Bret Baier Interview Shows What A Joke It Is to Pose Him As Fox ‘Real Journalism’ Successor to Chris Wallace
Now that Chris Wallace is gone, Fox News anchor Bret Baier is often posed as the chief mascot for the network’s “real journalism” but his interview with FBI Director Christopher Wray shows what a joke this has always been.
Back in the days when I covered the Obama White House for Mediaite and several other publications, you could easily rattle off a list of a dozen or so straight shooters who worked at Fox News but genuinely tried to practice actual journalism. Just on the White House beat, you had Major Garrett, Wendell Goler, Kevin Corke, and even Ed Henry for a little while had the decency to bristle privately at how the onerous right-wing culture at the network undermined his own attempts at straight reporting. James Rosen, alas, was every bit the verbose troll he is now.
And the crown jewel in the (GIANT SCARE QUOTE ALERT) “hard news” section at Fox was Chris Wallace. As the host of Fox News Sunday, Wallace cultivated an image as an equal-opportunity bulldog who would just as soon sink his teeth into a Republican official as a Democrat, and would even smack down bullshit from his own colleagues from time to time.
I say none of this with admiration; even “the good ones” like Wallace clung to right-wing framing a good deal of the time and espoused the same both-sidesism that infects the rest of mainstream journalism, along with a host of other defects.
And their position as beards for what Elizabeth Warren called “an outlet that profits from racism and hate” when she refused to abet them by doing a town hall for them is not to be commended. The ones who left deserve whatever measure of credit their consciences dictate and their nuclear non-disparagement clauses probably prevent them from talking about that out loud.
Wallace has scratched the surface of this since his departure, but rest assured that many others would, if they could.
That leaves Baier, who became the bloody towel to be waved by the anti-Biden and clout-chasing howler monkeys in the peanut gallery who insisted President Joe Biden should have sat for a Super Bowl interview with the totally legitimate Baier.
But as one Biden ally put it in an anonymous comment to Politico when Wallace left for the late unlamented CNN+, “The outlet has become an unabashed and toxic outlet that the occasional appearance from a reasonable Democrat is never going to be persuasive to an audience that’s being smothered with lies and smears.”
Enter Bret Baier, who despite the occasional feint at Wallace-style even-handedness has always been a Foxagandist at heart. He’s not the hair-on-fire Trump worshipper that Sean Hannity is, or the open White supremacist-whisperer that Tucker Carlson is; compared to the worst Fox News has to offer, Baier seems pretty normal.
I suspect on the sketchy spectrum of middle-aged white dude views and temperaments, Baier probably is in the middle fifth with the portion of the 61 percent who voted for Trump but really wished he’d stop inspiring domestic terrorists and/or the sliver of the 39 percent who voted for Biden but really wish those NFL players would show more respect for the all lives that matter and are kinda pissed off about all this pronoun shit.
But in his exclusive interview with Wray on Tuesday night’s edition of Fox News Channel’s Special Report, Baier was every bit the manservant of the loony Fox News viewer who fuels all those incredible Trump rally man-on-the-spot interview clips that we all point and laugh at, and helpfully illustrated just how correct Biden was to skip taking questions from this dude in front of tens of millions of people.
There are some who would suggest that the subject matter alone is not enough to convict Baier in the Journalism Criminal Court. They would be wrong. Ninety percent of being a propaganda network, as Yogi Berra might say, is half subject matter selection.
In that regard, Baier went to eleven in this interview with an entire cavalry of right-wing hobby horses, kicking things off with an extended riff on the Hunter Biden story that elicits diamond-cutter boners in the most geriatric of MAGA fans but has all the substance of a Trump IOU. It’s possible that by some miracle these investigations will pan out someday, but as it sits there’s barely a wisp of smoke. The guy leading the investigation doesn’t even plan to subpoena the president, and he’s so savage he asked why Biden’s deceased son Beau Biden wasn’t prosecuted.
