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5/25/2015 7:45 am  #1

How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics

How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics
by Bruce Bartlett - May 21st, 2015, 9:00am

I am pleased to introduce to Big Picture readers Bruce Bartlett, who worked for Congressmen Ron Paul and Jack Kemp, and in the Office of Policy Development in the Reagan White House, and at the Treasury Department for George H.W. Bush. He is now a political independent. Enjoy.


The creation of Fox News in 1996 was an event of deep, yet unappreciated, political and historical importance. For the first time, there was a news source available virtually everywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a conservative tilt. Finally, conservatives did not have to seek out bits of news favorable to their point of view in liberal publications or in small magazines and newsletters. Like someone dying of thirst in the desert, conservatives drank heavily from the Fox waters. Soon, it became the dominant – and in many cases, virtually the only – major news source for millions of Americans. This has had profound political implications that are only starting to be appreciated. Indeed, it can almost be called self-brainwashing – many conservatives now refuse to even listen to any news or opinion not vetted through Fox, and to believe whatever appears on it as the gospel truth.

When Fox News went on the air in 1996, it advertised itself as “fair and balanced,” which implied that its competitors were neither. At the time, there was unquestionably a liberal bias in the major media; not a huge one, but it was pretty consistent across the three major networks, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and the rest of the elite media. As Dartmouth communications professor Jim Kuypers put it in a 2002 study, “There is a demonstrable liberal bias to the mainstream press in America.”[1]

Surveys regularly showed that very few reporters were Republicans; the bulk said they were independents, with a large percentage belonging to the Democratic Party.[2] Journalists argued that their professionalism kept bias out of their reporting and that, insofar as there was apparent bias, it was due to the nature of the news itself and the discipline of fact-based reportage. But even if the reporting itself was free of bias, there is no question that the issues that most interested reporters tended to be ones more likely to be liberal in nature than conservative. As the late journalist Michael Kelly once explained, “What journalists choose and how journalists frame inescapably arises out of what journalists believe. And, as a group, journalists believe in liberalism and in electing Democrats.”[3] In any event, the view that the media was generally liberal was widespread among the public.[4]

Liberal media Dominance

Liberal media dominance arose from several factors. One was simply the fact that liberal views were dominant in the country from the Great Depression through the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. The conservative view on civil rights, that racial segregation and discrimination were not problems justifying federal contravention of states’ rights, was deemed to be illegitimate among the vast bulk of Americans after being exposed to police brutality against civil rights demonstrators and details about the reality of racism. The Vietnam War and Watergate made the media’s liberal bias even more pronounced even as the country had started to move to the right in many ways.

Another factor is that big cities, where the major newspapers have always been located, tend to be more liberal than small towns and rural areas. This is especially true for New York and Los Angeles, where the major networks and media companies are based. In part, big city liberalism is just a function of their nature, but also because liberally-minded people gravitate there from the more conservative countryside. This has been true forever.

It should be added that liberally-minded people have long tended to gravitate as well to journalism, just as conservatives are attracted to careers in the military, law enforcement and business. Newspapers have long complained that the liberalism of their reporters was less intentional than due to the lack of conservatives getting degrees in journalism and seeking careers as reporters.

A final factor contributing to liberal bias is that newspaper consolidation tended to eliminate ideological competition in the industry. As a competitive business, politics and ideology were ways in which newspapers differentiated their product and attracted readers wanting to read news and commentary friendly to their point of view. Thus in any 2-newspaper town, one would generally be conservative if only for competitive advantage.[5] For historical reasons, the afternoon paper was usually the conservative one. But as growing traffic congestion made it harder and harder to deliver afternoon papers in a timely manner and work and lifestyle changes reduced demand for them, afternoon papers began to die out. This gave the morning paper, which was usually the more liberal, a dominant position in many markets.

