To judiciously quote the well-known philosopher Jules Winnfield, “ain’t the same [expletive] ballpark, it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same [expletive] sport.” Well, it’s the same sport, but that’s always been true when comparing Fox News to MSNBC, and more recently to CNN, too. Same sport, wildly different teams and leagues, which is one of the problems with media reliability these days.
That’s not the problem Donald Trump has with Fox News today, however. Trump blasted the network this morning after watching Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) making an appearance on Fox & Friends, normally the president’s favorite morning show:
…..So, what the hell has happened to @FoxNews. Only I know! Chris Wallace and others should be on Fake News CNN or MSDNC. How’s Shep Smith doing? Watch, this will be the beginning of the end for Fox, just like the other two which are dying in the ratings. Social Media is great!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2020
The departure of Shep Smith seems like a counter-argument to Trump’s claim here. Fox cut him loose because Smith cut too hard against the grain of Trump-supporting viewers, not because they wanted to dial up criticism of the president. If anything, the network has gotten even less politically correct than it had been during the Roger Ailes era. As to guests like Van Hollen or other Democrats, Fox has always claimed to be “fair and balanced” in part because of their editorial policy of getting competing voices among talking-head guests … even while homogenizing the host voices across the entire broadcast schedule. As we’ll see in a moment, the other networks not only don’t consistently adhere to it, that failure ends up making them look worse than they otherwise would.
For the moment, though, point to one hour of broadcast time on the network — other than maaaaaayyyyybe Fox News Sunday — in which Trump can expect to be regularly criticized by Fox News personnel. Trump does complain specifically about Wallace, but Wallace balances out his skepticism of Trump with hard questions aimed at Trump opponents, too. He set up Pete Buttigieg for a spanking over abortion on Sunday, for instance, and shredded Hakeem Jeffries over the Souvenir Impeachment Pen Giveaway options earlier this month. Those don’t happen at all without at least some journalistic distance.
That’s not to say it’s all strategic for Wallace. He and our pal and colleague Katie Pavlich got into a heated exchange over the facts around impeachment, which might have been what caught Trump’s attention about Wallace:
These are mild prices to pay for a network that may not be 24/7 Trumpvision, but it’s at least 23/6.5 Trumpvision. To compare, let’s recall the clip that Karen Townsend first posted earlier today on supposedly neutral CNN:
This is one of the most offensive segments I’ve seen in a while.
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) January 28, 2020
Not even the same league, as Jules Winnfield would say. No one wants to hear criticism of themselves or their points of view from institutions they see as their own team; I certainly would be annoyed by that too, especially if I thought they were misrepresenting my positions. But in this case, Trump’s undermining the only friendly competition that exists to CNN and “MSDNC”, at least in the same-sport category. A little perspective is in order here.