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Without irony, Fox commentators blast MSNBC's 'liberal slant'
David Edwards and Greg Wasserstrom
Published: Wednesday November 7, 2007
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Tuesday morning, Fox & Friends decided to report on the purported liberal bias of MSNBC, based on reports that the NBC-owned channel had set out to hire left-leaning commentators for the sake of ratings and that the outspoken Rosie O'Donnell was being considered for a possible prime time show on MSNBC.

"Call me crazy, I majored in journalism, it's why I got into this business in the first point, and no news organization should have a political bent," opined guest Deborah Norville, a former news anchor for NBC News who currently hosts a syndicated news and entertainment show, and at one time hosted a program on MSNBC in the same time slot O'Donnell may soon take over.

"Sure," co-host Steve Doocy said in agreement.

Norville added, "It should be, 'just the facts ma'am' and let the viewers decide."

Some observers might find such an earnest discussion of journalism ethics curious on a network known for its outspoken conservative commentators like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Similarly, Fox News president Roger Ailes ran communications for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, while encouraging what has been called a conservative interpretation of the news. Still, the Fox & Friends team pulled no punches.

Kilmeade and Doocy both referred continually to an article that ran earlier this week in the New York Times. The Times used MSNBC's talks with O'Donnell to explore the network's recent turn to the left in its commentary.

"Lest there be any doubt that the cable channel believes there is ratings gold in shows that criticize the administration with the same vigor with which Fox News’s hosts often champion it, two NBC executives acknowledged yesterday that they were talking to Rosie O’Donnell about a prime-time show on MSNBC," the story reads.

Two NBC executives confirmed in the piece that the leftward turn followed recent ratings success.

"[MSNBC] saw the success of one of their hosts, and now they realize 'that's our audience,' being ultra-left and being very critical of the country," co-host Brian Kilmeade observed at one point in the broadcast, referring to Keith Olbermann, the liberal commentator whose program Countdown has been a ratings boon for MSNBC in recent months. This was again echoed by Doocy later in the broadcast.

"You know, they've decided, whenever that guy at eight o'clock complains about the White House they do very well," Doocy said, again to Olbermann without naming him on the air. "Now they've decided, 'let's just go for it.'"

Norville, who replaced Bill O'Reilly as host of the syndicated tabloid entertainment show Inside Edition in 1995 while still employed by CBS as a news correspondent, again said "call me crazy," as she slammed MSNBC for, in her view, steering away from news.

"If you're a news organization, call me crazy, but I think you need to stick to the news stuff. But the reality is, Rosie is a magnet for controversy, for headlines," Norville, who once gave $1,000 to Republican Steve Forbes' presidential campaign, said.

O'Donnell does at least appear to be a magnet for the attention of Fox News staple O'Reilly, who recently sent a camera crew to disrupt an O'Donnell book signing, according to the NBC program Access Hollywood. During the Fox & Friends broadcast, footage from that incident was used without any mention of its provenance.

The full New York Times article about O'Donnell's negotiations with MSNBC is available at this link.

The New York Times story about MSNBC's decision to tilt left can be found at this link.

The Access Hollywood story about O'Donnell's book signing ambush is available here.

The following video clips are from Fox's Fox & Friends, broadcast on November 6, 2007.