On the heels of Lanny Davis’ announcement last month, Howard Wolfson’s move today brings to two the number of top Hillary Clinton allies who have signed on with Fox News since the end of the primary season. And let’s not forget that Terry McAuliffe, Clinton’s campaign chairman, also offered praise of Fox that the channel recycled into a promo.
None of this would have been imaginable a year or two ago, back when Fox still treated the Clintons as the face of the enemy. So what happened?
The Clinton campaign and Clinton supporters obviously believed that traditional “liberal” media outlets like CNN and MSNBC had it in for them and were openly promoting Barack Obama, while Fox – especially as the primary season wore on – was far more accommodating of the Clinton message and the Clinton spin.
We can debate the relative merits of the Clinton forces’ cases against MSNBC and CNN, but isn’t the explanation for Fox’s change in attitude rather obvious? I refer you to an insightful column from Paul Mulshine, the very entertaining and very conservative columnist for the (Newark) Star-Ledger, from 2006:
Journalism is a different game, one that [Roger] Ailes doesn’t seem to want to play. In a recent profile by the New York Observer, Ailes professed to be offended when people refer to Fox as "conservative." But that’s exactly the problem. Ailes is right. Fox isn’t conservative; it’s partisan. The Fox talking heads worship the current crop of Beltway politicians in a manner that would shame even the most obsequious anchors on the other networks. Hannity shills as openly for George Bush as he does for that steakhouse.
I think Mulshine pretty much nailed it. Fox’s bias isn’t toward an ideology but to a partisan establishment. And that explains the network’s reversal on Hillary perfectly. Back in ’06, when Chris Wallace all but accused Bill Clinton of causing 9/11, there was no more powerful force in the Democratic Party than the Clintons, and it was accepted as fact that Hillary would be her party’s ’08 nominee. But those assumptions all changed this winter when Obama begun winning primaries. Suddenly, he was the presumed Democratic nominee and Hillary was the also-ran. And that made him the new mortal enemy of Fox, and Hillary its new object of sympathy.