Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Sh!t L!st: Fox News' Chris Wallace

Fox News' Chris Wallace has officially become the first person to make my Sh!t L!st after his interview with Bill Clinton on Fox News Sunday.

Conservatives stay with me for a moment. I'm not ranting with my head on fire. I'm a reasonable person. I promise a cool-headed, rational argument.

And if you don't know what I'm talking about, watch the interview.

Let's start with the question that sparked the exchange:

WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on Fox News Sunday, I got a lot of e-mail from viewers. And I’ve got to say, I was surprised. Most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didn’t you do more to put bin Laden and Al Qaida out of business when you were president?

Point number one: Wallace knows this is a biased, loaded question so he couches it by blaming the question on his viewers. It's not Chris Wallace asking the question, it's his viewing public.

Point number two: The question is biased and loaded. Look at the way it's formulated: "Why didn't you do more?" he asks. What's the underlying assumption of a question like that? The underlying assumption must be: "you didn't do enough." This is a simple fact of the English language, not liberal interpretation. And if a question contains its own underlying assumption, then the question itself reflects a judgment by the person asking the question.

If I ask someone, "why do you smell bad?" I am implicitly asserting that the person smells bad. A question can--and often does--reflect the pre-established judgment of the person asking the question.

Point number three: Even if Wallace's viewers were vehemently demanding that he ask that exact question, he still has a professional obligation to do his job to the best of his abilities. Because he claims to be a fair interviewer it is his job to not insert his own (or his viewers') judgments into his interview questions. The fact that his viewers wanted to ask the biased question to Clinton is immaterial (though I'm sure completely true). The problem is that Wallace was willing to ask the biased question and thereby forfeit his claims to impartiality. Should his loyalty be to his viewing public or journalistic integrity?

Point number four: There is an unbiased way to address the issue without asking a question that is burdened by personal judgment. Here goes: "Do you think you did enough?" "Did you make any mistakes?"

Phrased in this manner the interviewee is able to offer an answer rather than fend off a sideways attack. Let's remember that this is an interview. The interviewer ostensibly wants to know the interviewee's opinions and perspective. So ask questions that get at the interviewee's opinions and perspective. "Why didn't you do more?" and my example of "Why do you smell?" are accusations; they foist the interviewer's opinion and perspective upon the interviewee.

And whoever you are, conservative or liberal, give Clinton credit for saying that he did indeed fail in his attempts to deal with Bin Laden and that he regretted failing.

If you can detect a liberal or any other kind of bias in my reasoning in the above four points, please contact me. This is not a rant. I do not hate Chris Wallace simply because he works for Fox News Channel. This is a logically reasoned dissection of one instance of a failure of journalistic integrity.

If my reasoning proves faulty, I will retract my opinion, immediately remove him from the Sh!t L!st, and issue an earnest apology.

And, in the spirit of fairness, if you can offer reasons and proof for why Wallace should be removed from the Sh!t L!st, I will gladly hear them out. Though it's not enough for him to save puppies or something of that ilk. The only way to get off the Sh!t L!st is to make amends for the reasons why you were added to the Sh!t L!st in the first place. In this case Wallace would have to regret his lack of journalistic integrity during that interview.

Finally if you have any liberal-leaning Sh!t L!st candidates, please share. I'm an equal opportunity condemner.

PS - I do get to foist my judgment upon others because I make no claims to journalistic integrity. I only promise rational arguments. If my logic holds up, then so does my criticism. If my logic crumbles, then I haven't got a leg to stand on.


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