Last night, Fox News president Roger Ailes told an audience at the University of North Carolina's Journalism School that in "15 years we have never taken a story down because it was wrong," according to an account by New York's Gabriel Sherman. That's quite the fib.
While some might quibble over the definition of "wrong" or "taken down," Fox News, like its competitors, has certainly removed false or embarrassing stories from its website and retracted reports it aired on TV, as some on Twitter have pointed out. Behold:
In 2002, then Fox News anchor Brit Hume reported that PETA's Ohio branch decided to dress the state's deer population in orange vests to protect them from hunters, which in turn prompted some hunters to offer a reward to those who "bag vested deer and bring home the vests," a development that had state officials "worried that the whole vest competition could get someone shot." As the American Journalism Review reported, the story was untrue. "Hume apologized the next day and retracted the story, but not before the Wall Street Journal and ESPN posted the juicy-sounding tidbit on their Web sites." That's a clear cut case.
In other instances, it's hard to say what categorizes "taking down" a story as applied to a television broadcast, which comes and goes as quickly as it's delivered. Certainly the network has retracted false claims reported on air in a number of circumstances.
Last year, for instance, the network claimed that the Libyan Ministry of Information was using Western journalists as human shields and said it wasn't taking the Libyan government up on an invitation to meet with officials for fear of being used as a propaganda tool. The report enraged CNN's Libya reporter Nic Robertson who said “this allegation is outrageous and it’s absolutely hypocritical ... They sent a member of their team." Later, Fox retracted the claim, with national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin saying "Earlier today I reported that Fox News had not gone to Qaddafi's compound ... I've since learned that Fox News did indeed go.. he did in fact send a security guard with a camera to the compound... I did not know about that ... That was my mistake and I apologize for the error." Similarly, in 2001, then Fox News foreign correspondent Geraldo Rivera had to fess up to serious errors in his reporting in Afghanistan.
But that's just television. Online, Fox News has taken down stories on a number of occasions. Like the time they linked Obama's address at George Washington University to a student's suicide the same day. Poof, gone. Or that story about conservatives questioning Sarah Palin's weight. Gone. Or that column by Dr. Keith Ablow tearing down Chaz Bono for his reassignment surgery. Gone. Now one could argue these were retractions in poor taste but it's still an admission of some kind of "wrong" otherwise they wouldn't have been taken down. Remind us, why is this guy lecturing journalism students?