Sanders Hosts Airing of ‘Outfoxed’

Posted July 16, 2004 at 6:28pm

Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this week is spearheading what he hopes will be a Congressional offensive against alleged Republican bias at Fox News Channel, inviting his colleagues to a private screening of a new film that accuses the station of conservative coverage.

The Vermont Independent is also asking House Members and Senators to sign a letter to Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch that asks the media mogul to meet with Members to discuss their concerns about the station’s coverage.

Sanders, who launched a liberal radio talk show of his own last year, said in an interview Friday he is leading the fight against Fox as part of his longstanding battle against corporate control of media outlets. He said that while Fox is not the only culprit, he’s concerned when any media outlet presents only one point of view.

“Certainly, it’s terribly important for those of us who are concerned with corporate control of the media and large influential networks that exercise a lot of influence to make that point — especially when Murdoch tells us what we’re watching is fair and balanced. After five minutes of watching Fox you know it’s not fair and it’s not balanced.”

Sanders is asking House Members and Senators to attend a Wednesday-night viewing on Capitol Hill of “Outfoxed,” the controversial film by Robert Greenwald that accuses Fox executives of pressuring reporters and producers to taint their coverage in favor of Republicans and the Bush White House. Greenwald, several former Fox employees and representatives from progressive organizations pushing the film, such as MoveOn.org and the Center for America Progress, which helped produce the movie, will also attend the screening.

“There’s a lot of concern that Fox is an arm of the Republican Party,” said one House Democratic leadership aide. The aide added that Democrats are willing to appear on the network nonetheless to try to get their voices heard.

Robert Zimmerman, spokesman for Fox News, said he had no comment on Sanders’ efforts, instead referring questions to the station’s recent statement about the film. In that news release, Fox News questioned the legitimacy of the documentary, and it challenged other news organizations that believe the film is newsworthy to stack up their own editorial directions and internal memos against Fox’s to let the public decide “who is fair.”

But Sanders said there are legitimate concerns to be aired about Fox’s coverage, and he is asking both Democrats and Republicans to watch “Outfoxed” and to sign onto the Murdoch letter. He said he’s inviting all Members to participate, but he acknowledged that Republicans are unlikely to come on board.

“It’s fairly common knowledge that the Republican Party is fairly comfortable with Fox,” he continued. “I’ve heard a number of Republican leaders talk about the affection they have for Fox and what a good job it’s doing.”

One House Republican leadership aide, however, said that while Fox does a good job covering the news, so do other organizations, including CNN. The aide disputed claims that Fox carries the GOP’s water.

“It’s nonsense,” said the staffer. “It’s the one thing the liberals don’t control, and it drives them crazy. That’s what it boils down to. They want to tar and smear anything they don’t control. The fact is, competition has made all of [the news channels] better.”

Sanders adamantly disagrees, and said he hopes that by raising the stakes, Murdoch will agree to meet with Members and will make changes to the network to ensure objective coverage of public affairs.

“We hope he’ll understand it’s not good for Fox or for us that we have such incredible bias [in the media],” Sanders said. “That will be the most important thing.”