Days of Change

Lying About Lies | March 3, 2015

Bill O’Reilly has been under attack for years. Not as much during his time at “A Current Affair,” but during his time as a program host at Fox News. The focus on O’Reilly started in “earnest” with a book by writer turned actor Al Franken. O’Reilly tends to embellish (the whole Peabody vs. Polk award thing) and that made him perfect fodder for liberal hit pieces on him as a vindication of Brian Williams. These stories alone say two things about David Corn and others promoting it. First, that they consider Brian Williams a valuable media tool for the cause and that their morality is relative. If someone on the “other” side does something wrong, it is rendered morally neutral.

I have not come to praise O’Reilly or to bury him. He is not the face of Fox News reporting. Unfortunately, that honor goes to Shepherd Smith, whose drunk mugshot can be found around the internet. Instead, I wanted to write about a claim that Fox News won a court case so they could be allowed to lie.

The link to the article is here, but this site headlines the fact that “the media” and not just Fox, can lie. The story starts in 1996 when Fox News had just started and wasn’t even available in much of the country. Also, the player in this incident was a Fox Network affiliate, WTVT. Jane Akre and her husband were hired by the station and produced a story about Bovine Growth Hormone, used by the cattle industry to increase dairy yield.

The problem goes something like this. Akre and husband produced a piece about BGH and Monsanto’s role in manufacturing and marketing it. The story could have been about the widespread use of BGH or the health effects of using it in milk, which is under dispute. Monsanto learned about the story and contacted Roger Ailes, who was in charge of Fox News Channel and some news programming on the Fox Broadcast Network. WTVT planned to include responses from Monsanto and also requested the story be revised, presumably because of unverifiable claims. Akre claimed to make multiple revisions and threatened to take her story to the FCC if the story wasn’t aired. She and her (now ex) husband were terminated.

I’m going to break into the story to point out that while I don’t personally like Monsanto and their weird attempts to make individual farming impossible, several groups like the FDA, the NIH and the WHO have found no adverse health effects in humans from BGH use. However, some countries have banned it for the negative health effects on the cows themselves. By most objective standards, BGH is not a “bad” substance.

Anyway, Akre sued Fox for making them change the story and firing them for being whistle blowers. Here’s where it gets slightly interesting. From the site that claims network news can lie.

Akre was awarded a $425,000 settlement. Inexplicably, however, the court decided that Steve Wilson, her partner in the case, was ruled not wronged by the same actions taken by FOX.

Steve Wilson’s lack of an award is not inexplicable. Of all the claims made in New World Communs. of Tampa, Inc. v. Akre the case name that was not mentioned in the article, the only one that was accepted was that Jane Akre was terminated after threatening to go to the FCC for WTVT distorting the news. Her husband made no such claim, and was not awarded a settlement. WTVT’s stance was that they simply chose not to renew their contract.

This point is important. The jury only awarded a judgment that Akre should not have been terminated because she was in the process of blowing the whistle on a potential rule violation by her employer. They did not find that WTVT actually did lie. That was not their purpose in the trial.

On appeal, WTVT, the Fox Broadcasting Network, and several other television networks by amicus briefs, argued that whistle-blower laws can only apply to established rules and regulations and not policies. Essentially, the FCC made it a policy that news should not be distorted, but had no real way of objectively measure that distortion. They punted and only stated it should not be done. Akre’s award was dismissed because she was threatening to report her employer for distorting a story, something that could really not be proven. Activists (truthers, anti-vaxxers, conspiracy nuts) would have you believe that their crazy theories are objective truth. Fire can’t melt steel.

Here’s my point. Reporters have editors because news stations and newspapers want accountability. Editors often show bias, but there is little recourse to bias in media accept more voices in the media. Conservatives don’t like the mainstream media lies, but the last thing they want is some federal Board of Truth to decide what stories are distorted. We know what happens, the state will choose the stories that benefit them. The O’Reilly attack is a perfect example of why the government (especially the FCC, which wants to oversee all internet traffic) should not have that power. Most of the media is on the side of government and would have buried Brian Williams’ errors if they could.

If someone is lying, someone else will find out. That’s the great thing about a country where all citizens are created equal.

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2 Comments

  1. liberal hit pieces on him as a vindication of Brian Williams.

    Long before Lincoln said it. the left has ever ignored the truth of the teaching, “You don’t make a weak man strong by making a strong man weak.”

    Comment by Mary — March 4, 2015 @ 10:48 pm

    • The Democrats thought they had invented the secret sauce for winning elections. They lost Congress immediately after winning the presidency. Obama lost percentage points between his first and second elections, which hadn’t happened since GWH Bush lost in 1992. The party’s “gains” have been entirely because of sheer gall, the willingness to lie and cheat and dare the other side to fight them.

      Comment by 1539days — March 5, 2015 @ 2:38 am


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