWALD, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Pleasure to be with you.
KEITH OLBERMANN, "COUNTDOWN" HOST: This basically is it, right? To see a memo from Fox’s senior editorial vice president in black and white the day after the election last week prophesying the day’s news and then making the news fit the prophecy. It is a smoking gun. Is it not?
GREENWALD: There’s no question about it. And it’s the worst kind of obscenity. I really think they’ve crossed a new line here. In the year I spent studying them, in the memos we got from “Outfoxed” we compiled them. But to do it immediately after the election and to make these kinds of accusations and then to force the facts to fit what they want it to fit, really to me has brought them to a new line. If they were journalists they would be ashamed. But they’re not.
And the Huffington Post and your show are to be commended for not allowing them to continue to get away with this. Now remember, Dan Rather was fired for not fact checking. I want Rupert Murdoch to fire whoever put out this memo now and to call for an investigation now of Fox News if they had anything to do with being a news organization.
OLBERMANN: Now his name is John Moody and we’ll get a little bit on his background in a moment. But tell me about your experience with these memos. Their frequency, their importance, they’ve been shown before but here’s one in the flesh that seems to have resonated pretty loudly. What do that mean? Do you have any idea how they would get out?
GREENWALD: Well, they would get out because there are good, solid patriotic citizens at Fox News, and this is just the beginning, there is going to be a lot more coming to the Huffington Post who think that it’s a travesty. Who think that heads should roll because of this.
Now what the memos do, and I’m sure you don’t have this on your show, they tell the correspondents what to say and how to say it. Let’s make no mistake about it, this is scripted entertainment. You give an actor lines. You tell them what they’re supposed to say, you tell them how to say it. That is actors, that is puppets, it has zero to do with news. And what we found in “Outfoxed” was these would come several times a week.
Frankly, I thought that they stopped after our film, but I guess they’re back in full fledged shining armor again.
OLBERMANN: The devil’s advocate question. I’ll read that fourth paragraph again and just sort of - I’ll take it out of the context and ask you this. “The question of that day and indeed for the rest of Bush’s term is what’s the Dem plan for Iraq?”
On just that, what’s wrong with that? Could there be a memo, if not a daily memo but a memo somewhere at any other network that reads, “The question of the day and indeed for the rest of Bush’s term is what’s Bush’s plan for Iraq?”
GREENWALD: Well, there should be a memo saying what are the plans for Iraq? And I defy anybody to show me one hard question that Fox has ever asked about stay the course. Stay the course when there’s no course to be staying, just this is kind of insane policy that has no place to go. And there’s never been any questioning or probing about that.
But again, the assumption of what we all know is that they’re not a news organization. They carry out the propaganda. They carry out what the administration tells them to say. And this is just further evidence of it. The tragedy is that some people still think they’re really getting real news.
And in a democracy, which we love and cherish, news a critical part of it and the notion that they parade behind the banner of news, really does all of us a tremendous disservice.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, there are two separate references to the war on terror continuing no matter what happened in the election. There’s a third reference to the Hamas threat to the U.S. Do you think the document originates in the Fox offices? Or is it just too paranoid to think this might be a rewrite of White House press office or Republican National Committee daily talking points?
GREENWALD: Well, the sad thing is it almost doesn’t matter because they are so in sync with each other that you’ll never see a disparity.
So whether it comes from the White House or whether it comes from Fox News or they mutually feed each other, the notion of scaring and terrorizing us, when we did the “Outfoxed” movie, I literally had six hours worth of scare the hell out of them stuff that we couldn’t put in the full film. And now you’re going to see it more and more again.
Look, it’s a terrible time for conservatives. The election’s a tragedy. Fox News is losing viewers. It’s losing advertisers. They’re in free fall, so what do they do? They go to their same old, same old which is try to scare us. I don’t think it’s going to work and I think that we can call them on it.
OLBERMANN: And someone in that organization is calling them on it too and that perhaps is the good news contained within. Robert Greenwald, maker of the documentary film, “Outfoxed.” Great thanks for joining us here.
GREENWALD: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: By the way about the author of the memo, he’s John Moody, Fox News Channel senior vice president of news/editorial. He’s not nearly as well known as owner Rupert Murdoch nor majordomo Roger Ailes but on a day-to-day space he may be more influential than either.
A sidebar to this. He proves the theory that it might be nature or it might be nurture, but ultimately it’s all about the individual. Moody got his news training, the beginning of it, at Cornell University, not long before I got mine at the same place. He and I each overlapped for two years at Cornell with another guy named Bill Maher, several years before Ann Coulter graduated from the university preceding another Cornellian, Izzy Povich, who is the executive producer of this newscast.
And by the way, we did call Fox News vice president of communications Arana Bergante for a comment, but received none. We wish her well.