“The end of an era” was how a female Fox News anchor whose name, ironically, did not appear on-screen, described Bill O’Reilly’s ousting from the network. She went on to describe his show’s high ratings and congratulate him on making strides in the industry.
This moment truly exemplifies how Fox News handles its coverage of high-profile sexual assault allegations. Fox’s hyper-partisan editorial stance has resulted in politically selective coverage of sexual misconduct that protects conservative personalities.
After New York Times reports of multiple allegations of sexual harassment and costly legal settlements with victims, O’Reilly, the notoriously conservative host, left Fox with a $25 million severance package and a critically damaged reputation. This was a major story on every news site and network news channel – except for Fox. A quick search of Fox News’ website will produce literally zero articles or videos about O’Reilly’s scandal.
Fox News has spent 21 minutes covering O'Reilly and 12.5 hours on Harvey Weinstein. https://t.co/MzAcmkZOTm
— Axios (@axios) October 28, 2017
Avoiding news coverage of internal scandals isn’t the norm for major news outlets facing similar circumstances. NPR broke the news themselves that its Head of News, Michael Oreskes, has resigned facing allegations of sexual harassment just one day after the Washington Post reported NPR’s investigation of Oreskes. Following Mark Halperin’s relief from his post at MSNBC for similar allegations, the network acknowledged and addressed the issue live on Morning Joe.
Interestingly, a Fox search of the name “Harvey Weinstein” will yield a flood of articles and reports of Weinstein’s crude behavior and subsequent fall from grace. This abundance of coverage is what should be expected of an extremely important issue. But what’s even more interesting is that most articles were keen to point out the millions in donations that Weinstein has made to Democrats over the years, as well as his ties to Clinton.
Harvey Weinstein sues former company claiming it has information that could exonerate him https://t.co/e3UsAv5A1F
— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 27, 2017
According to ex-Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, this is indicative of Fox’s attitude toward sexual harassment. On her new NBC show, Megyn Kelly Today, Kelly said that Fox executives “permitted [O’Reilly] with management’s advance notice and blessing …. to attack the company’s harassment victims yet again.” And an official statement from O’Reilly published by Fox called the allegations “unfounded.”
After the passing of longtime Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, the network was quick to publish dozens of tributes commemorating his contributions, despite his infamous harassment of Fox Anchor Gretchen Carlson. Featuring headlines like “Roger Ailes was a warrior who fought hard for the causes he believed in,” Fox’s idolization of Ailes in no way reflected his history of sexual harassment.
— Slate (@Slate) October 26, 2017
Of the few articles covering lawsuits against Ailes, none gave traction to his victim’s claims. One article published a line from Fox’s legal filing in a harassment suit against Ailes filed by host Andrea Tantaros, saying “she is not a victim; she is an opportunist.”
On the other hand, Fox has relished the chance to cover breaking news of sexual harassment allegations against Kevin Spacey, a Democratic donor and friend of Bill Clinton, publishing 15 articles in just three days.
It is undeniable that Fox’s culture routinely excuses sexual harassment, and this pattern of coverage exists for a reason: Fox News is willing to politicize its treatment of sexual harassment cases to the point where it has become anti-left propaganda.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) November 2, 2017
The vast imbalance of coverage is no mistake – Fox is exploiting an opportunity to associate its political opponent with criminal behavior and hypocrisy. This is a not so subtle implication that political ideology is linked to one’s propensity to commit disgusting acts of misconduct.
Selective silence and distraction serves as an effective tool for Fox News, a network that with each day looks more and more like state television under the Trump administration. Fox has most recently been blasted for choosing to talk about Facebook’s hamburger emoji on the morning of the bombshell indictment of Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Coverage like this keeps Trump’s core base of voters, who dedicate most of their media consumption to Fox, from ever getting close to a balanced and candid look at political events.
It’s often said in media circles that Trump takes his cues from Fox News. But when it comes to Fox’s ability to smoke screen an issue from their supporters, they are definitely taking cues from Mr. Trump.