This week’s story about members of the Fox News PR team posting “sockpuppet” comments in threads on various blogs (like our sister site TVNewser) was big, but this one is far worse: NPR reporter David Folkenflik‘s new book “Murdoch’s World” reports that the team schemed to send a journalist a fake tip in order to discredit him.
Here’s the deal: as Folkenflik tells The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple, the Fox PR team refuses to participate in any story that compares the channel to its competitors in tracking general cable news trends—they don’t even want to acknowledge the existence of CNN or MSNBC.
Crain’s New York Business reporter Matthew Flamm was trying to write a story about how CNN briefly beat Fox in the ratings game in February 2008 when he received this “tip” from an “inside source” at the network:
“FOX PR reps would never confirm this, at least not on the record. But [Bill] O’Reilly, not Brit Hume, will…anchor our texas and ohio primary coverage on Tuesday night. They want to copy the success that MSNBC has had with Olbermann and Matthews anchoring their coverage.”
It sounds like a big deal because, in order to confirm its “fair and balanced” status, Fox maintains a clear wall between “objective” reporters like Hume and opinionators like O’Reilly—and such a move would represent a breach of that wall.
But the story wasn’t true.