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Inside the Right Wing Channel


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Du Pre said most Fox News Channel employees figured the bias was so obvious that audience would be able to see it as well. "Nobody thought that what we were doing was 'fair and balanced,' " he said, quoting the network's slogan.

 

Former Fox newsman not afraid to be honest

Richard Ruelas

Arizona Republic (Phoenix) columnist

Aug. 23, 2004

 

Jon Du Pre had to be honest during the job interview when Roger Ailes, head of the Fox News Network, asked him what he thought about "what we do." Du Pre told Ailes he hadn't seen the network because, at the time, it wasn't available in Phoenix, where he worked as a news anchor. Ailes then half-coughed to clear his throat. The outgoing air flapped his jowls. He then asked Du Pre, "What's your political preference?" It was a question Du Pre had never been asked while seeking a journalism job. During his employment there, from 1998 to 2002, Du Pre would find that much of what went on at Fox News Channel, the upstart 24-hour cable news network, was unlike any news organization he'd been at before.

 

Du Pre answered the political question this way: "Respectfully, Mr. Ailes, it's none of your business." Ailes told him he liked that answer. Du Pre was assigned to the network's West Coast bureau. Ailes' reason for asking about his politics would become clear over the next few weeks.

 

"Only as time went on, did I begin to realize that Fox News Channel wasn't a news-type organization," Du Pre said. "It was a political propaganda machine."

 

Du Pre, familiar to Phoenix-area viewers as an anchor for Channel 12 (KPNX) and Channel 5 (KPHO), is one of the former Fox News employees interviewed for the documentary Outfoxed. He is the only on-air personality to let his name and face be shown. Du Pre didn't think it was a big deal to talk openly about his experience at Fox News, even on a documentary that aims to portray the news network as a Republican Party operative. The network's conservative agenda was never kept a secret among its employees.

 

"I never saw anybody attempt to masquerade as anything we weren't," Du Pre said. "It was all done in the open, in staff meetings."

 

Although he's one of the "stars" of the documentary, Du Pre was not sent a copy. The film, funded by the left-leaning MoveOn group, is being distributed primarily by mail order, through http://www.outfoxed.org. Du Pre didn't see the documentary until last week, when I took a copy up to his north Scottsdale home.

 

"I have no idea what to expect," Du Pre said, leaning back on his brown leather couch. Du Pre, 45, has the classic good looks of a news anchor, and his living room walls resonate with his deep voice.

 

The screen showed Rupert Murdoch, the network's owner, and Ailes holding a news conference in 1996, announcing the formation of Fox News Channel. Ailes said the network would "restore objectivity where we find it lacking." He also said that his former jobs working for Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush would not affect the programming. "We just expect to do balanced journalism," he said.

 

Spooky music came out of the speakers as the documentary showed some leaked memos from John Moody, a vice president at the network. The memos gave directives on not only what stories the network would cover, but also how it would cover them.

 

One said to downplay coverage of the 9/11 commission hearings. "This is not 'What did he know and when did he know it' stuff. Don't turn this into Watergate," it read.

 

Another anticipated that a Kerry speech that day would include criticism of the war in Iraq. It advised that the network "take the beginning of the Kerry speech," which was expected to focus on jobs, "and see if other news at that time is more compelling."

 

Du Pre hit pause. "This is presented in here as some sort of nefarious or hidden agenda," he said. "It wasn't so subtle." In reality, his bureau chief, who would have been a recipient of the daily memos, would relay the messages to him in much more colorful and blatant language. Reporters knew who the enemies were. They were ordered to deliver stories that made Democrats look bad and Republicans look good.

 

Du Pre said most Fox News Channel employees figured the bias was so obvious that audience would be able to see it as well. "Nobody thought that what we were doing was 'fair and balanced,' " he said, quoting the network's slogan. It was more "an attempt to balance out what everybody else was doing." He also said such rationalization was "survival."

 

"Their point of view is their point of view, and they have every right to it," Du Pre said. "But to hold themselves out as a fair and balanced source of news and information, let alone the truth, is abhorrent."

 

Du Pre left Fox News when his contract expired in 2002. The network said it wasn't renewing his contract. That was fine with Du Pre, who said he wouldn't have renewed it anyway. The network took his salary, which reflected 19 years of broadcast experience, and used it to hire two "kids" out of Sacramento, Du Pre said. Ailes is still listed as a reference on Du Pre's resume.

 

On its Web site, Fox News released a statement about the documentary, saying that any news organizations that run stories on the film "is opening itself to having its copyrighted material taken out of context for partisan reasons." The statement does not say the documentary is in error nor deny the authenticity of the internal memos.

 

The network, on its Web site, also tries to discredit its former employees, including Du Pre. It says Du Pre left Fox News because "as his personnel file states, he was a weak field correspondent and could not do live shots." Du Pre said that claim is false.

 

Du Pre, who left Channel 5 this year, has twice been denied anchor jobs at Fox affiliates in other cities because of his appearance in the documentary.

 

"Even if I don't get another job in this business, it will have been worth it," Du Pre said of the Outfoxed interview. He got into this business to tell the truth, after all. It's a lesson he learned from his journalism professor at Brigham Young University, Lynn Packer.

 

BYU fired Packer for pursuing an investigation on Paul Dunn, a Mormon Church leader. Dunn had made a mini-empire out of inspirational stories from his own life. Packer found that most of those were demonstrably untrue. In a 1991 Republic story, Dunn admitted he stretched the truth, but it was only to make the stories interesting or help convey a message.

 

Which is exactly the justification behind what Fox News Channel does.

 

Du Pre said the producers of Outfoxed were surprised that he agreed to an on-camera interview. Most other former employees appear as disguised voices.

 

But that wouldn't have been nearly as cleansing for Du Pre.

 

Instead, the crew set up in his dining room, clipped a microphone to his shirt, and asked him questions about his time at the Fox News Channel. Du Pre told the truth.

 

"It'd been so long since I'd really done that," he said. "It felt good."

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