The loss of competition from the right reinforced the liberalism in already liberal newsrooms. As former Washington Post editor Richard Harwood noted in the mid-1990s, after the first big wave of media consolidation:

One of the most interesting aspects of today’s premier news corporations – the ones with the rich editors, officers and shareholders – is the counterintuitive fact that almost without exception they have encouraged or acquiesced in the leftward drift of their newspapers over the past quarter-century.[6]

And even in cases where the dominant morning paper was the conservative one, loss of competition tended to push it toward the left; that is, leftward toward the center from a position on the right. The reason is that monopoly newspapers often sought to be all things to all people and therefore as inoffensive as possible. The Gannett chain was known for shaving the rough political edges off all the papers it acquired, giving them a mushy liberal sameness in every market.

Of course, there was demand for conservative media. But prior to the expansion of cable television and the rise of the Internet in the 1990s, there was simply no easy way to satisfy it. There were only three networks that broadcast just half an hour of news each day, and they tended to take their cues from the major newspapers, adding only video to more or less the same reporting one got in the papers. Magazines filled the gap to some extent and competition continued to provide conservative alternatives. Among the news weeklies, Newsweek tended to be liberal, Time was centrist, and U.S. News and World Report was moderately conservative. One could subscribe to explicitly conservative publications such as National Review and Human Events, as well as the liberal New Republic and left-wing Nation magazines. But the lead time for printing and distributing magazines, which tended to be monthlies or semimonthlies, made them unsatisfying for those craving immediate news with a political or ideological edge.

Radio and television were also subject to the “fairness doctrine,” which said that equal time needed to be provided whenever a political opinion was expressed.[7] This tended to eliminate the expression of any opinions at all unless they were so close to the conventional wisdom it was difficult to take issue with them.[8] While the fairness doctrine, which was a Federal Communications Commission regulation, didn’t apply to print media, it nevertheless had a spillover effect that reinforced the moderate liberalism of most newspapers.

The Rise of Talk Radio

In August 1987, under pressure from Ronald Reagan’s drive for deregulation, the FCC abolished the fairness doctrine. A local radio broadcaster in Sacramento, California, named Rush Limbaugh quickly recognized the opportunity this afforded. A strong conservative, he realized that he could now do an entire show consisting of nothing but controversial opinions, without the burden of offering equal time to other views. His program went national in 1988, based at WABC in New York City, which had a signal powerful enough to reach 200 miles beyond Manhattan.

Limbaugh’s move was fortuitous. At the exact moment he launched his show, the AM band on the radio dial was essentially dying. Since the late 1960s, music programming and listeners had deserted AM radio in droves. The FM dial provided a better signal and could broadcast in stereo, which became increasingly important as musical styles changed. Unable to compete by broadcasting music, AM stations searched for alternative programming. Talk proved to be very viable. Soon there were talkers across the AM dial, many expressing a conservative viewpoint.[9]

There are many reasons why conservative talk radio worked so well.[10] One is that conservatives finally had a news source that fed their philosophy. Another is that conservatives viewed themselves as outsiders and were attracted not only to the philosophy of conservative talk radio, but its tone and articulation of outrage toward liberals that many listeners themselves had long felt.[11]

In his early years, much of Limbaugh’s program, which ran 3 hours a day, consisted of news that conservatives were unable to read in their local paper or hear on television.[12] Conservatives in Congress, at think tanks and other activists saw there was now an outlet for their legislation and studies and eagerly provided them to Limbaugh, who gave them priceless publicity to a highly receptive audience.

As time went by, Limbaugh had many imitators, but no real competitors. For all his faults, he has a great voice and a genuine knack for radio broadcasting; his venture into television never worked. Limbaugh is also entertaining, a fact that even his critics acknowledge.[13] Eventually, many local radio stations decided it was cheaper to buy Limbaugh’s syndicated show rather than pay a local talker. His broadcast reach broadened and his power grew.

Among Limbaugh’s friends and admirers was Roger Ailes, a Republican political consultant and producer who had long dreamed of a conservative television network. In 1970, he worked with the Nixon White House to bring such a network into being.[14] The idea didn’t go anywhere, but Ailes continued to work on it, convincing beer baron Joseph Coors to bankroll a conservative news service called TVN in the mid-1970s. That effort failed as well, but Ailes learned a lot about how to make a conservative network succeed.[15] Finally, in the mid-1990s, he convinced Australian newspaper magnate Rupert Murdoch to let him build the news network Ailes had always dreamed of.

