Editor’s Note: Instead of his usual column this week, Eric Burns writes a letter to viewers of Fox News Watch.
As most of you know, Fox News Watch has lost one of its panelists. Jeff Cohen has left the program and will soon begin appearing on another network. After making this announcement on the air last week, and expressing my respect for Jeff and regret at his departure — sentiments shared wholeheartedly by Jane Hall, Cal Thomas and Jim Pinkerton — I received hundreds of e-mails.
For the most part, they expressed three main sentiments.
First, there were a few people who criticized me for not providing the specifics of Jeff’s new job, accusing me of being so petty and overly-competitive that I was afraid to give another network a plug.
Not so. The reason for my reticence is that Jeff has not yet worked out details with his new employer: when he’ll appear, how often, in what format. He asked me to keep my comments vague until those questions are answered. I said I would.
Second, there were a larger number of people who praised Jeff, and wondered whether Fox News Watch would replace him with someone of similar views. Some of these writers were dubious; they seemed to think that those views were so leftist, so "progressive," so anti-corporate, that those of us on the program were glad to see him go, eager for the chance to fill his chair with someone more moderate.
Again, not so. The search for a new panelist has already begun. Several people will occupy the Cohen chair in the upcoming weeks, and every one of them will reside close to him on the political spectrum.
Third, there were an even larger number of people telling me how happy they were that Jeff would no longer be on the News Watch panel. Nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with the reason that many viewers gave for their happiness.
Jeff, they said, too often expressed ideas with which they disagreed. He too often offended them, angered them, made them want to switch channels. Some people even went so far as to say that, without Jeff, who has been absent for the past two weeks, the program is much more fair and balanced.
Again, and most vehemently, not so. True fairness and balance is the inclusion of responsible points of view from left, right and center, and those who e-mailed me in the past few days to say that Fox News Watch is a better program because Jeff is no longer part of it did nothing more than admit their hypocrisy, confessing that it is unfairness and imbalance they favor, just as long as the unfairness and imbalance tilts in the direction of their particular biases.
And so we at Fox News Watch will, in time, replace Jeff Cohen, trying to come as close to the original as we can while at the same time encouraging what is original in the man or woman who assumes his role. We will hope to find someone as knowledgeable about the media as our former colleague, someone as firm in his convictions, and perhaps most of all, someone as congenial.
As the host of the program, I have long delighted in the esteem in which the members of the panel hold each other, the friendships they have formed with one another, even though they are as wildly divergent in their outlooks as four human beings can be. It is for this reason that, when the cameras are rolling on Fox News Watch, disagreement never turns to hostility. The former makes for enlightening television; the latter makes for Crossfire.
I look forward to our program’s reaching full strength again soon, and hope that you will keep tuning in as we work our way enthusiastically to that goal.
Eric Burns is the host of Fox News Watch which airs Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and Sundays at 1:30 a.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 a.m. ET/3:30 a.m. PT, and 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT .