Leave it to Fox News to take this next effort to throw cold water on the coverage of the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace seemed to go off the deep end while crying about the coverage of Kennedy’s death. Wallace decided to compare Kennedy coverage with the coverage of Sen. Jesse Helms after his death in 2008. Obviously, Fox News has a vested interestin portraying other media as having a liberal bias and this is right in line with that theme of drilling into the hearts, minds and souls of their far-right base that the foolish notion that the so-called mainstream media has a pro-liberal bias while pushing the even more foolish notion that Fox is somehow a media outlet that is “fair and balanced” when it is neither.
Here is how the scenario played out as pointed out by Richard Prince on his blog site:
“I also want to talk about the media coverage of Ted Kennedy since his death this week, not only the amount of it, which was extraordinary, but also the tone of it,” host Chris Wallace told his roundtable of commentators.
“And I want to put up the first paragraph of the New York Timesstory on Ted Kennedy’s death. This was the first paragraph this week. ‘Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a son of one of the most storied families in American politics, a man who knew acclaim and tragedy in near equal measure, and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate, died late Tuesday night.”
“Now, here’s the first paragraph of the Times story on the passing of Jesse Helms last year. ‘Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina senator with the courtly manner and mossy drawl, who turned his hard- edged conservatism against civil rights, gay rights, foreign aid and modern art, died early Friday.’”
Wallace turned to Bill Sammon, Washington managing editor of Fox News.
“Bill Sammon, I’m sure some people will be offended that I’m even making the comparison between these two men, but that is a striking difference,” he said.
SAMMON: “It is, and there’s two ways to rectify that obvious double standard. One would have been for the New York Times to find something nice to say about Jesse Helms substantively other than his mossy drawl.
The other, if you’re going to go the — and I think that’s the preferable way to do it, because you want to — when someone dies, you want to find something nice to say. The other way, if they wanted to be fair, would — they would have had to put something in the Ted Kennedy lead about Chappaquiddick, about his demagoguery of Robert Bork being, you know, a lunch counter America and back alley abortions and all that kind of thing. But they didn’t.
So either way you do it, it’s unfair, and that was a striking example.
Wallace turned then to Juan Williams, the only African American on the panel.
WALLACE: Juan, do you think that there’s a striking difference in the way those two men were sent off?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think you should be nice to people at the time of their death in general, no matter what their sins. But in fact, I think it was good journalism. I think, in fact, if you look at the public impact that Jesse Helms had on the country, it was to stand in opposition to civil rights and all — gay rights and all this. And if you look at the public impact of Ted Kennedy . . .
WALLACE: But wasn’t he for something?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, he was for stopping those things, and that’s what the lead said. I don’t have any problem with that. And in fact, Chappaquiddick has been mentioned prominently throughout this whole period.
SAMMON: Not in that lead.
WILLIAMS: Not in the lead, but in the story. It’s not like anybody’s hiding Ted Kennedy’s flaws. We know them.
There’s no question Kennedy’s record was far from squeaky clean.
But, to compare Kennedy’s record to Helms’ record is wrong.
I am not going to beat up on Helms too much here (but I do need to put my argument into context). To compare coverage of Ted Kennedy to the coverage of Jesse Helms ignores a consistent pattern of bigotry (particularly in regards to race and homosexuality) with Helms vs. at least one very bad incident that was a major stain with Kennedy (Chappaquiddick) and his more liberal politics that a lot of conservatives simply don’t like.
Also, spare me the talk of Bork. Yes, Kennedy was very hard on Bork, but Bork was no great friend to minorities or to women (primarily with regard to reproductive freedom).