Thursday, February 3, 2011

Going "On the Record"

                Greetings.  This week I look at the Fox News Channel program “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” I have included any video of the program which was available online.
               Miss Van Susteren began her program with a story about the situation in Egypt.  Recent student riots calling for the overthrow of current President Hosni Mubarak have thrown the Middle Eastern country into political chaos.   The show started with a phone interview of Fox News reporter Dominic Di-Natale and live video of the ongoing protests in Cairo, Egypt’s capital. Beginning in this manner allowed the viewer to instantly be immersed in the story.  As to the nature of the reporting, Di-Natale seemed to follow the recently espoused view of the American government: that the students are correct and President Mubarak should leave office.  Di-Natale characterized the pro-government supporters as militaristic, aggressive, and focused only on how they were harming the students.  Not once did he or Van Susteren mention the plight of the pro-Mubarak demonstrators.   Also, the anti-government group was depicted as the “good guys.”   Here, Fox News fell from its goal to be “fair and balanced.”  Even if President Obama sympathizes with the students, the media should cover the viewpoint of the pro-Mubarak demonstrators.  Doing so would make the newscast more objective.

                Van Susteren’s program continued with the Egypt story by speaking with John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas.  The interview with Bolton centered on how the Egyptian military should react and how the United States should play a part, while Huckabee’s interview was focused on what the situation in Egypt means for Israel.  I always like hearing from John Bolton, as he provides keen insight that is usually free of bias.  Bolton continued to be neutral as he pondered whether or not the Egyptian military will side with President Mubarak or the students.  As far as U. S. foreign policy goes, Bolton felt that President Obama should not have said as much as he did.  While it was good to break America’s silence on the Egyptian issue, Bolton thinks siding with the students could put the United States in a tough position with its other allies in the region.  Bolton’s sentiments were shared by Huckabee, who had met with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu early on Wednesday.  It was good to see the Israeli component of the story covered, yet “On the Record” paid more attention to how President Obama may have made a mistake in his remarks. This angle would probably not have been covered with such fervor on other networks.   Huckabee mentioned how Israeli leaders are worried that the United States may treat their country in the same way as Egypt, another ally of America.  Huckabee let some of his own feelings about the Egyptian situation seep into his reporting, as he inflated the potential spread of revolt throughout the Middle East.  On the whole though, Bolton and Huckabee did a fine job addressing key points of the greater Egyptian revolt.  Van Susteren maintained a fairly neutral attitude for the duration of the Egypt story.  Her demeanor was a good counter to those of Di-Natale and Huckabee.  I enjoyed hearing how the American response could affect the situation.  One piece of the story that was not covered was the economic aspect, but I am sure “On the Record” and Fox have examined that angle elsewhere.

                Another key story of “On the Record” was on the progress of the potential repeal of the health care bill passed last year.  The Senate voted Wednesday along party lines, failing a proposed repeal movement. Van Susteren spoke with Senator John Thune, R-S.D., about the push for repeal and the vote.  Much of their conversation was about how there would have been no drive to repeal had the members of Congress and the President read the bill before passing it.  While making sense, statements such as these are considered to be more right-wing or conservative.  This Republican slant dominated the interview.  Van Susteren many times made allowances for the Republicans, saying that they cannot be blamed for wanting to repeal the health care bill.  Both Thune and Van Susteren expressed the idea that Democrats wanted to force the bill through Congress without much thought just so they could have something to say they did.    Fox News once again did not remain “fair and balanced,” as no Democratic senator was interviewed about the decision.  On the bright side, Van Susteren and Thune spoke of how the American public wants reform in the health care system.  Mentioning this generalized sentiment showed a glimmer of bi-partisanship and goodwill for the benefit of all U.S. citizens.   Also, the matter of the individual mandate’s constitutionality was discussed.  The individual mandate is one of the main arguments for why the health care bill is unconstitutional, so it was helpful for “On the Record” to provide evidence as to why judges across the country are finding fault with the bill.   This allows the viewer to go do his/her own research into whether or not the bill should remain a law.

-Zach Brown


  1. Oh, wow, Zach, I am seeing your post now. Thanks so much!

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful analysis of Fox's often false stance that it is fair and balanced.