Fox News can't handle the truth
Thomas Ricks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning military journalist, won't be invited back to Fox News any time soon. Not after his appearance yesterday, when he told the truth about Fox News - and was promptly hustled off the air.
For those of us who track the misadventures of the infauxtainment network, the Ricks incident was a hoot. Fox tapped Ricks to weigh in on the Benghazi "scandal" - a "scandal" ginned up by Fox, which thinks that President Obama mendaciously orchestrated some kind of coverup - and teed up Ricks by touting his credentials. He was supposed to be on the air for three minutes. He never got that far. Check out the transcript, and you'll see why.
Jon Scott (co-host): "Pressure mounting on the Obama administration over its response to the deadly attack on our consulate in Benghazi, as Catherine Herridge reported just minutes ago. Several top GOP lawmakers are backing off their criticism of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, instead focusing on the White House. Two senators even expressing concerns about a possible White House cover-up. Let's talk about it with Tom Ricks. He is author of The Generals. He has spent decades covering our military. He joins us now. (Addressing Ricks) Senator John McCain said in the past he would block any attempt to nominate Susan Rice to become U.N. - I'm sorry, secretary of state. She's currently the U.N. ambassador. He seems to be backing away from that. What do you make of it?"
Ricks: "I think that Benghazi generally was hyped, by this network especially, and that now that the campaign is over, I think he's backing off a little bit. They're not going to stop Susan Rice from being secretary of state."
Scott: "When you have four people dead, including the first dead U.N. ambassador - U.S. ambassador in more than 30 years, how do you call that hype?"
Ricks: "How many security contractors died in Iraq, do you know?"
Scott: "I don't."
Ricks: "No. Nobody does, because nobody cared. We know that several hundred died, but there was never an official count done of security contractors dead in Iraq. So when I see this focus on what was essentially a small firefight (in Benghazi), I think, number one, I've covered a lot of firefights. It's impossible to figure out what happens in them sometimes. And second, I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox was operating as a wing of Republican Party."
Scott: "All right. Tom Ricks, thanks very much for joining us today."
Ricks: "You're welcome."
You gotta love Scott's "thank you very much for joining us today," which translates to "Get the hell outta here." But let's start back at the beginning. The lead-in was classic Fox: "Pressure mounting on the Obama administration over its response to the deadly attack...." Actually, the "pressure" is just Foxchatter; within the closed conservative loop, it's standard practice to keep claiming, without a shred of proof, that Obama deliberately suppressed evidence of a terrorist plot in Benghazi. And "two senators" are expressing concerns about "a possible White House cover-up?" Wow, two senators...now there's a trend.
And somehow Fox expected Tom Ricks to hew to its faux story line. After all, he "has spent decades covering our military." But clearly the Fox bookers didn't do their homework about Ricks, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security. If they had, they would've discovered that Ricks dwells in the reality-based community. He spent a lot of time on the ground in Iraq, and subsequently wrote Fiasco, a breakthrough book that eviscerated George W. Bush for his "incompetence and arrogance," assailed the intelligence community for its screwups, ripped Congress for its oversight failures, and chastized the media for its lapdog behavior, especially during the runup to war.
Fox is mentioned a few times. Eight months into the disastrous war, the U.S. was losing a solider per day. Ricks was there, hanging out with a colonel named Teddy Spain. Spain was stewing over the death of one of his guys. As Ricks wrote, "The loss was on Spain's mind when he watched Fox News that evening: 'It talked about Michael Jackson, and about Martha Stewart, and so on, and about 15 minutes into it, they said, Oh and yeah, we lost a soldier in Baghdad today.'"
It's clear, from Ricks' work, that he (rightly) viewed Fox as the top media lapdog for the Bush regime, cheerleading for the Iraq war and willfully blind when the war went bad. Hence his (rightful) annoyance that Fox is now so hyped about Benghazi, a true tragedy that is nonetheless a molehill when weighed against the mountainous scandal of Iraq. Especially since Susan Rice was merely repeating the intelligence community's talking points about the Benghazi perpetrators, whose aims and affiliations are still in doubt. Which explains Ricks' money quote yesterday: "I've covered a lot of firefights. It's impossible to figure out what happens in them sometimes. And second, I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox was operating as a wing of Republican Party."
Whereupon Ricks got the quick hook, because Fox can't handle the truth.
Afterward, Fox news executive Michael Clemente tried to spin the hook. He said that Ricks' "goal was to bring attention to himself and his book." Credit Clemente with an infauxtainment classic; in point of fact, Fox gave Ricks the attention by putting him on the air as a military expert. Fox brought attention to his new book. As for Ricks, he simply said yesterday, post-hook, that "they asked my opinion, and I gave it."
No doubt he understands why Fox yanked him off. Three weeks ago, in a blog post on foreignpolicy.com, he wrote that Obama's re-election was probably a boon for Fox: "After all, it is much easier to work in opposition. You don't have to deal with messy realities, or defend the awkward compromises that come with it, and you can criticize at will...So maybe their business model is safe." It's safe indeed, as long as truth-tellers like Ricks get the hook.
Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1