Fox News offers another candidate for high office

Originally published Feb. 11, 2013

The spectacle of TV personality Geraldo Rivera using his soapbox with Fox News to test-market a possible run for the U.S. Senate has, not surprisingly, caused some real journalists to cough up hairballs.

“If an on-air person makes any pretense about being a journalist, then obviously he should not be using his station or network to promote his candidacy,” Marvin Kalb, former NBC News stalwart and a founder of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, told Media Matters. “He should immediately pull himself/herself off the air, then announce his candidacy, and run.”

Or, as Sonny Albarado, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, put it: “Running for public office and being a journalist are incompatible.”

Now, I may be doing Geraldo a disservice, but to me he has always been a vaguely clownish self-promoter, and it’s hard for me to condemn him for betraying journalistic principle when I never thought he was a journalist. He can hardly have corrupted a professionalism he didn’t profess, and in that respect there’s no point in defrocking him, since he was never ordained.

That doesn’t, however, mean what he’s doing now is OK. But to me the sin isn’t his, it’s Fox News’.  Here I agree with David Zurawik, the Baltimore Sun’s TV critic, who said it’s “really wrong that Fox allows itself to play this political role.”

The wrongdoing doesn’t have to do with Geraldo’s personal failure to uphold some kind of journalistic neutrality. It lies in Fox News’ institutional failure to accept some responsibility for encouraging fairness in the political system. Continue reading “Fox News offers another candidate for high office”