But Baier bit down hard, and looped in the Elon Musk-fueled “Twitter files” information dump that Mediaite founder Dan Abrams summed up aptly after its first tranche dropped by saying: “It is stunning that with access to all the internal e-mails at Twitter that they don’t have a single smoking gun that implicates a government leader or even any campaign in wrongdoing. Even before Musk’s characterization of what was there, I expected there would be something more damning… from someone relevant.”
The rest of the interview is similarly a trip through the right-wing fever swamp that the network is currently being sued $1.6 billion for catering to:
The Covid lab leak “vindication.” The alleged persecution of parents at school board meetings who were, in fact, literally threatening people’s lives. The disputed “show of force” in the arrest of an anti-choice activist versus the subtle example of an unspecified “Black Lives Matter” protester. “Immigration” as it relates to “the cartels.”
The fact that Baier almost apologetically couches some of them as things “conservatives point to” and tries to insulate himself by literally handing off the last few questions to random Twitter users does not excuse any of this. If anything, it proves my point. He’s explicit about the bias of his entire interview.
But beyond bias — a red herring that bogs down a lot of Fox critics — is the flat-out factual taint that shoots through the entire enterprise, to varying degrees.
For example, Baier grills Wray about the allegedly different ways the agency handled searches of ex-President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden to secure classified documents. Now, aside from the obvious ideological bias, Baier’s question is based on several false factual premises.
Let’s just break this question down:
“Let’s talk about the dual system that conservatives point to, the documents investigation for former President Trump and the raid that happens in Mar-a-Lago. That show of force in that way, as opposed to the documents investigation for President Biden and how that went down…”
Let’s pause, because Baier almost seems to admit he knows the difference with his ambiguous description of the Biden case — “and how that went down.”
What else could he have said there? Something like “as opposed to the documents investigation for President Biden and how he self-reported the documents, then invited the FBI to conduct additional searches?”
The differences are damning — to Trump, not the FBI, and every legitimate news outlet acknowledges this. But if Baier was relying solely on Fox News, then he could have even consulted his colleague Karl Rove for a rundown.
“You find out about those documents before the November election. The FBI then does the search of the house after that, but does not say anything prior to the midterm election. So those two things are, stick in people’s minds as different, handled differently. How do you explain that?”
There are just a few problems with this. The FBI doesn’t say anything about any ongoing investigation as a matter of policy, including Trump’s. The FBI didn’t tell the world about the raid, Trump did.
The two matters were handled differently because Trump obstructed the FBI at every opportunity, while Biden not only cooperated with them, he voluntarily reported himself in the first place and insisted on the subsequent searches.
What’s perhaps even worse is that not only does Baier certainly know all of these facts, he also knows Wray is not in a position to point all of them out lest he violate the policy against commenting on ongoing investigations.
And that’s to say nothing of the questions Baier didn’t ask, which would encompass the entire universe of things that people who don’t have a pantry full of survival seeds would like to know about the FBI. The January 6 attack on the Capitol gets a token minute with two very fringe questions culled from the aforementioned Twitter randos. Nothing about the Proud Boys or the rise in anti-Semitism and other hate crimes, nothing about gun violence or mass shootings, and so on.
All of which raises the separate question of why Wray agreed to the interview in the first place, since he knew as well as Baier did that he was going to be bombarded with questions he would be either unable to answer or would be severely handcuffed in answering. It certainly wasn’t so he could push back aggressively, but rather so he could deliver canned responses to burnish his own image.
To hear many very smart folks tell it — including Mediaite editor in chief Aidan McLaughlin and famed First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams — Fox News is in the fight of its life right now over the lies that were spread and promoted on the network while behind the scenes, people tried to get anyone who told the truth punished or fired.
In that context, Bret Baier might not seem so bad, but the fact that he’s still there after all of that says all you need to know about him as a journalist. And so did this interview.
Watch above via Fox News.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.
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