Fox: 1; White House: 0

Obama’s attacks on FNC Betray Commitment to ‘Transcending Politics’

Matthew Bodnar

Staff Reporter

Barack Obama, who often speaks of transcending politics in this country, is finally starting to appear vulnerable and every bit the partisan politician that he claimed he was not. The President who has always appeared calm and composed in the face of opposition, is beginning to show signs that something is making him quite uncomfortable these days. That something is the Fox News channel, and in an uncharacteristic move for a sitting President, Mr. Obama has stepped into the ring and begun attacking a specific news network.

The First Amendment of our Constitution states among other things, that Congress shall make no law, “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” This time-honored American tradition protects the opinions and views of all citizens and grants the press the freedom to report the truth. The President, when he is officially sworn into office, swears to protect the Constitution of the United States of America and thus this amendment. The President must balance his official roles in foreign policy and domestic affairs, while serving the country as a figure head. As President, Mr. Obama represents all Americans.

Is it really President Obama’s place then to attack a news channel with so many other pressing issues on his plate? Iraq, Afghanistan, and the economy are just a few examples of the issues facing our President, and yet his Administration has found the time to go on the offensive against Fox News.

White House communications director Anita Dunn, spoke to The New York Times, considered by some to be a left-leaning publication, and said, “As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.” She continued to say that Fox News acts, “almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.” When referring to Fox News, President Obama, himself, stated there is “one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking my Administration.” The official White House website has also used valuable taxpayer money to attack Fox News commentator Glen Beck for his “lies” regarding Mr. Obama’s health care reform.

It appears that this administration is refusing to distinguish between the concept of news programs and opinion programs. On-air personalities like Glen Beck and Bill O’Reilly are commentators whose shows are classified as “opinion” programs. As such, these individuals have the right, as guaranteed by the First Amendment, to appear on television to present their opinions and stances on political issues.

One might consider Obama’s decision to attack Fox News as unwise, when one considers the ratings, which are the industry standards for measuring TV viewership in America. Despite the harsh words and accusations from Obama’s Administration, Fox News is easily the top rated cable news network in the country. According to the Huffington Post, Fox News has benefited from another dominant quarter, claiming the top 10 cable news programs in the 3rd Quarter for 2009. Fox News averaged 2.25 million total viewers in prime time for the third quarter, up 2% over the previous year. That number is more than CNN (946,000, down 30%) and MSNBC (788,000, down 10%) combined.

“ The O’Reilly Factor” led all cable news programs with an average of 3.3 million total viewers for the quarter, up 12% over the previous year. “Hannity” (2.6 million, up 9%), “Glenn Beck” (2.4 million, up 89%), “On the Record with Greta van Susteren” (2.2 million, up 16%), and “Special Report with Bret Baier” (2.0 million, up 20%) complete the top five cable news programs in America.

Contrary to Mr. Obama’s opinion, the audience that actually tunes into Fox News each and every day is quite diverse. One would think if you listen to the Administration that only right-wing radicals and conservatives make up Fox’s audience. However, a poll conducted for the League of American Voters by the Global Marketing Research Center shows Fox News has the broadest range in audience. According to the poll, 46 percent of those who watch Fox News “just about every day” are Democrats or Independents. Fifty percent of the audience who watch it “several times each week” or more are Democrats or Independents. Overall, the poll showed that 21 percent of all American voters watched Fox News every day and 18 percent watched it several times each week.

President Obama, who claims to be in touch with everyday Americans, may want to reconsider his Administration’s position on Fox News. The average American voter has chosen to watch Fox News, and the Administration cannot spin that in any way. By attacking Fox News, President Obama runs the risk of alienating American viewers who tune in everyday. Some may consider this an unwise decision, especially since Americans are the ones who give the President his job. While the move to attack Fox News certainly appears questionable now, we’ll officially see how this affects President Obama in 2012.