Glenn Beck has reflected on his time at Fox News, and now says he’s sorry for parts of it. “I remember it as an awful lot of fun and that I made an awful lot of mistakes, and I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language,” he told Megyn Kelly. “I think I played a role, unfortunately, in helping tear the country apart.”
Indeed, he did.
Under Roger Ailes at Fox News, and later at his subscriber-only television network, Beck exposed millions of Americans to inane, alarmist conspiracy theories, fueling paranoia in his most vulnerable viewers and upping the anxiety of countless grandparents.
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Anyone looking for a case study in how not to interview an author can look no further than this painful encounter between Reza Aslan, the writer of a new book on Jesus, and Fox News host Lauren Green. Aslan, a scholar of religion, has written a new book called Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, and it has inspired some backlash, particularly on the right. Among many other condemnations and mockeries, BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski suggested it might be the “most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done.”
The video speaks for itself, but here are a few thoughts.
How starting a war with Fox News’ Decision Desk made for great TV.
[Image: Fox News]
Of course, TV news shows have always put a premium on appearance, more so for women than for men. And it’s hardly a revelation that some networks place more pressure on women than do others: C-SPAN has no makeup room at all, just a collection of powder compacts that guests can use if they are so inclined. At MSNBC, Rachel Maddow is known to prefer minimal makeup, while other anchors want more, and the artists oblige with a range of choices, from neutral tones to berry hues. Bloomberg TV tends toward the corporate aesthetic; CNN favors a professional style that makes women and men look crisp, as if they have been ironed. As for Fox, suffice it to say that there is a YouTube montage devoted to leg shots of Fox anchors, who are often outfitted in body-hugging dresses of vibrant red and turquoise, their eyes enhanced by not only liner and shadow but also false lashes. A Fox regular once commented to me that she gets more calls from network management about her hair, clothes, and makeup than about what she says. “I just think of it as a uniform,” she said of her getup.
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A survey by Farleigh Dickinson University asked 1,185 random people about their news consumption and also random questions about domestic and current events like whether Bashar al-Assad was still in power, the American unemployment rate, and which party holds the most seats in the House of Representatives right now. And this is what they found:
The largest effect is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly — a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all.
The fortuitous timing of President Obama’s announcement on same sex marriage meant that it came during Shepard Smith’s show on Fox News, giving him the first incredible reaction on the network. Shep played the clip of Obama’s statement that was aired on ABC, then declared: ”the President of the United States, now in the 21st century.” Then while discussing the clip with reporter Brett Bair asked if the GOP could campaign on the issue ”while sitting very firmly, without much question, on the wrong side of history on it.”