October 22, 2007

Did Fox Massage The Debate For The BoSox/Tribe Game?

Today on Heading Right Radio, Jim Geraghty and I spoke with a few of the campaigns in reviewing last night's Republican debate. Jon Henke joined us from the Thompson campaign and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum spoke on behalf of Rudy Giuliani, and both covered the high points of their candidate very well. However, Mitt Romney advisor Ben Ginsberg made an observation that surprised me -- that Fox News Channel cooked the first part of the show to highlight the four frontrunners.

According to Ginsberg, Fox -- which aired Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on its regular broadcast affiliates -- set up the questions to maximize the airtime of the top-tier candidates. Knowing that the first pitch would come roughly 20 minutes into the debate, Ginsberg alleged that the FNC panel focused on questions that would generate sniping between the candidates, and deliberately shut out the second-tier candidates until after the game had started.

A check of the transcript seems to bear this out. Ron Paul didn't get asked a question until about 15-20 minutes into the debate, when Carl Cameron started the second round of questions. The game had a start time of 8:23 ET, or just about that particular moment. Paul would have either been missed by those who flipped the channel to watch a dramatic Game 7 or would have barely heard his response. Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, and Tom Tancredo all were first addressed afterwards.

Did Fox throw the second tier a curveball? Did the network set up its most controversial questions for the frontrunners and deliberately cut out the second tier until it expected to lose a significant portion of its audience? Some Republicans might have a legitimate beef with Fox News.


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Comments (43)

Posted by skeptic | October 22, 2007 5:35 PM

Faux News is NOT a conservative site (neither is this one, sorry to say). What Red Ruppert cares about is making a buck. Thats why he supports both Rudy and Hillary. Part of it is protection money so that the FCC won't cramp his style. Both support the war so there will be plenty of red meat for the devoted Faux knuckle draggers. If Rudy gets in, Ruppert can channel his viewers against the Democratic congress thwarting the figh againgt islamofascism. If Hillary gets in, he can target their ire at her with little impunity. Its a business decision.

There is a youtube video showing how the audience volume levels were tampered with during the debate to alter the perceptions of the viewers.

Posted by Formerly known as Skeptic | October 22, 2007 5:35 PM

And does anybody actually care if they did? For my part, I didn't even tune in but went straight to game 7. But, of course, I live in Red Sox Nation!!

Posted by Soxruleyanksdrool | October 22, 2007 5:37 PM

We are going all the way!!!!!!

Posted by Al in St. Lou | October 22, 2007 5:43 PM

This seems like a big "So What" to me. What's wrong with letting the people who are only visiting for twenty minutes see what the important candidates have to say?

Posted by flenser | October 22, 2007 5:53 PM

I don't think its news to anyone that the game is rigged.

What's wrong with letting the people who are only visiting for twenty minutes see what the important candidates have to say

Whats wrong is that the primary voters are supposed to decide who the "important candidates" are, not the media.

But if you are happy to have other people pick a slate of candidates for you to choose from, carry on.

Posted by hap | October 22, 2007 5:54 PM

Al: Who are you to decide which candidate is important?

It's no secret Fox doesn't like Paul. That's been fairly evident in his interviews following Fox debates. It does surprise me, however, that Huckabee received the same treatment so maybe this wasn't malicious.

Posted by RFA | October 22, 2007 6:21 PM

Ron Paul? You're kidding right? He's a Nut.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | October 22, 2007 6:26 PM

skeptic said:

"There is a youtube video showing how the audience volume levels were tampered with during the debate to alter the perceptions of the viewers."

So what? I have both the original off-air video recording of the Concert for NYC in 2001 and the later Viacom Video release of the same event.

In the original concert, Mrs. Bill Clinton was roundly booed by the NYC cops and firefighters when she came onstage to make an introduction. But thanks to the miracle of creative Goebbelseque editing, by the time the show came out on DVD, the boos had been replaced by...cheers.

BTW, a link for that youtube video would help us decide if you're giving us the straight poop.

Posted by Molon Labe | October 22, 2007 6:54 PM

But Game 7 of the ALCS *is* more important than second tier GOP candidates.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | October 22, 2007 7:25 PM

This is a bit disturbing. Coincidentally, I caught the beginning of Brit Hume's panel where they spoke about the debate in their first segment. I heard how well Giuliani, Romney, McCain, and Thompson did but didn't catch anything about anyone else. Did they cover the "second-tier"? Even the esteemed Krauthammer declared McCain the winner because of his one-liner against Hillary's request for funding of the Woodstock museum.

