Can Fox News Cover Democrats Fairly While Supporting Republicans?

Bloomberg reports this week that News Corp., which own both Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association in June—a contribution that dwarfs its contributions to a handful of democratic candidates. Never mind that, as Steve Benen notes, when asked recently if it was appropriate for Fox News to actively support the Tea Party movement, News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch said “I don’t think we should be supporting the Tea Party or any other party.” News Corp has always more openly political—and conservative—than most other media companies. But, as Ben Smith says, “the huge contribution to a party committee is a new step toward an open identification between Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and the GOP.”


News Corp. spokesman Jack Horner told Smith that "News Corporation believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA’s pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy." Corporations, of course, have the right to support the political causes of their choice. And in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that the government can’t limit the amount of independent political advertising companies can buy, companies are spending more on political campaigns. That doesn’t mean that those companies’ customers will necessarily like the idea that their money is being used in support of certain causes—as Target recently found out when it spent $100,000 in support of a Republican candidate for Governor of Minnesota who not only favors lower corporate taxes, but also wants to ban same-sex marriage.

Fans of Fox News are unlikely to object to the idea that its ad revenues go to support Republicans. But it certainly undermines Fox’s credibility as a news organization that its owners openly support one political party. It’s a little like the reporter who tried to ask Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino a question at a press conference wearing a Florida Gators cap. Petrino, not unreasonably, refused to treat a fan of a rival team as a serious reporter or answer her questions, and the radio station she worked for fired her shortly afterward. Except what Fox is doing is on a much larger scale—it’s more like it would have been if Jim Nantz had covered the last Superbowl wearing a Saints jersey and cheering whenever the Saints scored.

Horner told The Washington Post in an interview that “It's patently false that a corporate donation would have any bearing on our news-gathering activities at Fox News or any other of our properties.” That’s hard to believe, especially in light of Fox’s evident bias in favor of Republican and conservative causes. It’s true that media companies regularly support different candidates and political parties. But the contributions are typically much smaller, and much more evenly balanced between the two parties. And it’s hard, as a reporter, to produce a piece that you’re aware will anger your employer. Now Media Matters reports that Fox News have advocated for Republican candidates or against their Democratic opponents in all 50 states.

Nathan Daschle, the head of the Democratic Governors Association—who says Fox News has refused to let him go on the channel and discuss the issue—says Fox is now “literally the mouthpiece of the Republican Party.” In a scathing open letter to Fox News head Roger Ailes, Daschle wrote

In the interest of some fairness and balance, I request that you add a formal disclaimer to your news coverage any time any of your programs cover governors or gubernatorial races between now and Election Day. I suggest that the disclaimer say: ‘News Corp., parent company of Fox News, provided $1 million to defeat Democratic governors in November.’ If you do not add a disclaimer, I request that you and your staff members on the ‘fair and balanced’ side of the network demand that the contribution be returned.

That won’t happen. Nor is Fox likely to lose many viewers over this. But it’s time to see Fox News for what it is—not news, but paid political advertising.

Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Keep reading Show less

Essential financial life skills for 21st-century Americans

Having these financial life skills can help you navigate challenging economic environments.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash
Personal Growth
  • Americans are swimming in increasingly higher amounts of debt, even the upper middle class.
  • For many, this burden can be alleviated by becoming familiar with some straightforward financial concepts.
  • Here's some essential financial life skills needed to ensure your economic wellbeing.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less

New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

Surprising Science
  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.