A Democrat's Take on Fox News

There have been two magazine pieces recently about Fox News that have made the argument that the News Channel is devoted primarily, if not entirely, to promoting Republican candidates and Republican talking points. And as a Fox News Democrat it struck me that there is a lot more to the story.

I've worked for Fox for seven years and during that period I can honestly say that there's never been an effort, organized or otherwise, to get me or to my knowledge anyone else to advance a particular point of view. More generally virtually every producer I've dealt with has sought to have different points of emphasis in commentaries and debates made so that viewers would get more than a uni-dimensional or narrow perspective.

To the extent that I've talked with Fox News Channel Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes and Bill Shine, Executive Vice President, Programming about recruiting more Democrats, it is my considered opinion that they have sought the highest quality Democrats to complement an unrivaled roster of Republicans.

Indeed as I think about it going back over the last 35 years of American political history Fox has represented among its contributors individuals who have played a significant role at the highest levels of American politics in presidential campaign after presidential campaign.

The pollsters and among the chief political advisers for the last two Democratic presidents, myself and Patrick Caddell are both Fox News contributors and active participants in providing commentary both individually and collectively on the Web and on Fox News Channel.

Caddell represents Fox's coverage of the '76 and '80 Carter campaigns. Bob Beckel, who served as campaign manager for Walter Mondale was and is a preeminent Fox News contributor with a regular spot on “Hannity” as well as high visibility during daytime programming.

Beckel is a mainstream liberal, while Caddell and I tend to be more moderate, but I've never heard anyone seek to draw a distinction between us based on either ideology or party.

For 1988 Fox has Susan Estrich who is somewhere between Beckel and Caddell and myself ideologically and is the first woman to run a national presidential campaign (which she did for former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis). Susan is among America's top lawyers, a law professor and a now preeminent litigator.

I would probably best represent the Clinton years and there have been a number of contributors representing the period since 2000, most notably Howard Wolfson, a strongly partisan Democrat who had a very prominent role on Fox News until he decided to join Mayor Mike Bloomberg's team as a deputy mayor.

Fox has also recruited Joe Trippi, the architect of Howard Dean's 2004 insurgency and the man most responsible for recognizing how the Internet can transform politics. Trippi also was Jerry Brown's key strategist in 2010 in his successful campaign against Meg Whitman for governor of California.

My own sense is that Fox does well not because Roger Ailes has tried to turn it into a vehicle for political advocacy, but because of the superiority of the anchors and talent and most notably the distinctiveness of the programming.
Fox News hits a chord that neither of the other two news channels appears to hit and has extremely competent personnel.

Beyond that I know first hand from discussions that there's an ongoing effort at Fox News to get more high quality Democrats to join the roster, and I couldn't have been more pleased when my former client and friend Evan Bayh joined.
I was also disappointed in another fellow Democrat, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

After a flirtation with Fox News and a stated public approval of Fox's role in the 2008 election, Rendell went to MSNBC -- apparently to make more money all the while suddenly now becoming a Fox News detractor.
The message I've always gotten from the top of Fox News is get more Democrats, get better Democrats, get people who will speak their mind.

I'm a little amazed when I read magazine articles about the cable channel because the Fox News I work for and contribute to is the not the Fox News I read about.

I'm not naïve, I understand that the point of view presented is not that of the left, but its also not that of the Republican National Committee. Fox News takes whacks at Republicans and did so with great frequency during the last couple of years of the Bush administration.

The conclusion I reach is that the elite media continues to be befuddled by the success that Fox News enjoys in the ratings month after month, year after year. And the only way they can explain it is by ascribing it to some plot or plan or scheme. It’s neither. Its just good television organized by smart executives, whose political perspective may not be my own, but whose commitment to professionalism and excellence appears clear and unambiguous.

Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and Fox News contributor. His most recent book is "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System" published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.