Is that how far we've lowered the bar? And is FOXNews falling into the same bad habits as its competitors in how it presents politics and politicians to the public? As gatekeepers is it their place to manipulate to such a degree?

The second-tier is going to have to press this issue from now on. Note during the debate how they are being left out. Make it a point. Tell the audience/viewership to go to their website to find their platform and offer to answer every debate question asked and display them on their websites since they feel they are getting shortchanged in primetime. They will have to take matters in to their own hands to the extent they are able to change the dynamic.

The top-tier candidates are not as conservative as they proclaim to be, but the second-tier candidates are not being given equal opportunity to display the differences if the questions/format are weighted to benefit one group over another. How unfortunate for the GOP. Rather than sell conservatism to draw the middle, the chosen ones are redefining their past policies and performance with a patina of conservatism that hides their innate liberalism. Why not try to make Hillary! chase right rather than the GOP chase Hillary left? Is the GOP that fearful that conservatism won't sell?

Posted by Bennett | October 22, 2007 7:25 PM

In 2004, a good friend asked me, what matters to you most: the Red Sox coming back against the Yankees and then winning the WS or George Bush beating John Kerry? She asked me this when the Red Sox had clawed back to a 3-3 tie with the Yanks and it was down to one game winner take all.

What a dumb question! Presidents come and go but beating the Yankees? Winning the WS? Please.

I'd done my part, donated to Bush, planned to vote for him, etc. If he didn't win, oh well...I'd trust in the Almighty to protect us from a Kerry presidency. But the Red Sox? I've lived my entire life as a Sox fan, waiting for the ultimate redemption my loyalty was owed. And it came.

And Bush won anyway.


Posted by ck | October 22, 2007 7:28 PM

And now that it affects Republicans, you start to see how Fox really works...

Posted by Andrea Shea King | October 22, 2007 7:29 PM


I was there at the Debate and thought the same thing. Something seem contrived. Going to be talking about it on tonight's show at 9.



Posted by Mwalimu Daudi | October 22, 2007 7:36 PM

Did [Fox] set up its most controversial questions for the frontrunners and deliberately cut out the second tier until it expected to lose a significant portion of its audience?

If that is the case, then it sounds more like Fox was trying to protect Paul & Co. rather than hurt them. Every time that Paul opens his mouth and his Truther side shines forth he looses even more credibility. Keeping him away from "controversial" questions can only help him.

I have a far bigger problem with the softball questions that al-CNN and the rest of the MSM constantly direct towards Democrats. Shielding second-tier GOP candidates sounds like favoritism towards them rather than discrimination.

Posted by Andrea Shea King | October 22, 2007 7:37 PM


While I was at the debate, I was on the phone with ThirdWaveDave, giving him updates and insight to what was going on behind the scenes. He posted it on his blogsite real time. And noted that it seemed to him that Fred Thompson came out strong at the outset because he was under attack immediately -- first question. If you go to his site, you'll see by the timeline that it meshes with what you've said in your post. It was as though Brit Hume pitched a fastball himself to get the fireworks going.


Posted by AnonymousDrivel | October 22, 2007 7:37 PM


Do you think FOXNews has been unfair to the Democrats in their televised debates?

I want honesty and integrity from ALL media. FOXNews has at least given the nation's conservatives some cover, but clearly it isn't the bastion of extreme conservatism it is demonized to be from the Left.

Posted by patrick neid | October 22, 2007 7:55 PM

All you second tier supporters, get off your high horses. It's over, its been over before it ever started. They shouldn't even be in the debates taking up space and questions. And as for you phony Paul "deaniacs", probably financed by Soros or some such hoping for a third party candidate to guarantee Hillary's election, no one and I mean no one takes you seriously.

If you actually do support Paul get some counseling. It will prepare you for the post electoral let down if Hillary and crew admit they financed assorted spam banks that send out most of the votes for Paul in online voting. Even Paul doesn't know where his support comes from. It's gotten so bad his name is no longer included in some polls.

Fox news with Brit Hume during the week and Chris Wallace on Sunday's are the best news shows on TV--it's not even close.

Posted by Mark Benz | October 22, 2007 7:57 PM

I didn't get to see the debate. It is not right for the network to decide which candidate(s) get the best airtime. I happen to be gaining a strong interest in Mike Huckabee. The problem is that he is not getting enough money or coverage from the MSM. I think he would have an excellent chance against Hillary and would attract a lot of independent voters. Unfortunately, he may not win the nomination for the Republican party.

