Yesterday, when Ed Morrissey previewed the story of Houston Fox News reporter Ivory Hecker, he finished his analysis with a cautionary note. “This revelation had better be worth it.” Hecker had accused the management of her news station of “muzzling” her, engaging in censorship and betraying the interests of the viewers. Sure enough, just as Ed predicted, Hecker received a call that same day instructing her to “turn in her reporting equipment.” So was the revelation worth it after all?
As promised, Project Veritas ran the story last night. Whether or not the public expose was worth costing Hecker her job (and possibly her career) is left to the reader, but I found myself coming away with a sense that she wasn’t working at the forced labor camp she seemed to be describing. To be sure, she has pointed out some rather questionable decisions on the part of the station’s management and perhaps even some ethically questionable choices. It probably wasn’t the most pleasant place to work (at least for Hecker), but I somehow doubt they’ll be losing their license over this. Here are a couple of the highlights from Project Veritas.
Hecker: “What’s happening within Fox Corp is an operation of prioritizing corporate interests above the viewer’s interest and, therefore, operating in a deceptive way.”
She also obtained audio of Fox 26’s VP and News Director, Susan Schiller, telling Hecker to “cease and desist” posting about Hydroxychloroquine on social media…
Things turned racial behind the scenes, according to Hecker, who recorded her superior, Lee Meier, as they judged the newsworthiness of a story based on specific demographics — on one occasion, a Fox 26 executive said that a “poor African-American audience” wouldn’t care about Bitcoin stories.
For their part, a spokesperson for Fox 26 Houston described the situation as, “a disgruntled former employee seeking publicity by promoting a false narrative produced through selective editing and misrepresentation.”
Most of Hecker’s accusations come off as more of a generalized complaint about the corporate culture at the station rather than specific, documented acts of malfeasance. She speaks of the management prioritizing a narrative and “corporate” interests over the best interests of the viewers. In the end, she winds up citing only two incidents as examples of these accusations. I’m not going to say that neither of them is worthy of concern, but it’s something of a stretch to define them as intentional media malpractice.
The first deals with the fact she was told by management to stop making social media posts promoting stories about the efficacy of Hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID patients. Hecker had interviewed a doctor in Houston who had been prescribing the drug and seeing some success with certain patients. We now know that the trashing of Hydroxychloroquine indeed was a narrative (and a false one at that) but Fox 26 Houston was hardly the only outlet in the country pushing it at the time.
A bit more disturbing was the revelation that the CDC was dumping a lot of advertising money around, including to Fox 26 Houston, and the management there was cognizant of that fact. While Fauci was vacillating back and forth on the usefulness of the drug, it was clear that many wanted a thumbs down to be delivered on it after Donald Trump promoted it. That definitely strikes me as ethically dodgy, but it seems like an odd hill to die on in terms of your career.
The second accusation involves suggestions of racism. This comes from a story on bitcoin that Hecker was working on. One of the station’s executives told her that “a “poor African-American audience” wouldn’t care about Bitcoin stories.” He also noted that Black viewers make up a significant part of the station’s audience during the evening news. I’ll readily admit that the attitude being displayed definitely suggests a tendency to generalize along racial lines and not in a flattering fashion. The executive clearly sees Black viewers as being impoverished and unable to participate in cryptocurrency experiments. But it also doesn’t seem to rise to the level of slinging the n-word around or refusing to hire employees of color. But every media outlet tries to be keenly aware of who their primary audience is and tailor content around what they hope will be popular.
I really don’t have a firm conclusion here either way. I think Ed Morrissey really nailed it in his predictions from yesterday, however. Hecker’s complaints sound more like a disagreement with company policy. While her arguments could certainly be seen as valid (depending on your personal tastes), story selection choices are the purview of the management. If they choose not to run cryptocurrency news items or want to eschew reports of the effectiveness of a certain drug, that’s their call in the end. And directing reporters as to which stories they should or shouldn’t cover is not “censorship.”
So now Ms. Hecker is out of a job and may have a hard time finding a new one after drawing this sort of national attention to her previous employer. Returning to our opening question, was it really all worth it in the end? I’ll leave the reader to be the judge of that, and ultimately only Ivory Hecker will be able to say for sure. But the realities underlying her charges didn’t seem to live up to the initial billing for me.