On Saturday, Oct. 5, “Fox & Friends” anchor Anna Kooiman criticized President Barack Obama for contributing his own money to a Muslim museum amid the government shutdown, unaware her source, “National Report,” is a satirical newspaper. She would later have to correct her blunder in a tweeted apology the following day. Kooiman neglected her responsibilities as an anchor, especially for a top-rated news network.
Fox News has dominated cable news ratings for over a decade now. Some say this is because of the shock and entertainment value of their reporting rather than delivering objective news to the public. Critics, ranging from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow to Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, point toward Fox’s weekly gaffes in reporting as a source of both comedy and genuine outrage. Kooiman’s journalistic slip, however, displays a disturbing breach in responsibility to provide accurate and reliable information to the public.
This is not Fox’s first instance of misreporting. During the 2004 presidential campaign, its website reported false quotes by candidate John Kerry on his personal affairs. In 2009, the network was caught showing images from a previous year’s rally when covering the release of Sarah Palin’s book. More recently, in August they misreported that no Republicans were invited to attend the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, when in fact the Republicans declined the offer.
Kooiman’s error is ironic considering Fox’s recent efforts to rebrand itself and expand its audience, including a dramatic shift of its primetime lineup. Notably, conservative ideologue Sean Hannity was ousted from his 9 p.m. slot to make way for rising star Megyn Kelly, who promised her show would feature a more “moderate and reasonable” dialogue. Kelly’s promotion marks only the fifth primetime change that has been made in the network’s history, a significant indication of its effort to soften political rhetoric with a consistent message. Despite its dramatic alterations, the network’s reach is unlikely to broaden if it replicates an inflammatory mistake like the one on “Fox & Friends.” Kooiman’s baseless, divisive statement bolsters critics’ notion that Fox’s transformation applies only to style, not substance.
All news outlets, especially a station with as much clout as Fox, have a tremendous responsibility to accurately inform the public and meaningfully analyze current events. There are certain standards of journalism that Fox continuously fails to meet, and, though other networks may make mistakes, Sunday’s blunder is just one more in the pile. They have entered an era of lazy journalism in which fact checking and thorough research is an afterthought. It’s dangerous enough when a news organization cannot offer reliable information, but what is more disturbing is that they believe they can change their image when they continue to make senseless errors like these.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 9 print edition. Email the WSN editorial board at [email protected]