Posted by Douglas V. Gibbs | October 22, 2007 8:14 PM

this article hits the bullseye, and was discussed on Andrea Shea King's show toight. www.blogtalkradio.com/askshow

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | October 22, 2007 8:22 PM

RE: patrick neid (October 22, 2007 7:55 PM)

"All you second tier supporters, get off your high horses. It's over, its been over before it ever started. They shouldn't even be in the debates taking up space and questions."

Well, heck, let's just anoint the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates now and dispense with getting a broad array of ideas discussed. The sooner we rally behind those two, whatever good or bad ideas they have, the better we can fall in line and display appropriate unity for the cause.

The campaign season is ridiculously long now, so dumping people, even if primaries start moving forward, detracts from the options a party has and the platform it can assemble during the nominations. If you are satisfied with a smaller stable, limited options, and manipulated debate, knock yourself out. I'm not and am eager to get a point of view that will stir the establishment that sits like concrete - dense and undisturbed.

Posted by patrick neid | October 22, 2007 8:48 PM


Hunter, Brownback, Tancredo, Gilmore, Tommy Thompson have, and had, no chance of ever getting the nomination. My guess they ran for their wives!

Huckabee also falls into that category. He has no chance although I imagine he will do well in the south.

Rudy, Thompson, Rommney and Mccain will continue in the top tier until Mccain drops out and probably supports Rudy. As I said a while back Rudy might even pick him for VP.

The above was obvious to anyone, starting last year, who did not have a dog in the fight. Whether I like it or not is irrelevant. The candidates did not materialize out of thin air. What needed to be known was known. All we are checking is to see if they can handle the bright lights.

Don't feel bad, its not as big a charade as the Dems with Hillary etc. She got the nod in 2004, the day after the election.

Posted by Mwalimu Daudi | October 22, 2007 9:15 PM

Here is Neal Graber of FOX News Watch wishing death on Bill Kristol.

And here is FOX News commentator (and left-wing racist) Geraldo Rivera threatening conservative columnist Michelle Malkin.

This is the sort of stuff you expect on MSNBC, al-CNN or the rest of the MSM. Remind me again how FOX News is a right-wing tool.

Posted by Mwalimu Daudi | October 22, 2007 9:19 PM

That's Neal Gabler, of course. Sorry - can't think of a pun to cover my spelling error.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | October 22, 2007 9:27 PM

RE: patrick neid (October 22, 2007 8:48 PM)

But don't you find it disturbing how top-tier is settled so early? Shouldn't that be a paradigm the GOP changed rather than get sucked in by what the media declares to be decided?

For example how does McCain fit for being top-tier no matter where he stands in a poll and no matter when it is taken? Is he deservedly a de facto near-front-runner in spite of his record, one that so many here recognize as antithetical to "conservatism"? And how does Fred! stay top-tier over Huckabee? Rhetorically, I prefer Fred's politics, but based on overall performance and record, I'd say Huckabee should move ahead of Fred! for a GOP slot. What legislation did Thompson champion as Senator that pushes him to the front? Let's face it. Media slapped top-tier on him because of his television career, and by just showing up at the debates, he's considered a good candidate.

Why accept that media-defined standard and pure name recognition as the demarcation flags for conservative representation? It's a mistake to me to keep following the old media's lead. I don't know if the GOP is willing to take risks in how it collectively promotes its candidates. Perhaps it really doesn't want challenging debate and the inertia of old standards and practices is all that voters can expect.

This is why the GOP, IMO, is failing to excite much of an audience. We have milquetoast front-runners who, while admittedly better and more experienced than what the Left offers, are running on the false premise that they represent right-leaning conservatives. They don't but they pay some nice lip service to some issues and the media sells them as far-right extremists. The debates are manipulated for entertainment value rather than substance. Perhaps they know Americans better than we want to admit to ourselves and we'll continue to get stuck with empty rhetoric that belies candidate history and that is immediately dropped as soon as office is attained.

I find the manipulation by media, if true, to be disturbing just as I find the reflex to trust who is deigned top-tier on day one of the campaign season by that very media disturbing. My preferences won't get elected, but I want their voices to be heard for as long as possible. Perhaps America will wake up one day and decide that the status quo is unacceptable. That is, if "second-tier" voices can get a fair hearing.

