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Fox “bored” with Tsunami

Posted by: on Jan 7, 2005 | No Comments


Whereas rival CNN has torn up its regular programming and dispatched an army of staffers to the ravaged region, Fox News appears to be going through the motions on the colossal story. Rather than breaking news, Fox feeds off partisan sparks. And it’s hard to get angry about a natural disaster because empathy does not lend itself to outrage — although that hasn’t stopped the high-priced talking heads at Fox from trying to turn the tsunami into a contentious issue.
If the Republican National Committee doesn’t have an angle on the story, then neither, apparently, does Fox News. And the last time we checked, there were no GOP talking points on natural disasters of biblical proportions. The best Fox News could do in terms of political spin was to bolster claims by the Department of Defense that the Bush administration was not slow to react to the crisis. Fox also routinely referred to the White House’s “initial” aid package as being worth $35 million, not the more accurate and paltry sum of $15 million. At one point during the Dec. 31 telecast, a picture of George Bush appeared in the upper left-hand corner of the Fox News screen with the words “Stop the Bush Bashing,” according to News Hounds, a Fox News watchdog site.
Mostly, though, the coverage has been nasty. Fox News host John Gibson bemoaned the fact that U.S. relief — getting water, food and shelter to millions of destitute people — might be part of an insurance scam to simply pay for the cost of rebuilding a resort community. “This is the travel industry, major big hotel companies,” he said last week. “How is it that United States taxpayers are going to be convinced you have to build hotels in Phuket?” He worried aloud that “Thailand, Indonesia, India, the countries that got hit [will] say, ‘We need dough and we need buckets of it to fix all this so Swedes can go on vacation in Phuket again.'”
O’Reilly blamed the “liberal press, which hates Bush” for criticizing his early response to the disaster, noting the initial $15 million pledge gave “secularists” an opening to go after Bush. (Secularists?) Belittling a Democratic strategist on his show, O’Reilly bellowed, “Nothing in your liberal world is going to be good enough. You guys — you’ve got to get off your contempt, your hatred.” Yet the only ones surrounding the tsunami coverage with hatred were the team at Fox News, which apparently feels naked without it.
O’Reilly also mocked Germany for only donating $27 million: “They’re America’s biggest critics, France, Germany. And they’re just pounding us day in and day out. And they — and when it comes down to crunch time, they don’t have anything to give.” Germany has since upped its pledge to nearly $700 million, dwarfing the U.S.’s aid package.
Meanwhile, Hannity decided that the wake of the killer tsunami was the perfect time to attack the United Nations: “The U.N. has proven themselves incapable, not trustworthy enough, to handle this or any other humanitarian effort.” Hannity dismissed the suggestion of his guest, Bill Orme of the U.N. Development Program, that, “This is a time to concentrate on the victims of this troubled disaster and what we can do together to help them out first.”
Of course, this being Fox News, it’s not surprising that partisan pundits bungled the facts. Hannity blasted U.N. emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland for having “the unmitigated gall and audacity to lecture North America and America and the world about being stingy.” Egeland did no such thing. And Fox-friendly pundit Ann Coulter accused former President Bill Clinton of attacking Bush in public for being too slow to respond to the disaster, which is patently false.
Leave it to Fox News to make the tsunami story about Clinton. And leave it to Fox to grow bored with the biggest natural disaster news story in nearly half a century.

Look, I’m not saying CNN is great, and its no big secret that Fox is the media wing of the GOP. Nor is it shocking their coverage of the biggest natural disaster in memory was turned into a despicable partisan hackfest.
But when it comes to TV news in the US, CNN’s one of last places where even basic lip-service is paid to journalistic ethics AND it has at least enough viewership to have a pulse. Sure, they get it wrong — a lot — but CNN has a semi-reputable foundation and 20 year history which they seem unwilling to throw away. And that should be encouraged. I suppose.