The battle within Fox News

Earlier this week, this blog considered a question from a reader about whether Fox News could be categorized as an organ of the mainstream media. The answer: In terms of reach and impact, absolutely. In terms of standards, no way. The trouble is that Fox News, seizing on a convention of mainstream newspapering, has set up a stark division between news and opinion divisions — with programs like “Special Report” in the former and “Fox & Friends,” “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Hannity” in the latter.

Sensing greater freedom because of their designation as “opinion” purveyors, anchors in these divisions have trounced journalistic norms. Think of host Sean Hannity doing a video promotion for then-candidate Donald Trump or paying for Newt Gingrich to fly to a vice presidential interview. Or think of this more prosaic example, when Hannity used online polling during the 2016 campaign to buttress positive Trump coverage, despite guidance from Fox News’s standards-setters. Pressed on this discrepancy, Fox News said that Hannity is an opinion guy.

This unbridgeable gulf looms over the Fox News operation as the weekend approaches. From the White House briefing room podium Thursday, press secretary Sean Spicer quoted reporting by Fox News senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano suggesting that former President Barack Obama got assistance from British intelligence (GCHQ) to surveil then-candidate Trump. Napolitano made the claim on the morning opinion show “Fox & Friends.”