Fox News wants to maintain an ideological divide within the media for marketing reasons, says a senior reporter that recently left the network.
Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Monday, Major Garrett explained that his former employer has a vested interest in making sure the media is as polarized as possible.
NPR fired longtime analyst Juan Williams last week after he expressed fear of Muslims in airports.
“Look, Bill, I’m not a bigot,” Williams told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. “You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
“NPR was increasingly unhappy with him,” Garrett told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough Monday.
“[NPR] was getting blowback from listeners about seeing Juan so often on Fox. That speaks to a problem that neither Fox nor NPR can solve — they don’t want to solve, which is the polarization of American media,” Garrett said.
“For a certain amount of marketing points of view, Fox wants to keep that polarization saying, ‘Look, we are different. We’re dramatically different. You can see how we are different. If you like that difference, you better come over here and you better stay here.’”
“That is an embedded part of the marketing that surrounds what happens in the news division at Fox,” he said.
Time’s Mark Halperin pointed out that Williams isn’t always treated as an equal at Fox News.
“Juan Williams’ place on Fox gives them kind of a fig leaf credibility to say, ‘We bring on divergent voices,’” said Halperin.
“There aren’t very many and frankly, you know, when I watch him on, he’s not always treated with that much respect.”
“And he’s frequently outnumbered,” added Garrett.
“Let me ask you what is going on within Fox?” wondered Halperin. “How much would they be actively strategizing about taking advantage of this for publicity, for energizing their viewers?”
“I don’t think it is any coincidence the day it happened, he got a huge contract at Fox and Fox planted a flag in the ground saying, ‘He is ours, he is going to stay ours and if you are outraged, this is where you need to be,’” answered Garrett.
“That is an embedded part of [Fox News CEO] Roger Ailes’ DNA.”
Williams accepted a $2 million contract from Fox News less than 24 hours after being fired from NPR.
“Roger had to love that day,” said Scarborough. “He has to absolutely love the fact that another liberal media outlet blundered their way right into his hands.”
“You said it, Joe,” replied Garrett.
This video is from MSNBC’s Morning Joe, broadcast Oct. 25, 2010.