Dumb Like FOX (and MSNBC)

Dumb Like FOX (and MSNBC)

The saying “dumb like a fox” is ironic in that the trotting four-legged creature actually is sly. My headline above is not ironic, because the popular cable news channels truly are stupid and want you to be just like them. That was my premise when I conceived of and titled this blog post.

Coverage by MSNBC and Fox News immediately following the Trump verdict largely proved my hypothesis.

“Felony” or “Travesty”: What’s the Verdict?

The jury announced the result of its deliberations at 5:05 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 30. Within the first half hour, MSNBC – a left-leaning network, shall we say – already had used the adjectives “first ever,” “convicted felon,” “unanimous,” and “definitive” to describe the result. Fox News, which is synonymous with right-wing television, spent that same timeframe labeling the verdict as “partisan,” “unfair,” “terrible,” and “reversible.”

In the five initial post-verdict TV hours I studied, Fox devoted 100 percent of its coverage to the Trump case. During that time, 38 Fox News reporters, analysts, and guests spoke live. All 38 denigrated the process, criticized Democrats, urged viewers to vote for Trump, dismissed the importance of the verdict, or a combination thereof.

“This is a disgrace, a rigged trial,” commented Donald Trump himself, “but the real verdict is November 5.” All 38 speakers echoed that message on Fox. Not one reporter, commentator, or guest said anything positive about the outcome – other than predicting that it actually would help Trump win the election.

During the same five hours, MSNBC also devoted all of its coverage to the verdict. A total of 23 people appeared on MSNBC in that span. And, sure enough, all praised the jury’s decision, lauded the prosecution for bringing and winning the case, and emphasized the significance of the verdict.

“Trump was convicted by a jury of his peers,” noted one MSNBC commentator. “The judicial system worked like clockwork. The system held.”

This was all as I had expected. True, both networks presented the same actual news regarding the jury’s findings; both Fox News and MSNBC showed the entire post-verdict speeches by Mr. Trump and the district attorney; both laid out the timeline for sentencing and appeals; and both read on air the statements released by the Biden campaign and others. But it was the tone and commentary that distinguished them dramatically.

MSNBC appeared determined to focus on and defend all of the participants in the trial – with the exception of the defendant. Its hosts and guests (which included key witness Michael Cohen) praised the jury, the prosecutors, and the trial judge. The “rule of law” was upheld, according to MSNBC’s coverage.

Fox News also stressed the importance of the same fundamental concept, but said this case proved that the rule of law is virtually dead. Per Fox News, the jury and judge were “biased,” the judicial system “weaponized,” and America is now “a banana republic” rather than a nation operating under constitutional and legal standards.

Interestingly, despite MSNBC’s confidence in the rule of law and the Fox News belief that Trump is treated unfairly in court, it was the latter and its guests who expressed the most sureness in how appellate courts ultimately will rule. I counted at least five legal experts who told the FOX News audience that the verdict “likely” or “certainly” will be reversed on appeal. None predicted that Trump will lose again. MSNBC’s analysts opined only that “we shall see” and “it is a stretch to assure” that the conviction will be overturned. Both networks doubted that an appeal will be decided before November.

The verdict’s impact on the November election itself provided another major distinction in the networks’ coverage. Many Fox News guests and commentators boasted that Trump will benefit from the New York case, with one going so far as to say this verdict “guarantees Trump wins in 2024.” Meanwhile, MSNBC seemed pleased to suggest that the verdict gives Biden the ability to label Mr. Trump a “convicted felon” and to ask this question: “Why should Americans vote for a convicted felon?”

Beware of Infomercials

I do not mind if you have a news source of choice. But please do not be as dumb as Fox News and MSNBC must think you are. Most of what they are showing you is not news at all; it is opinion, propaganda, entertainment, and stoking of outrage. Fox News shamelessly treated its verdict coverage almost like a five-hour infomercial for Trump’s re-election campaign. While MSNBC tried to be more professional in its tone and content, one can easily imagine how that would have changed had the outcome been flipped. Despite its efforts to appear neutral, MSNBC came across as too happy for the somber occasion.

These networks want you to accept their one-sided messages – and to keep watching so they can make money by selling ads and subscriptions. Keep your eyes, ears, and minds open for the truth, and don’t buy the rest.

Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics. 

Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.

Principle Based Politics does not endorse or support any particular political candidate or party.

7 Comments
  • Veronicas.harvey@gmail.com
    Posted at 13:18h, 04 June Reply

    The lack of critical thinking when taking in information, be it from the tube or social media is incredibly dangerous. It is on top issues list for American Psychological Association. You may appreciate article below. One of the psychologist quoted is in your back yard!

    https://www.apa.org/monitor/2024/01/trends-fighting-misinformation-disinformation-election-year

  • James Loerts
    Posted at 13:20h, 04 June Reply

    There was a time when journalism was a respected profession. No more. While there are of course a few journalists who still strive to earnestly report the truth, all the major outlets and their leadership are among the most biased people in the country. We the American people and our nation are the worse for it.

  • Gary Hammer
    Posted at 13:32h, 04 June Reply

    Amen, Brother! I quit watching FOX and other national networks seven years ago! I don’t miss being programmed every morning. . .

  • william killion
    Posted at 23:35h, 04 June Reply

    Too many people rely on one news source. Personally, I start with the Hill, then the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Politico, and Real Clear Politics. The last one is a news consolidator that features left and right leaning articles, as well as some right down the middle. I pay only for an online version of the Times and WSJ. The cost is minimal. I don’t read any of them from cover-to-cover. I don’t include Fox or MSNBC. They are both equally biased in my view.

  • Paul Silseth
    Posted at 00:58h, 05 June Reply

    I see you have blocked me since I didn’t think completely like you on the last article

    • Admin
      Posted at 01:00h, 05 June Reply

      Huh? You are one of my favorite readers.

  • Dknight
    Posted at 05:00h, 05 June Reply

    The vast majority of the media…and information flow in general as we live our lives…is pro democrat…and anti republican. It has been this way for decades. The dems control information dissemination..forget FOX..and CNN..and MSNBC. It is all mostly propaganda..not news…everywhere.

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