Disingenuous Headlines From Fox News

I check Google News a few times a day just to keep up with what’s going on. And so I see a lot of headlines from Fox News. In fact, it is interesting to see what things they don’t publish about. For example, when Trump pulled out of northern Syria and abandoned the Kurds, it was notable that there was almost no coverage from Fox News. If they can’t spin a story in a way that makes the Republicans look good, they don’t publish stories about it.

The Formula

But I want to highlight a different aspect of Fox News’ deceptions. A shocking number of their headlines are just right-wing talking points pitched as actual news. The biggest way they do this is to offer headlines of the following form:

[Someone]: [Right-wing talking point]

In general, the “someone” is simply a Fox News contributor. Sometimes, this is someone you’ve heard of — at least if you follow Fox News. For example, “Hannity: Dems want to impeach Trump because they’re ‘hell-bent on taking revenge’ for 2016 defeat.”

Other news outlets use this formula, but it is almost always someone of note who is being quoted. For example, CNN recently published the headline, “Pelosi: I don’t know why GOP is afraid of the truth.” Everyone knows who Nancy Pelosi is. She is a major political figure. The story was about a speech she gave on the House floor.

Fox News Examples

But when Fox News uses this formula, their intent is to deceive not to inform. Let me offer you just a few headlines that I’ve collected over the past couple of weeks.

  • Liz Peek: Democrats toss Biden aside in zeal to impeach – ensuring Trump’s reelection
  • Tom Del Beccaro: Decoding Democrats’ rush to impeachment
  • Gregg Jarrett: Trump did NOT commit an impeachable offense on call with Ukraine’s president – Here’s why
  • Kayleigh McEnany dismisses ‘quid-pro-Joe’ Biden’s call for Trump’s impeachment
  • David Bossie: Impeachment inquiry? No, Americans are witnessing an impeachment conclusion
  • Justin Haskins: Elizabeth Warren is pretending to be something she’s not — let’s not fall for her masquerade
  • Liz Peek: Sorry, Democrats, impeachment doesn’t mean you’ll carry the White House in 2020
  • David Bossie: Trump impeachment vote is Democratic declaration of war – Republicans must declare war on Dems
  • Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders want to wreck the ‘great American experiment,’ Jesse Watters says
  • Stirewalt: Warren’s $52T ‘Medicare-for-all’ plan is a ‘disaster’ just like her DNA test release.

Pretending to Be Objective

Notice what’s really going on here. Fox News wants to publish a story saying, “Trump impeachment vote is Democratic declaration of war.” But that’s not what a news organization does.

So they publish, “David Bossie: Trump impeachment vote is Democratic declaration of war – Republicans must declare war on Dems.” That why they are publishing news. You see, they aren’t saying this. They are just offering “expert” opinion.

One could say that this is just how Fox News presents its opinion coverage. And that’s true. But why is it that the big news outlets that constantly find their way at the top of Google News are overwhelmingly, you know, news?

Opinion All the Time

For example, here are the headlines from three days ago when the House was about to hold a vote on the impeachment inquiry:

  1. What can we expect from televised impeachment hearing? (The New Yorker)
  2. Why John Bolton and his ex-colleagues are crucial witnesses (The Washington Post)
  3. Rep Andy Biggs: Trump-hating Democrats do whatever it takes to impeach, ignoring precedents (Fox News)

Obviously, Fox News is pushing what sells. The first headline would bore their viewers. The second would make them feel bad. But the third? That tells them exactly what they want to hear.

More Examples

Another good example is the treatment of Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare-for-All plan. Fox News cannot discuss it without highlighting it’s cost, as if they were adding “Be afraid! Be very afraid!” to the end of their headlines.

I highlighted one above. Here is the headline of their first article, “Cavuto breaks down Warren’s $52 trillion Medicare for All plan.” At the same time, not one of the half-dozen headlines from actual news outlets mentioned its cost. But then, those outlets produce information, not propaganda.

On those few occasions where Fox News must publish something that will upset their viewers, they do it in a way as to minimize the discomfort. Here’s an example, ” Graham urges Trump to act on Syria, rips Pelosi’s impeachment push.” One Republican has a minor disagreement with another but it’s okay because he “rips” the enemy.

Fox News Is Not a News Organization

What’s maddening about this is that Fox News is treated like a regular news organization. In as much as they produce regular news, it is only so that they can claim the same stature as The New York Times and Newsweek. What they really are is the television equivalent of a tabloid.

Fox News by Johnny Silvercloud. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “Disingenuous Headlines From Fox News

  1. Well, once Shepard Smith bolted, that was the final shred of anything resembling journalism at Fox News. I don’t understand how anyone could stick around that long at a truly noxious company just to make it slightly less evil. (Oh, scratch that, I do.)

    In the truest Fox News fashion, Smith left with a gigantic severance payoff contingent on him not working for any other news network in the near future. Johann Hari wouldn’t have touched that money with the pointed end of a 3-foot stick, but Shep Smith did because he’s in the Andrew Sullivan category of rich gay conservatives who want lower taxes without the customary homophobia. To which my only response can possibly be, “best of luck.”

  2. My father and my father in law are both Fox consumers. It bothers me because both are intelligent and well educated men. And Fox is propaganda written for stupid, ignorant people. My father I know better, and he’s complicated. I have heard him tell a story about sitting in a bar in New York city, where he grew up, and there was a black man sitting at the bar. Whenever the man would finish his beer the bartender took the glass and smashed it. To let him know he was unwelcome. As I remember, another would be served if he ordered it. Dad always told this story as if it bothered him. And yet, most of the racist crap I have rattling around in my head comes from him. And he is generally not any good for a serious conversation. I don’t consider refuting whatever Hannity told him to think most recently serious, or useful. And ever since I’ve been old enough and trained enough to match him he just refuses to have an honest conversation. Always just a game. To be won by lying if needs be.

    • @ Lawrence— I’ve been somewhat in the same place. It’s hard. It’d be one thing if relatives were believing dogmatic mainstream nonsense like “taxes on the rich make them not create jobs,” stuff like that. You can more-or-less agree to disagree with such things, and talk about movies, their kids, whatever.

      When it’s loony-tunes Fox News “I’m not racist, but” stuff, it’s tougher. You’re seeing a really gruesome side of somebody that is impossible to unsee. My solution, to date, has been to avoid initiating any contact with them. I’ve made clear that I can’t stand weird-ass bigot or conspiracy nonsense.

      Anything else, they have my email address, they can contact me if they wish. As a result, I have almost no family members left. It’s been years since I last heard from them.
      Oddly, the one who does used to work for Schwartzenegger’s government. We exchange emails about movies and kids.

  3. I applaud you for being able and willing to watch Fox News for the purpose of research. It would just make me angry and depressed. The best I can do is watch Our Cartoon President.

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