Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, emphasis mine)
First, there were the repeated references to FOX News during the campaign. Then, three newspapers which endorsed John McCain for President – The Washington Times, The New York Post, and The Dallas Morning News – were booted off the campaign airplane because of overcrowding. Today, President-Elect Barack Obama took a few questions after his statement on the economy at his first news conference since the election. Noticeably, Obama took questions from the AP, Reuters, ABC, CBS, NBC, The New York Times, and both major Chicago papers, the Tribune and Sun-Times — but not FOX News.
Combine these incidents with the increasing noise being made by Senate Democrats about bringing back the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” and I think there is legitimate reason for Christians and conservatives to be concerned about an intensified effort to suppress the possibility of dissenting speech. Let’s look at the trend.
Take the papers that endorsed McCain. Three high profile daily papers in three of the largest cities in the country, which had all covered the Obama campaign from the beginning, were kicked off of the campaign’s airplane because of space concerns. Who did they have to make room for? Jet and Essence magazines. They were evicted from the plane for two monthly publications geared toward a certain demographic. Three newspapers with wide circulation and broad, demographically diverse readership, all of which endorsed Obama’s opponent, were removed for two publications which, let’s be honest, would be far less likely to ask serious, hard questions of the now President-Elect. And you can add an asterisk by the New York Post since, of course, it’s own by News Corporation, the same company that owns FOX News.
Now, FOX News… oh, FOX News… the highest rated cable news channel in the nation… the scourage on the press and the cable dial according to many liberals. The network, and Sean Hannity in particular, were frequent targets of Obama and his surrogates – a convenient scapegoat for the so-called smear tactics.
Let’s pretend for a moment that their criticisms of the network were grounded in fact. Let’s pretend that FOX News promoted a conservative agenda and was anti-Democrat, anti-liberal. On what basis is there for an open and honest campaign, like the one Obama supposedly ran, to repeatedly lob criticisms at the network? If I were Obama and had nothing to hide, I would’ve been on FOX News personally at least once a week making my case to the voters watching the highest rated network. This is not what happened. Now the network is ignored when it comes to the new President-Elect’s first news conference. Instead, he answered the questions of the same old, so-called mainstream, liberal media. As a quick aside, it’s worth noting the question he spent the longest amount of time on was about a new dog for his girls. That’s hard-hitting journalism right there.
Of course, FOX News is not conservatively biased. It just seems that way to liberals because there is actually a free-flowing discussion of ideas, policies, and news-making events. For every Hannity there is Colmes. Bill O’Reilly gets criticized by viewers from all sides and goes out of his way to avoid what many might call “extreme views” on both sides of the political spectrum. A recent independent study showed that FOX News, during a given time frame, showed an almost equal amount of positive and negative stories on both Republicans and Democrats (the difference was numerically insignificant). Meanwhile, NBC’s cable sister MSNBC had a whopping 73% negative rating against the McCain campaign (and I think that number is probably low).
Now I know that the McCain campaign had its own things to say about MSNBC, but the fact of the matter is they never went out of their way to avoid MSNBC, or CNN, or any other news outlet for that matter. Who did Sarah Palin sit down for her first major television interviews with? Not FOX! It was Charlie Gibson of ABC. It was Katie Couric of CBS.
FOX News’s personalities haven’t a shred of the vitriolic rhetoric found in the likes of Keith Olbermann. How is anyone supposed to take Chris Matthews seriously as a journalist with his repeated “tingly leg” type comments? Obama avoided The O’Reilly Factor for over a year, until he conveniently agreed to appear during the heart of the Republican National Convention. But it’s FOX News that is biased, FOX News that is to blame for American’s distrust of journalists today! The gall.
The bottom line is that the Obama campaign, and now transition, seems to be going out of its way to avoid news outlets that show a modicum of independence from the Democratic talking points. Are we supposed to believe the endorsements of those three papers played no role in their ejection from the plane? The freedom of the press, it would appear, only extends to those who are willing to buy into the new President-Elect’s cult of personality.
Obama has said before that he is against the reinstitution of the “Fairness Doctrine.” Given the actions of his campaign and transition, however, are we supposed to buy that? Are we supposed to believe that he will stand up to the desires of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid if they push for it? It will be an attack on free speech and an attempt to squash dissent before it has a chance to be heard by the masses.