The Daily Show host Jon Stewart is getting copious attaboys from liberals over his "ripping" of Fox News' hypocrisy on #Benghazi, while they ignored Bush-era scandals and lies that led to the deaths of thousands, if not tens of thousands. In responding to Stewart's attack, Fox News' own Greta Van Susteren did something extraordinary: she admitted that Fox News was wrong.
One of the things I love about working at The Daily Banter is that I get to read funny, incisive, and entertaining writing about topics that are of great interest to me, and then I get to completely disagree with them. Chez Pazienza's assessment of Greta Van Susteren's "Short, Stupid Response To Jon Stewart’s Attack on Fox News" couldn't be more wrong if it was making out with its stepsister. Granted, it was short, but it was awesome, for a number of reasons.
Before I get to them, though, I want to explain something about Greta Van Susteren, whom I consider a friend. We disagree about a great many things, and I would rather see Greta almost anywhere in the world but Fox News. Even the best journalist can barely help but be undermined by that organization's toxic news culture. But what people may not know about Greta is that she has a truly sincere independent streak. For example, Greta was the only TV news reporter, not just on Fox but anywhere, to push back on CBS News' early entry in the false Obamacare story sweepstakes. You can agree or disagree with Greta's editorial judgment, but it is hers, and hers alone.
In addition to that, Greta is, as far as I know, the only Fox News on-air personality who is not under the thumb of their draconian PR department. Unlike other Fox personalities, who quake at the mention of even the lowest-wattage Fox flack, Greta doesn't have to clear shit with them. You can bet she didn't run this past them:
Note to Jon Stewart (who I think is smart and clever …but like the rest of us, not always right… but a comedian has, of course, way more latitude – we in the media should get it right)
Last night Jon Stewart opened his show with a segment about Fox News Channel’s aggressive coverage of Benghazi.
Stewart’s criticism of Fox News Channel is that Fox News Channel is more aggressive about President Obama and Benghazi than it ever was about President Bush and Iraq.
Besides the obvious — that almost all the Democrats in Congress voted for the war in Iraq and other media reporting – is my simple note to Stewart: 2 wrongs don’t make a right.
Now, I know that liberals are trained (legitimately so) to see Fox News as a red cape, and to charge, but Greta is 99.9% right, and Jon Stewart is much less right than that. Stewart was correct in identifying Fox News as the leading rear guard for Bush-era fuckery, but he completely shit the bed in swallowing the right wing's #Benghazi boner.
But Greta is also absolutely right that, while Fox News may have had more intensity and stamina in its steadfast defense of Iraq and ignorance of 9/11 intelligence failures, they were not alone. The entirety of the journalistic establishment in this country, and most of the Democrats in Congress, also utterly failed the public. This is not an absolution of Fox News, whose influence was far greater in the wake of 9/11, but it is undeniably true.
This is substantively crucial, because the same dynamic is at play today. Fox News and Jon Karl are leading the charge on #Benghazi, and the rest of the media has to decide how they are going to handle it. As I've consistently said, this emphasis on Fox News, a known quantity, distracts from the antics of journalists who have much more influence with the general public. Those antics have apparently worked on one of our country's most influential cultural icons.
My sole disagreement with Greta's reaction isn't actually a disagreement with her, at all. She accurately says that "Stewart’s criticism of Fox News Channel is that Fox News Channel is more aggressive about President Obama and Benghazi than it ever was about President Bush and Iraq," but Stewart's criticism is wrong. The problem with Fox News isn't a matter of being too "aggressive" in its coverage of Benghazi. The degree to which #Benghazi and talking points are important is a matter of taste, so if all Fox did was cover #Benghazi a lot, I might not watch it, but I wouldn't necessarily care.
The problem is the lying, the inaccuracy, the omissions, and the relentless injection of opinion into programming that is labeled "hard news." As someone who cares deeply about journalism, these are all principles with which Greta is intimately familiar. When Greta says that "we in the media should get it right," I don't doubt that she means it, and she would probably be the first one to tell Bret Baier to read the Benghazi emails before he gets the facts wrong on the air, or to tell Ed Henry to actually read a briefing transcript before making up what was in it, and, not for nothing, would tell any journalist not to lie about having "obtained emails" unless they want to get fired.
At a certain point, though, I wish Greta would realize that to outsiders, it begins to look like her organization isn't interested in getting it right, isn't interested in doing better, even if she is.
I also wish that liberals would put half of the energy they expend on Fox News into making the rest of the media do better, the ones who are interested in doing better. And Jon Stewart needs to get his head out of his ass. In the segment Greta was responding to (watch it here), in order to set up his anti-Fox bit, Stewart succumbed to the mainstream media “reasonable guy” seduction that is then supposed to boost the credibility of the critique that follows. “The white house said they had very little to do with changing the talking points,” Stewart said, adding “Now it looks like this Ben Rhodes did add to the talking points emphasizing the events around Benghazi were not terrorists but related to a provocative anti-Muslim video.”
Except Rhodes added nothing to the talking points (the prep email actually draws from the talking points, which the CIA had already produced), and the line Stewart quotes is exactly what the talking points said about protests in the region, and in fact, tracks with all of the reporting since then. Stewart used that lie, his own lie, to conclude that the White House's treatment of the crisis was "deplorable."
As Greta said, though, two wrongs don't make a right. Stewart's lie doesn't make Fox News' lies, or Jon Karl's lies, any more true.