Dance, Foxholes, Dance!
You see, because my position was apolitical, very few of the journalists knew of my personal political leanings. I was, to them, just the guy who would get them on flights (and sometimes travel with them) to distant forward operating bases. When I wasn't in the field covering my own stories, I served as sort of a liaison between journalists and field units, getting writers, photographers and broadcasters on the ground to write about the war and answering their questions when they called. In other words, about half my job was to be a info source and/or travel agent for journalists.
On more than one occasion, I worked with Fox News producers and reporters. Once, in Herat, I saw one of the Foxholes approached by a couple of soldiers. One of the soldiers said he was glad they could finally talk to a "conservative" reporter. The reporter laughed and said, "Someone's got to balance out the liberals." But, later, I ran into that same reporter in Bagram. He wanted an interview with some soldiers and, when I grabbed one at random to ask if he wanted to talk to Fox News, the soldier--an Army captain--said he didn't, because, as a Democrat, he wasn't a fan of the network's politics. The reporter, shaken up, said that was ridiculous. The network had no politics, but only told the truth. "Whatever," said the captain and walked off. The reporter, after a few beats narrowed his eyes at the soldier's back and quietly hissed, motherfucker.
Just before Thanksgiving, 2004, a Fox News producer with whom I'd worked a number of times in Kabul and Bagram showed up on Bagram Air Field to shoot what military PA people call "Hi Moms"--the little snippets of video of service members saying "I'm Corporal Bill Jones from Paducah, Kentucky and I want to say 'Happy Thanksgiving' to my wife, Sheila and my parents Don and Lorraine in Louisville." I was confused about why he would be doing this. My unit--and every PA unit--shot hundreds of these every year for holidays, the Super Bowl, the Army/Navy game, etc., and provided them free of charge to all who asked for them. When I asked the producer why he had come, he said he'd had the same question when he was told that he should know better. It was "part of (his) contract," he said, to get on his knees "and give Bush a blowjob" every month or so.
I don't think it's necessary to rat these guys' names out--though they're written in my notebook alongside where I scrawled what they said--because one of them I thought was a pretty good guy, but these are just two of the instances of clear bias on the part of Fox. Many of the questions they asked seemed designed to lead to soundbites declaring everything in Afghanistan just wonderful, while other reporters seemed to want to tell a story well and thoroughly--CBS's Lara Logan, CNN's Ryan Chilcote and Newsweek's Tim McGirk deserve special attention. (Only once did I meet a reporter with a clearly anti-US, anti-military bias: Carmela Baranowska, who treated US bases like free hotels, ate up more than her share of MREs, once washed her dainties with the Marines' limited drinking water at a FOB and then, when she was finally kicked off the bases for being useless, disappeared. After we scrambled the OHSHIT scouts to track her down, she popped back up on the radar, complete with a convenient and completely bullshit story about Marines terrorizing Afghans. I can't and won't go into all the reasons her career-enhancing documentary is ridiculous, but you'll just have to trust me on this.)
I guess the reason I got to see a behind the scenes performance of the "Fox News Two Step" was because I took my job seriously. I knew Americans weren't above reproach in Afghanistan, but I also saw that 99 percent of service members really wanted to help people. I believe in the military, in service and I believed in what we were doing in the country (though some of the choices made by Karzai and Khalilzad still make me want to perform an autolobotomy by banging my head against a wall). Because I was so obviously a cheerleader for soldiers, I suppose the Fox reporters just assumed I was a pro-Bush guy.
But my experience is just another version of what you can see on Fox every day, ratcheted up to the nth degree. When Fox's anchors accuse Democrats of rooting for terrorists or Bill O'Reilly rails against "Secular-Progressives"--wink, wink--but the network's spokespeople still claim to be balanced when their Republicanism shows, you're seeing the FN Two Step on a level only a tiny bit subtler than the admission of proverbially fellating George W. Bush.
(Although the fact that the network has recently kicked off two awful, awful right wing "comedy" shows seems to be giving the trick away, no?)
Since everyone with half a brain and basic cable knows that Fox is a Republican house organ, why do they even do this dance at all? Matt Stoller found some evidence today suggesting that, despite Fox's high ratings, it might not pay that well to cater to the old and crotchety demographic. If it became too obvious what they were doing, the median age of O'Reilly Factor viewers might slip all the way up to dead. The Democratic refusal to hold a debate on Fox is not only smart in the short term--a fact proven by the results of the last Fox-hosted Democratic debate--but will, in the long term, also serve as another nail in the coffin of Fox's credibility. And, since the network is a proven enemy of the Democratic party (and the truth), that's a good thing.
So anyone who wants to see Democrats do well or simply cares about seeing candidates involved in an honest debate about the issues should be happy the Dems dropped Fox as a host. The national party should ignore anyone who acts like it was a bad idea. And those sounds of outrage you hear from the Fox studios? Those are just the cries of increasingly irrelevant blowhards, scared for their paychecks and two-stepping as loudly as they can.
Update: As should be clear to you by now, I did not say that "Fox News reporters in Afghanistan think American soldiers there are 'motherfuckers.'" I said that a Fox reporter called a soldier a motherfucker. Truth be told, I've called a few soldiers that myself (and at least a few of them were--and are--my dear friends). The word isn't the issue. What is important here is that I, and, I'm sure, other PA types, got glimpses behind the "fair and balanced" curtain to see the withered Roger Ailes pulling pro-Republican levers. Not everyone gets that chance.