The Origins of Fox News

Ailes recruited conservative broadcasters wherever he could find them, sometimes on the fringes of the industry; one of his stars, Bill O’Reilly, got his start doing gossip for “Inside Edition,” a syndicated tabloid-style program. According to a Fox producer, all the top people at Fox were conservative or did a good job of playing the part:

The ideology at Fox was strictly a top-down affair. Roger [Ailes] was a conservative. All of his deputies were conservatives. Most of the hosts were conservatives, or at least were good at pretending to be while on television, if they knew what was good for them….The VPs, as near as I could tell, were all staunch conservatives, too. Whether by coincidence or design, Roger had effectively surrounded himself with fellow travelers.[16]

In its early years, Fox only needed to be in the objective center to be to the right of the other major networks, because they tilted to the left.[17] But Fox viewers were very right-wing from the start.[18] Numerous surveys show that Republicans and conservatives overwhelmingly favor Fox in their news viewing. A 2010 Pew survey found that Republicans and conservatives favored Fox over all other news sources except Rush Limbaugh. The survey also revealed that Fox had fewer well-educated (college graduate) and well-to-do ($75,000+/year income) viewers than other news sources.[19] A 2015 PPP poll found that for 56 percent of Republicans, Fox was their most trusted news source.

Table 1

Most Trusted Media Outlet, 2015


Most Trusted Outlet    Republicans    Democrats
ABC                                10                    14
CBS                                 8                     11
CNN                               10                   21
Comedy Central               0                    6
Fox                                56                    11
MSNBC                            2                     6
NBC                                2                     6
PBS                               7                  18
Other                             6                    7
Source: Public Policy Polling[20]






Table 2

Audience Profiles: Party and Ideology


Percent of each audience who are    Republican    Democrat    Independent
Rush Limbaugh                                          63               10            23
Sean Hannity                                              62                6            29
O’Reilly Factor                                           54              10             32
Glenn Beck                                               53                9               33
Fox News                                                   44             21                28
Wall Street Journal                                       36           22               41
USA Today                                               33               26              35
News blogs                                              28               34                34
Daily paper                                              28                34             33 
Local TV news                                           25              35            32
TOTAL                                                     25               33             34
Sunday shows                                        24               37                32
Network evening                                    24              35                  34
Morning shows                                        23              43                 30
News magazines                                     22             40                34
CNN                                                      17               47                  31 
MSNBC                                                14               53                 30

Source: Pew Research[21]

A 2014 poll showed that Fox’s popularity among Republicans has only grown, especially among seniors.[22] Fox has a very old viewership; according to Nielsen, its median viewer is 68 years old – great for ratings, but bad for advertising.[23] Companies tend to shun programs with an older demographic because seniors are assumed to be set in their ways and unlikely to be swayed by advertising to buy different products from those they are already using.[24]

Studies show that Fox viewers have a distinct set of political attitudes and voting patterns that are as much anti-liberal as they are conservative. Indeed, they have a different perception of political reality than those of all other television news viewers.[25] As media critic Michael Wolff put it early in the Fox era:

Fox is not really about politics….Rather, it’s about having a chip on your shoulder; it’s about us versus them, insiders versus outsiders, phonies versus non-phonies, and, in a clever piece of postmodernism, established media against insurgent media.[26]

Fox Moves Rightward

In the George W. Bush years, however, and especially after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, there was a noticeable shift in tone at Fox. Rather than being satisfied with a position relatively to the right of the other news networks, it began objectively tilting well to the right of center. The shift was immediately noticed by media observers.[27] Whether driven by politics and ideology or simply by ratings, the shift proved highly successful.[28] As Harvard press analyst Alex Jones observed:

