Published May 21, 2006
LOS ANGELES – As I write this, early on Thursday morning, Bob Cesca is the featured blogger and "Only on HuffPost" lead, with his entry: Bob Cesca: Fox News Trying To "Literally Encourage White Power"...
It certainly caught my eye, I must say. Now to be honest, I hadn’t a clue who Bob Cesca was. And I was only checking the Huff Post because my daughter has started a new charity and is blogging about it there, and I wanted to see how she was doing. Even so, it made me mad.
Encourage White Power? Be serious. I haven’t met anyone in my going-on-seven-years at Fox News who I would describe as racist, and with the immigration debate raging, that isn’t a term to be thrown around lightly.
And while I’ve gotten used to laughing off a great deal of criticism, even I get to the point where I’m mad as you know what, and don’t want to take it anymore.
It turns out that Mr. Cesca is not an expert in journalism, or in race relations, but a well-known animator, who now does very liberal political animation. That he disagrees with Fox is his business; that he characterizes the entire enterprise as promoting a KKK-like agenda, a comparison, he suggests, is my business and yours.
If he were the only example of an attack on Fox News today or this week or this month, I would do what I tell my children to do with name callers, which is to ignore them. But just today, in addition to Cesca’s assault (on Gibson, O’Reilly, and Hannity), I read another attack on "Fox pundits"— singling out Neil Cavuto for "sucking up" — and another round occasioned by Tony Snow’s first briefing at the White House.
Mr. Cesca’s mistake, and it is a common one, is that he confuses reporters and anchors, who are paid to be objective and cover the news, and do so, with commentators and hosts, who are expected to put forward a point of view. Is there anyone in the world who would expect impartiality from Bill O’Reilly? From Sean Hannity?
I remember the days when John Gibson was a reporter, but he isn’t one anymore, and he doesn’t pretend to be. He doesn’t cover the news, he comments on it. That’s his job. What does Mr. Cesca expect?
I’d certainly be the last to complain if Mr. Cesca were arguing that he’d like to see more progressives like me with their own shows or regular slots on Fox News, but that’s never their point. You’d think that Sean Hannity's liberal co-host, Alan Colmes, didn’t exist, reading the criticism. You’d think there was no news organization at Fox, that we ran nothing but O’Reilly, Hannity and Gibson, 24/7.
What about Fox News Live? What about Greta Van Susteren, whose only agenda, as far as I can tell, is to help find missing girls and punish wayward teachers? What about Brit Hume and Brian Wilson and Carl Cameron and Ramblin’ Rick and Steve Harrigan and Shep Smith and Laurie Dhue and the hundreds of other people who do their jobs every day without giving anyone a hint of who they support in their private lives?
Enough is enough. What gives people who have never worked a day in the news business the right to throw stones and call names with impunity, because Fox News is the target?
I’ve taken a lot of heat from the left for working for Fox News, and frankly, I’m a little bit sick of it. The truth is that I’ve been very well treated at Fox: I say what I want; I’m treated with respect; and I’m paid well.
But there’s an even more fundamental point. You don’t win elections just by preaching to the choir. You win by convincing people in the middle, many of whom actually watch the top-rated cable news network. Some of these people are even over 54 years of age (another of the latest attacks), and not only do they spend a lot of money on purchases, but they vote in higher numbers than any other demographic group (there’s a reason no one ever dares to touch Social Security).
The way I see my job is to try to present the strongest arguments possible to the most important voters in the country, which I think is pretty critical for my party. Democrats who refuse to appear on Fox News because of their claims of conservative "bias" are in fact foregoing an important opportunity to reach swing voters who might actually decide elections.
The irony is that I find that often, simply by occupying the middle, I can win the fight. And what do I get from my friends on the left? Criticism that I’m not a real Democrat because I’m too centrist… How dare I be pragmatic?
My answer is very simple. Unlike Mr. Cesca, I not only have worked for every network, I also worked, formally or informally, for every Democratic candidate to run for president in the 1980’s and 1990’s. I understand the difference between running on the left and losing, and running in the center and winning. I wrote three Democratic Party platforms. I see no honor in defeat. I’d rather win in the middle than lose on the left, and you don’t need to call anyone names to do it.
Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.
Estrich's books include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.
She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the Fox News Channel.