Greenwald’s ‘Outfoxed’ to Debut July 13

Jul 12, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Filmmaker Robert Greenwald officially launched his attempt to do to Fox News Channel what film mischief maker Michael Moore has done to President Bush with “Fahrenheit 9/11” Monday at a Manhattan press conference at which the producer-director said, “There isn’t one smoking gun.”

Little of what was shown in Mr. Greenwald’s film clips from “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism,” at the press conference, which included internal memos and comments by former Fox employees, was new to anyone familiar with Fox News Channel or its critics’ insistence that despite its “Fair & Balanced” slogan, it is a Republican cheerleader that takes its cues from the Bush White House.

The most remarkable clip, an outtake, shows White House correspondent Carl Cameron warming up for an interview with President Bush by chatting about Mr. Cameron’s wife’s role in Mr. Bush’s 2000 campaign.

Little new ground was broken in the criticisms lodged in the clips and the comments made at the press conference. Mr. Greenwald said the most-watched Fox News Channel is an “opinion station” that displays “pseudo patriotism,” and “ranting and raving, not research and reporting.”

The hotel conference room would have been packed even if the attendees hadn’t included a handful of Fox News employees, taking notes and recording what was said, and, in the case of correspondent Eric Shawn taking aggressive issue with it. Mr. Shawn declared that, contrary to unsurprising anecdotes shared by the ex-Fox workers, he was never told by Fox management what to report or how to report it.

When Mr. Shawn suggested in a question that there might be a link between “Outfoxed” and the liberal causes of the backers of its backers. This includes MoveOn.org, which did not speak out during the program Monday; Common Cause, whose president Chellie Pingrey consistently brought the case against Fox News, which is owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, back around to the evils of media consolidation; and the Center for American Progress, the policy think tank formed by former Clinton advisor John Podesta.

“Finally liberals are fighting back,” said The Nation columnist Eric Alterman, representing the Center for American Progress, after the press conference.

Mr. Shawn was not the only reporter to wonder if Mr. Greenwald, who said he did not seek Fox comment or permission to use its video fear that would give time to Fox and its lawyers to try to stop the release, wasn’t guilty of some of the same journalistic sins it imputes to Fox News Channel. When Mr. Shawn was cut-off during attempts to press the question, a wire service reporter finished the question. Mr. Greenwald said he had not heard yet from any Fox lawyers.

But outside the conference room, a member of the Fox News Channel’s publicity staff was handing out a statement from the network, as well as clarifications about four of the ex-employees featured in “Outfoxed,” including a former correspondent who was not renewed, Fox said, because “he was considered to be a weak field correspondent and could not do live shots.”

Two were characterized as never having worked for Fox News Channel but rather as having worked for WTTG-TV, the Fox-owned station (not affiliate, as the Fox statement inaccurately labeled the station) in Washington, D.C.

A booker in the D.C. bureau in 1998 and 1999 had, said, Fox “expressed no concern about the editorial process while she was employed there.”

Internal memos giving editorial direction to Fox producers and reporters, some of which had previously been reported, are referenced in “Outfoxed.” Fox challenged the New York Times, which published a magazine story last weekend about Mr. Greenwald’s film and agreed to wait until late in its reporting process to approach Fox for comment, to put their internal memos and editorial directions up for public comparison.

“Outfoxed” will have its premiere Tuesday night, July 13 on the campus of New York University’s New School. The screening will be preceded by panel discussion on media consolidation and reform in which participants will range from Mr. Alterman and columnist, author and Arianna Huffington (who ran briefly for governor of California last year) and Nicholas Lemann, the dean of Columbia University School of Journalism.

The film also will be shown and discussed July 18 at house parties hosted across the country by members of MoveOn.org and Common Cause.