In a conservative time, a time of war, Fox viewers like their news from a strong American perspective, with flags rippling in graphics and a pugnacity toward the nation’s critics – the people John Gibson, host of Fox’s nightly ”Big Story,” referred to last week as the peanut gallery. Such blunt speaking is a point of pride at Fox, which, for example, reports on “’homicide bombers”’ in Israel, rather than “suicide bombers.”[29]

Economists and political scientists began studying the “Fox News Effect,” in which the introduction of Fox News on a cable system had a significant impact on voting for Republican candidates in that area.[30] It also caused both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to increase their support for Republican policies.[31]

Buoyed by its success as an explicitly conservative network, it appears that right-wing bias, including inaccurate reporting, became commonplace on Fox. For example:

A study of network coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 2005 found that Fox was alone in supporting the Bush administration during a period when the wars were going badly by any objective standard. It concluded that “scholars should consider Fox as alternative, rather than mainstream, media.”[32]
Fox instructed its on-air talent to avoid using the term “public option” when discussing health reform and are required to say that global warming is merely a theory “based on data that critics have called into question.”[33]
A 2010 study found that Fox actively spread rumors and inaccurate information about a proposed mosque planned for lower Manhattan.[34]
A 2012 study found that Fox takes a dismissive tone toward climate change and interviews a much larger number of doubters than believers. Fox viewers are much more likely to be skeptical of global warming.[35] A 2014 study found that 72 percent of references to climate change on Fox in 2013 were misleading.[36]
Fox consistently downplays gun violence.[37]

Fox’s bias is so bad that even some conservatives can’t stomach it. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, one of the most conservative Republicans in Congress, has said, “There are certain shows on Fox I can’t watch. Because they’re totally not fair and totally not balanced.”[38]

And Fox’s slipshod handling of facts was even acknowledged by Newt Gingrich during the 2012 campaign. “One of the real changes that comes when you start running for President – as opposed to being an analyst on Fox – is I have to actually know what I’m talking about,” he said. “It’s a severe limitation,” Gingrich added.[39]

It is widely known among public relations professionals that Fox has an “enemies list” of people who are not permitted to be interviewed on the network. All proposed guests are vetted by senior executives and banned if they have criticized Fox or hold views likely to rile its conservative viewers. Media reporter Jim Romenesko has documented many cases of Fox blacklisting.[40] I know for a fact that I am banned from Fox and blogger Andrew Sullivan and others have told me that they are, too. When I mentioned this publicly once, a Washington Post reporter looked into it and confirmed that I am indeed blacklisted.[41] Until my book critical of George W. Bush was published, I appeared on Fox regularly.

Fox Viewers Misinformed

A number of surveys have found Fox views to be less well informed and more likely to have factually untrue beliefs than those who receive their news from mainstream sources. A 2003 University of Maryland study compiled a list of 9 misperceptions about the Iraq war, such as there being a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda and the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, neither of which were true, and asked people which of these misperceptions they believed. Fox viewers were more likely to be misinformed than those getting their news elsewhere.






Table 3

Iraq Misperceptions Based on Primary News Source, 2003

 Statement     Fox     CBS     NBC     CNN     ABC    Print Media     PBS/NPR
Is it your impression that the US has or has not found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al-Qaeda terrorist organization? Percent incorrectly saying yes.     
 Fox 67

CBS 56

NBC 49

CNN 48

ABC 45

Print  40

PBS  16

Since the war with Iraq ended, is it your impression that the US has or has not found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? Percent incorrectly saying yes.    Fox 33    CBS 23    NBC 20    CNN 20    19   ABC 17   PBS  11
Source: Program on International Policy Attitudes[42]

A follow-up study in 2010 questioned people about misperceptions related to domestic issues. Again, Fox viewers were more likely to be misinformed and hold incorrect views than those primarily getting their information elsewhere. As the study found:

Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that:

most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (8 points more likely)
most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)
the economy is getting worse (26 points)
most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)
the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)
their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)
the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)
when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)
and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)

These effects increased incrementally with increasing levels of exposure and all were statistically significant. The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it – though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.[43]

A 2011 survey found that Fox viewers were much more likely to be ill-informed about the Affordable Care Act than those of CNN or MSNBC. People were asked 10 questions about the legislation. Fox viewers tended to get more of them wrong.

