Hey, it might even be the funniest story of the year. It's definitely in contention for the Hubris Hall of Fame.
Greta Van Susteren, host on "Fox News", wrote an article here yesteday on the Huffington Post, "Free Legal Advice (and Free Decency Advice) for NBC and CBS."
Now, before we get into what she wrote, and whether she had a good point or not, it's hard just to get past that headline. I mean, seriously, a host on "Fox News" giving "Decency Advice" to anyone??? Let alone on the hated Huffington Post! If this was The Onion, they would reject it as unbelievable beyond even their own joke standards.
Ms. Van Susteren's Free Advice -- which was worth every penny -- took the two networks to tasks for getting the name wrong of the suspected murderer at the Navy Yard, and chastised them to correct their error.
She was 100% right. And she was pathetic, disingenuous, empty and meaningless in doing so. The day that Ms. Van Susteren writes a similar, long rant on The Drudge Report slamming her own network for getting dangerously hurtful, indecent facts completely wrong is the day her "outrage" will have substance, rather than coming across like a self-aggrandizing promo for her own TV show, on which she repeatedly makes clear she had the wrongly-accused man on as a guest.
The point isn't that what she was saying was right (it was), it's that I don't believe she meant it. "Fox News" regularly gets huge, significant facts of national importance wrong. And rarely am I aware of them correcting them. And never am I aware of her blasting them, let alone so publicly. Perhaps the facts they get wrong aren't of the same, visceral, damaging impact as that on this man's life (though, in fairness, maybe they have, but as someone who rarely watches "Fox News," I simply have no way of knowing all the great many things they get wrong) -- but I do know that the major facts they do get wrong, regularly and indecently -- and don't ever correct -- have a far, far far, far, far, far greater impact on the nation.
"Fox News" gets important facts SO deeply and indecently wrong that a poll here by Fairleigh Dickinson University showed that people who watched no news at all were more informed that people who watched "Fox News"!!
And I do know that after the Boston Marathon bombing, Fox News" did wrongly report that an arrest had been made. (Though in fairness they didn't give wrong names.) And I know, too, that when the Supreme Court handed down its vastly-important ruling on health care, "Fox News" not only got the ruling wrong for its misinformed viewers, but "stonewalled" its error.
I've reported in the past how Glenn Beck reported on "Fox News" that his 9/12 Anti-Everything March on Washington had gotten 1.5 million people to attend -- something it was in his and Fox's best interest for their viewers to believe in their damning criticism of the Obama Administration...though official reports were actually just 30,000 to 70,000. (To support his outlandishly false number, Mr. Beck infamously said, "We had a university, the university, I think it's the University of -- I don't remember which university it is -- um, look at the pictures.")
There was a liberal march in Washington where Fox showed a picture to demonstrate how poorly attended it was -- except that it was a totally different rally, using a photo from years before that didn't have buildings that should have existed today. What also didn't exist was Ms. Van Susteren's outrage.
There was the time that "Fox News" was trying to make a point for their mis-led viewing public to believe about Bill Clinton and his supposed involvement with 9/11, and aired deleted footage from a fictional ABC TV docu-drama movie, The Path to 9/11, to prove their supposedly factual case.
And you had Brian Kilmeade saying on "Fox News" that "Every terrorist is a Muslim" -- while adding to emphasize his indecent point: "You can't avoid that fact." I'm going to guess that that egregiously false "fact" caused great, lasting pain to an entire people. Though not enough to register on the Greta Van Susteren Outrage-o-Meter.
"Fox News" is the network which has systematically gone out of its way to make its viewing public believe that Barack Obama is a traitor, Muslim, terrorist, Nazi, dictator, socialist -- a man their chief Roger Ailes, to foster national mistrust, has said "has a different belief system than most Americans." (And he has said, as well, that NPR executives are, "of course Nazis.") Is the U.S. President fair public game to such attack, and is it much less damaging to him personally than the damage to the mis-identified shooter? Absolutely, no question, worlds apart. But -- when your facts are wrong...they're wrong, and where is Greta Van Susteren slamming them? And further, once again, I would suggest that unrelenting, indecent lies against the President of the United States purely to foment national dissent and discord does worlds more damage. It doesn't justify the terrible problems of others -- but it puts it in perspective.
And on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on...
None of this lets CBS and NBC off the hook. None. They were wrong, egregiously wrong, and they should do everything they possibly can to rectify the damage they caused. They made a mistake. Even if "Fox News" makes indecent mistakes on a near-daily basis, that doesn't justify a single one of your own.
But Greta Van Susteren's faux-outrage is empty, meaningless and hilarious.
And no more hilarious than when she offered her "free legal advice" in capital letters for emphasis --
"It is LIBEL PER SE TO FALSELY ACCUSE SOMEONE OF A CRIME. Bingo! They did it."
Except that...well, you see, she's wrong. They didn't do it. Libel is for the written word. What she's probably trying to refer to is slander, or perhaps defamation. Who knows? What difference does it make, it was free!
And worth every penny.
We await her equally slamming her own beloved "Fox News" for all its lies, slander, falsehoods and defamation and factual errors.
We just won't wait very long...
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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