As you may have heard, Bob Kerrey excoriated Fox News during the 9/11 hearings yesterday, for violating a fundamental journalistic standard:
This document that Fox News earlier, this transcript that they had, this is a background briefing, and all of us who have provided background briefings for the press before should beware. Fox should say, “occasionally fair and balanced,” after putting something like this out, because they violated a serious trust. All of us that come into this kind of an environment and provide background briefings for the press will always have this as a reminder that sometimes it isn’t going to happen, that it’s background. Sometimes, if it suits their interest, they’re going to go back, pull the tape, convert it into transcript and send it out in the public arena and try embarass us or discredit us. I object to what they’ve done and I think it’s an unfortunate thing they did.
Watching Fox immediately afterwards, you would have thought that this little scolding was the Big News of the day, overshadowing the specifics of Clarke’s testimony entirely. Shepherd Smith interviewed Jeff Birnbaum about it, before noting, “For the record always fair and always balanced!” And then, a few minutes later, to further prove their general fairness and overall balance, Neil Cavuto sat down with frequent Rush Limbaugh guest host Mark Levine:
CAVUTO: All right, let’s talk about Clarke first. Now the release of these tapes come out in the middle of him bashing the Bush administration, how ill prepared it was for dealing with terror, what do you think the fallout is?
LEVINE: I think he’s a disgrace. I think a year and a half ago, you guys have tapes, in which he did a press briefing, a backgrounder, in which he was praising Bush and condemning Clinton, and today he’s testifying under oath I believe, condemning Bush and praising Clinton.
CAVUTO: Bob Kerrey said it was a mistake for that to be released and a mistake for Fox essentially to have released it.
LEVINE: Well who cares what Bob Kerrey says? I don’t really care what Bob Kerrey says. I think the American people should have all the information, they should know about Richard Clarke. Richard Clarke is trying to take down the sitting Commander in Chief. Why shouldn’t we know that he’s completely changed his views over a year and a half time. So Bob Kerrey can have his views, his views will be expressed in this commissions report. And this whole commission has become a phony enterprise…
I’ll tell you what bothers me. Let’s put aside politics for a minute. We have 150,000 men and women under (sic) uniform, who are in Afghanistan, who are in Iraq, who are in every hellhole on the face of this earth, defending this country. And what’s the Congress doing? Attacking the president. What’s this commission doing? Attacking the President. There should be no commission while we’re at war!
Gosh, if there’s a better way to demonstrate your impartiality than to feature an interview with Mark Levine minutes after Clarke’s testimony ends, I certainly can’t think of it.
(Transcripts are mine, hence no links.)
Billmon has more thoughts about those leaked tapes here.