While none of the responses I received to the Dec. 17 column about Dominion Voting Systems defamation suit against Fox News came out and called me a fool, a reasonable person could make the inference.
I don’t take offense because the criticisms raise the possibility that I may be a fool, and I am willing to consider that. I have been wrong on too many occasions not to do so. As one of my heroes once said: “Sir, I am obliged to anyone who can teach me something.” And if I am a fool, I want to know.
The facts are these: Dominion Voter Systems filed a defamation suit against Fox and its on-air personalities, who’d stated on television that the company’s voting machines had changed votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden in the 2020 election, and thereby facilitated election fraud. Dominion took exception, and claimed the accusation had hurt its reputation.
Recently, in the discovery phase of what will likely end up in a trial, emails and communication Dominion obtained from Fox News revealed that the latter’s on-air personalities who’d been pushing the fraud argument knew that there had been no wide-scale cheating.
So, I searched for any that had risen to the same level. Now, while I found plenty of scalawags and liars, bunkum and bias in the records, to date I have found no parallel to Fox News’ alleged wrong-doing in the annals of American journalism.
One reader, miffed that I had focused on this scandal, criticized me as a left-wing so-and-so for failing also to address every like scandal that had ever rocked the left-wing media.
I concede the point. I did not address every like scandal.
I do not regard this matter as a partisan thing, but mindful of that old bit about not bearing false witness, I consider it a question of basic honesty and integrity. As I see things, honesty should not be sacrificed for partisan games, especially for those of us who report the news.
If we get it wrong, and that can be shown to our satisfaction, we have to acknowledge it.
But if the people who claim to be giving us the news are on record conceding that, even as they were selling us a steaming pile, that they knew it was, in fact, a steaming pile, I would expect a reasonable person to turn away and find another news source.
Is such a thing happening? Without a doubt, though I have no idea to what extent. But as I read all public commentary I can about this scandal on various news sites, I found many people digging in, arguing in effect, “Well, it’s nothing compared to what the left-wing networks are doing.”
This seems to say, “Well, looks like my guys may have lied, but the left-wing guys lie so much more pervasively and with so much more evil. So, I’ll go right on listening to my liars, thank you very much.”
One writer asserted that even if Fox News were guilty of what its critics claim, he still believed in Fox more than “CNN, MSNBC … and all the other left-leaning media, including the Auburn Reporter.”
The writer goes on to call this “accusation from the left” just another “distraction and diversion from the truth,” which leaves out all the “positive things that occurred under President Trump, like low inflation, low gas prices, stable foreign relations and the southern U.S. border.”
“You talk about lies,” the writer wrote. “All those leftist media outlets I mentioned thrive on lies, deception, censoring or simply not mentioning things that actually happen. Charles Schumer actually said that there were 6 policeman killed on Jan. 6, which is not true.”
The writer then accused me of neglecting to mention BLM and Antifa and the billion dollars in damage they’d caused, and their involvement in murders and injuries to police and bystanders. “To say that Jan. 6 was a violent riot is a joke,” he said.
“I read your articles and like most of them, but when you enter the political realm,” the writer continued, “I have to lump you in with all the rest of the left-wing media agenda. Your editor also verified that when they abandoned the regular editorial page some years back. There is no published counter to your statements. I believe, through no fault of your own, that you are under pressure from your boss to stay away from certain issues, for fear of losing your job. And those issues are telling the whole truth.”
That column centered on Fox News, so I did not venture into an endless repetition of all scandals.
Now, as to that accusation that I am under pressure from my boss — no how, no way. I want to make a point. I write an opinion column. And because it is an opinion column, I am expected to offer my opinions.
Consider the following story.
One day, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, refused to execute a presidential order with which he disagreed, and in the course of his refusal, called Lincoln “a fool.”
When Lincoln heard about that, he said, “Well, if Stanton called me a fool, it must be so, for he is generally right. I’ll go up and see.” He heard Stanton out and changed the order.
I’ve always thought Lincoln’s response — free of ego, willing to consider things from a different point of view, and, if he’d been wrong, to change his mind — as something to emulate. Of course, I am not Abraham Lincoln, and I am as likely to be pigheaded and get things as wrong as anyone, and so I make no claim to spouting eternal, unassailable truths.
The gist of this is that I am still open to being branded a fool. But again, if I am a fool, show me. Give me a thumping argument, and I will change my evil ways.
Robert Whale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.