Two weeks ago, I appeared on a political panel on the Fox News morning show “Fox and Friends.” It was one of few appearances I’ve made on the program since the 2008 presidential campaign. Back then, wearing my political junkie hat as editor of politicalderby.com, I went on-air often and handicapped the horse race.
Who’s up? Who’s down? Which horse is leading at that very moment?
I wasn’t paid for my appearances in 2008 and I won’t make a penny this time around the track either. But when you love politics the way I do, having the opportunity to speak your mind and banter on live television is much more valuable than a few bucks in consulting fees.
Lately, my life has been mostly consumed with writing fiction, traveling and speaking, and I haven’t worn the political derby hat nearly as often as I’d like. But I still love the ups and down of political campaigns, I’m a fan of the cable news format and I certainly look forward to more opportunities as the 2012 race hits the quarter pole.
However, the recent appearance reminded me just how many misperceptions there are about Fox News.
A new friend on Facebook emailed immediately after the segment wanting to know if, during the commercial break or after the interview, any of the hosts had tipped their hands about their personal favorites in the 2012 Republican nomination race.
First, why would they do that? Second, and more importantly, who says they’re all pulling for a Republican horse and not the incumbent president?
My friend — like many, it seems — perceives that because of its prime-time programming and the steady drumbeat of their competition at CNN and MSNBC, Fox News and its parent company, News Corp., only hire registered Republicans or members of the tea party.
In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.
There are conservatives on their payroll, to be certain. Fox News’ weeknight prime-time lineup leans heavily to the right, and weekend programming features personalities such as former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Oliver North. You also know that, until last month, the Fox News schedule featured one of the country’s most prominent conservatives in the media: Glenn Beck.
Still, it’s a terribly naive notion to assume that you must be a card-carrying member of the GOP to work for the No. 1 cable news channel. The network employs people across the political spectrum, including, believe it or not, some who don’t enjoy politics at all.
That morning after the segment, on the way back to my hotel, the driver noted how much he hated transporting Fox guests.
He ranted and raved from midtown to Brooklyn about conspiracies and the evil forces within the building I’d just left. Really?
The regular morning show hosts, Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade, are all smart, well-read journalists. They know much more about politics than you might imagine from television personalities on a show that isn’t meant to be hard-hitting news.
But, to my knowledge, they don’t gather for secret Republican strategy meetings in the basement of the News Corp. skyscraper.
I know Doocy best. We’ve spoken many times on-air and by email about the 2008 race, and he never once indicated a personal preference. I also know producers at various levels, some of whom have moved on from the network, and still they’ve never once shared their own personal political preferences.
They fully understand what many of us sometimes forget: Their job is to report news and, in the case of a morning show, have some fun doing it.
As I told my new friends, one on Facebook and one driving me away from the black cloud over the studio, the truth about Fox News is that they are Republicans and Democrats, independents and libertarians, Jews and Christians, husbands and wives, single and married working mothers, just like the rest of us.
The truth about Fox News is that the people there don’t root for the president’s failure, at least not the people I know, and they’re not part of some vast right-wing conspiracy.
But they do know their audience, and they do an exceptional job of serving the demographic. That’s called good business.
I don’t agree with everything I see and hear on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” “Hannity” or “The O’Reilly Factor.” But I’ve seen enough to agree with the way Fox runs its network and the professionalism of its on and off-camera teams.
What’s the least shocking truth about Fox News? They don’t care who you vote for, they just want you to watch. Fortunately for them, millions of you are, no matter what your favorite horse looks like.