NEW YORK – A new documentary backed by liberal political groups aims to document that the FOX News Channel (search) is anything but "fair and balanced," despite the cable-news network's motto.
The film, "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," draws on clips compiled during weeks of round-the-clock taping of the network to demonstrate what the filmmakers believe is a pattern of right-wing bias and support for the Republican agenda.
"What we found is not that FOX is a conservative network, but that it's a network that follows the party line of the Bush administration," said "Outfoxed" (search) filmmaker Robert Greenwald, a Hollywood producer-director whose credits include the 2003 documentary "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War" and such TV films as "The Crooked E: The Unshredded Truth about Enron" and "Blonde," a biopic of Marilyn Monroe (search).
Greenwald said he decided to make the film after hearing numerous journalists refer to the "Foxification" of the news. That approach, he says, has served the 8-year-old FOX News Channel well, and "put pressure on many of the other networks to move in the same direction: cheap news, ranting and raving, pseudo-patriotism."
Greenwald's 75-minute film includes complaints from several FOX News staffers about the workplace climate at the outlet of the global Murdoch media empire. They say their bosses promote a conservative slant.
"We weren't necessarily, as it was told to us, a newsgathering organization so much as we were a proponent of a point of view," says Jon Du Pre, a former FOX News correspondent.
The film also quotes internal memos from a top network executive that seem to call for pro-Bush coverage.
"Ribbons or medals? Which did John Kerry throw away after he returned from Vietnam (search)?" wrote senior vice president for news John Moody in an April memo to the staff. "His perceived disrespect for the military could be more damaging to the [Democratic presidential] candidate than questions about his actions in uniform."
In a statement Monday, the network dismissed the whistleblowers as "former low-level FOX employees" who are "hardly worth addressing." It challenged other media organizations to make public their own employee memos, whereupon "FOX News Channel will publish 100 percent of our editorial directions and memos, and let the public decide who is fair."
The film also draws on a study commissioned by Fairness & Accuracy in Media, a national media watchdog group. The study found conservatives accounted for nearly three-fourths of ideological guests on the network's marquee news program, "Special Report With Brit Hume," between June and December 2003, and that Republicans outnumbered Democrats five to one.
"Outfoxed" was compiled during the past seven months in association with liberal political organizations Center for American Progress and MoveOn.Org, as well as the citizens' lobbying group Common Cause.
Budgeted at $300,000, the "guerrilla" documentary will premiere Tuesday at the New School University (search) in Manhattan, then initially be distributed through private "house party" screenings and DVD sales.
At a news conference to introduce the film Monday, Greenwald called FOX News Channel "an opinion station, not a news station."
When former White House terrorism coordinator Richard Clarke (search) testified before the 9/11 commission, he apologized to the American people for the government's failure to protect them.
The film displays a flurry of FOX pundits blasting Clarke, often in similar terms. "It was almost like FOX News was working off of the playbook coming out of the White House, that he had to be torn down," FAIR co-founder Jeff Cohen says in the film.
FOX host Bill O'Reilly is seen on his show insisting he has told a guest to shut up "only once in six years," after which he is seen in clips telling one person after another with whom he disagrees to "shut up."
The documentary also includes a rapid-fire succession of clips of more than a dozen FOX hosts using the phrase "some people say" — which the filmmakers say is a way to insinuate opinion disguised as reporting into on-air discussions.
"There's no smoking gun," Greenwald admitted in explaining what his film set out to reveal — "just a pattern."