Table 4

Statements About the Health Law


 Information source    Low scorers0-4 correct    Moderate scorers5-6 correct    High scorers7-10 correct
CNN    27    39    35
Fox    36    40    25
MSNBC    24    36    39
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation[44]

Another 2011 survey by the Public Religion Institute found that Fox viewers were more likely to believe that whites are as discriminated against as members of minority groups and to hold silly and bigoted views toward Muslims.

Table 5

Discrimination Against Whites Now as Big a

Problem as Minority Group Discrimination


Group    Agree    Disagree
Most Trust Public Television    23    75
Blacks    29    68
Hispanics    30    66
Democrats    36    62
Millennials (18-29)    44    54
Independents    45    52
General Public    46    51
Seniors (65+)    51    46
Whites    51    46
Republicans    60    40
Tea Party    63    36
Most Trust Fox News    68    31
Source: Public Religion Institute[45]

Table 6

Attitudes Toward American Muslims by Trusted Media Source


Statement                                              Fox    Broadcast News     CNN     MSNBC     PBS    General Public
Muslims want to establish Sha’ria law.    52    28    20    29    23    30
American Muslims NOT important part of U.S. religious community.    60    35    41    36    29    43
Values of Islam are at odds with American values.    68    45    37    39    37    47
Source: Public Religion Institute[46]

Also in 2011, Farleigh Dickinson University surveyed New Jersey residents on their knowledge of various foreign and domestic issues in the news. It found that Fox viewers were consistently more likely to have an incorrect understanding than those getting their news elsewhere. As the study found:

People who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all (after controlling for other news sources, partisanship, education and other demographic factors). Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news.

“Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and an analyst for the PublicMind Poll. “Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all.”[47]

A follow-up poll in 2012 asked New Jersey residents 4 questions about domestic and foreign policy issues in the news. Again, Fox viewers were more likely to answer incorrectly. Said the report:

The study concludes that media sources have a significant impact on the number of questions that people were able to answer correctly. The largest effect is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly — a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all. On the other hand, if they listened only to NPR, they would be expected to answer 1.51 questions correctly; viewers of Sunday morning talk shows fare similarly well. And people watching only “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” could answer about 1.42 questions correctly.[48]

A 2015 Farleigh Dickinson national poll again found that Republicans and Fox viewers were more likely to be misinformed about factual matters relating to public policy such as the false beliefs that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that Barack Obama is not a citizen of the United States.

Table 7

American Forces Found an Active Weapons of Mass Destruction Program In Iraq


Definitely true    Probably true    Probably not true    Definitely not true    Don’t know/refused
Republicans    14    37    22    18    9
Democrats    8    24    24    38    7
Independents    8    38    21    21    12
Total    11    31    23    26    10
Primary news source                    
CNN    12    29    23    28    8
Fox    18    34    26    15    8
MSNBC    2    12    24    55    7
Daily Show    11    20    37    28    5
Source: Farleigh Dickinson University[49]





Table 8

President Obama Is Not Legally a Citizen of the United States


Definitely true    Probably true    Probably not true    Definitely not true    Don’t know/refused
Republicans    10    24    27    30    9
Democrats    3    4    14    75    4
Independents    6    16    20    46    12
Total    6    13    21    51    8
Primary news source                    
CNN    4    9    20    62    5
Fox    11    19    30    30    10
MSNBC    2    5    5    81    7
Daily Show    5    11    11    72    1
Source: Farleigh Dickinson University[50]

Fox Peddles Propaganda

A number of Fox competitors and others have charged that Fox long ago ceased being anything remotely akin to an objective news source and now functions basically as a propaganda arm of the Republican Party.

CNN president Jeff Zucker told the Television Critics Association in 2014, “The Republican Party is being run out of News Corp. headquarters masquerading as a cable news channel.”[51]
Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein: “It’s a real mistake to call Fox a conservative channel. It’s not. It’s a partisan channel….To begin with, bluntly, Fox is part of the Republican Party. American political parties are made up of both formal organizations (such as the RNC) and informal networks. Fox News Channel, then, is properly understood as part of the expanded Republican Party.”[52]
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Ricks: “I think the emphasis on Benghazi [on Fox] has been extremely political, partly because Fox is operating as the wing of the Republican Party.”[53]
Former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines: “For the first time since the yellow journalism of a century ago, the United States has a major news organization devoted to the promotion of one political party.”[54]
In the wake of a rare Fox apology for the extreme anti-Muslim views of one of its contributors, which were widely ridiculed in the European press, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald said of the news channel:

In America, it has come to seem normal that a major news organization functions as the propaganda arm of an extremist political ideology, that it spews a constant stream of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, paranoia and manufactured outrage, and that it does so with brazen disregard for what is factual, what is right, what is fair, what is balanced — virtues that are supposed to be the sine qua non of anything calling itself a newsroom.[55]

Although this arrangement unquestionably aids Republicans in winning elections and votes in Congress, it is not without its downsides. One is that Fox now exercises such powerful control over the GOP that it has become the party’s kingmaker in presidential primaries.[56] Indeed, during the 2012 election cycle, a number of aspirants for the Republican nomination had been paid Fox commentators, including Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee.[57] And woe to the Republican who runs afoul of Fox’s top brass or ignores their advice, as Mitt Romney did on one occasion in 2012.[58] Fox is now so important in GOP primaries that candidates must put aside pressing campaign concerns when summoned to a Fox interview, where any error is magnified within the Republican bubble.[59]

Gingrich complained that Fox opted in favor of Mitt Romney early on. “I think Fox has been for Romney all the way through,” Gingrich said behind closed doors in April 2012. “In our experience, Callista [Newt’s wife] and I both believe CNN is less biased than Fox this year. We are more likely to get neutral coverage out of CNN than we are of Fox, and we’re more likely to get distortion out of Fox. That’s just a fact.”[60]

In 2015, however, Romney found himself on the wrong side of the Fox News primary, when Rupert Murdoch turned thumbs down on his candidacy. As the New York Times reported, “It is hard to recall a display of animus as unsubtle as the one Mr. Murdoch and corners of his media empire have unleashed on Mr. Romney in the past few weeks as he has tried to build support for a third presidential run.”[61] Romney soon dropped out of the 2016 race.

Another problem is that Republican voters get so much of their news from Fox, which cheerleads whatever their candidates are doing or saying, that they suffer from wishful thinking and fail to see that they may not be doing as well as they imagine, or that their ideas are not connecting outside the narrow party base. As a recent academic study found:

Exposure to programs featured on Fox News, such as those hosted by Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, resulted in a greater wishful thinking effect by Romney supporters. In other words, while Romney supporters were substantially more likely to predict their candidate would win the 2012 presidential election, watching Fox News programming exacerbated this effect.[62]

It may be that some Republican Fox viewers became complacent and didn’t work as hard as they might if they had been more aware of how badly Romney was doing in the final days of the campaign.

Conservative Blowback

Consequently, some political observers now question whether Fox is a net plus or a net minus for Republican presidential candidates. As Columbia University political scientist Lincoln Mitchell put it after Romney’s loss:

Fox has now become a problem for the Republican Party because it keeps a far right base mobilized and angry, making it hard for the party to move to the center or increase its appeal, as it must do to remain electorally competitive….One of the reasons Mitt Romney was so unable to pivot back to the center was due to the drumbeat at Fox, which contributed to forcing him to the right during the primary season. Even after the primary season, when Fox became a big supporter for Romney, the rift between official editorial position and the political feelings of Fox viewers and hosts was clear.[63]

Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum perhaps put the complicated, double-edged relationship between Fox and the GOP best when he said, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox. And this balance here has been completely reversed. The thing that sustains a strong Fox network is the thing that undermines a strong Republican party.”[64]

We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. 

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