Report: Journalists Debated Whether Government Should Shut Down Fox News

A group of liberal journalists used a now-defunct listserv to debate the merits of whether the federal government should forcibly shut down Fox News, according to a report in The Daily Caller.

The online publication earlier reported that the journalists in the private group discussed ways to shield Barack Obama from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scandal when Obama was a presidential candidate. The latest article showed that several members of Journolist aired complaints about Fox News on the listserv in March of this year and debated how best to rein it in.

Guardian columnist Daniel Davies, who said he was "genuinely scared" of the network, reportedly said "peer pressure" and "self-regulation" were not working.

"In order to have even a semblance of control, you need a tough legal framework," he said.

According to the report, UCLA law professor Jonathan Zasloff urged the federal government to stop the network.

"I hate to open this can of worms, but is there any reason why the FCC couldn't simply pull their broadcasting permit once it expires?" he wrote.

Time's Michael Scherer said Fox News used criticism only to build "tribal identity," but questioned whether the White House should be distinguishing between media organizations like that.

But Zasloff went further, suggesting it was acceptable for the White House to pick and choose which reporters get press passes -- a concept Scherer again questioned.

According to the report, the New Republic's John Judis said Scherer's skepticism would make sense "pre-fox."

"Now it is only tactical," he wrote.

Time magazine released a statement Wednesday evening disputing the report.

"Michael Scherer fully disputes The Daily Caller’s account, which selectively quotes his e-mails and takes his comments about the changing news landscape entirely out of context. In his emails he vocally opposes any suggestions to restrict Fox News," a Time spokesperson said.

Tucker Carlson, a Fox News contributor who started the online Daily Caller, said Wednesday that the listserv commentary as a whole proves the press took sides in the presidential election.

"It's an appalling story. It's something that a lot of us suspected was going on. This verifies, in fact, it was going on," he told Fox News.

In 2008, journalists working for Time, Politico, the Huffington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Guardian, Salon and the New Republic expressed outrage on the listserv over the tough questioning Obama received from ABC anchors Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos at a debate. Some of them plotted to protect Obama from the swirling Wright controversy, according to the Daily Caller.

Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent pressed his fellow journalists to deflect attention from Obama's relationship with Wright by shifting topics to one of Obama's conservative critics, the Daily Caller reported.

"Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares - and call them racists," Ackerman wrote.

Michael Tomasky, a writer for the Guardian, urged his fellow members of Journolist to do "what we can to kill ABC and this idiocy in whatever venues we have."

"This isn't about defending Obama," he wrote. "This is about how the (mainstream media) kills any chance of discourse that actually serves the people."

Journolist was shut down last month after leaks exposing member Dave Weigel's scornful remarks of conservatives led to his resignation at the Washington Post as a blogger covering the conservative movement.