Posted by njcommuter | October 22, 2007 9:55 PM

You can postulate intent here without implying villiany. Fox News new that the audience would tend to switch channels as the first pitch approached, so they dangled some really juicy bait to keep us hooked.

It's funny, you know ... in NYC both 1010 WINS and 880 WCBS have traffic reports, at nn:01 and nn:08. And just as each time approaches, the other station runs something particularly interesting to foil people like me who want the latest traffic report without regard for where it comes from.

Posted by Christoph | October 22, 2007 10:06 PM

They might have a legitimate beef in this case. And they should be excluded from the next debate anyway... at this point, poll 5% nationally or get the f*ck out.

Posted by ck | October 22, 2007 10:52 PM

Christoph - how can you poll at 5 percent if the media constantly throws you under the rug?

Posted by John Lynch | October 23, 2007 12:32 AM

Maybe they wanted to keep people watching the debate. Put Ron Paul on and I'll change the channel. Give me an actual debate between people who have a chance and I might stay.

It was the best debate so far.

Posted by The Yell | October 23, 2007 2:23 AM

I blame the states for scheduling the primaries so early, that TWO World Series are played in each campaign season.

And a good question for the next debate: "If you can't compete with American League ballgames, how can you beat Hillary?"

Posted by brooklyn - hnav | October 23, 2007 2:51 AM

I don't think there is any doubt about it.

It was bizarre to see a number of pundits cheering the Fox effort to encourage nasty confrontation, instead of focusing on serious issues.

I used to be quite a fan of Mr. Krauthammer, but watching him on Fox News again was a huge let down.

They enjoyed the negative focus, as if this is meant to be a circus.

A number on the Powerline Board noticed the negative intent as well.

I feel many of the GOP Candidates handled it quite well, except Senator McCain, who sounds really quite jaded and overtly vicious.

Again, he seems far more at home, attacking Conservatives than challenging Hillary Clinton.

Posted by swabjockey05 | October 23, 2007 3:26 AM

brooklyn, how does a Shrillary/McCain ticket sound?

Posted by Christoph | October 23, 2007 6:16 AM

Christoph - how can you poll at 5 percent if the media constantly throws you under the rug?

They've had a chance to get their message out and sell a significant portion of Republican likely voters; they failed. Now get the f&ck out.

Let's not waist time debating Paul's lunacy, Tancredo's single issue and WND Whistle Blower subscription, and Hunter's lack of ability to excite the imagination.

That leaves 5 men who could actually win. I want to hear what they have to say.

Posted by Christoph | October 23, 2007 6:19 AM


Posted by Rovin | October 23, 2007 6:21 AM

"brooklyn, how does a Shrillary/McCain ticket sound?"

Would McCains job be to keep Willy out of the women's rooms?

Posted by patrick neid | October 23, 2007 6:38 AM


I'm not all that convinced that the media is controlling who the electorate prefers at this early juncture. Outside of a few exceptions very rarely do candidates come out of nowhere and get nominated.

In fact its usually the opposite. Years and years of sludging through useless trivia defining a message. That's what I implied by my comment about "What needed to be known was known."

Mccain stays top tier because Mccain's, Mccain. He's just one of those characters. He has no chance of getting the nomination. He will drop out and then use his base to try to be a king maker.

What I think the media is capable of is destroying a candidate through rumor and innuendo. I believe that is what faces the ultimate nominee if they are close to the lead against Hillary. I believe this election means more to dem press rooms than any I can remember. With their business model collapsing, their opinions being disregarded and with the rise of the blogosphere they need the White House bully pulpit more than ever even if its just for the DC party circuit. They want Bill and to get him they have to take Hillary. It's a Faustian bargain they are willing to make.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | October 23, 2007 7:14 AM


You have set the filter for those we should now throw aside, and quite vigorously tossed judging by your selected profanity, at an arbitrary 5% of an arbitrary national poll. Why that number and which poll? We all know how and when a poll is taken often predetermines the outcome. But, assuming one could get a perfect poll, are the concerns of that 5% not important? What issue (or issues) is it that keeps a candidate afloat in the midst of apparent electoral hopelessness? How many elections at the presidential level are determined by less than 5% of the voters?

See, we get battered over the head year after year over abortion, judges, taxes, education, and boxers/briefs which is, of course, vital; however, sometimes it's that "fringe" that brings new ideas to the fore - the 5% that recognizes that something is missing from debate and should be addressed. Why not keep those ideas in the debate as a jumping off point for platform and policy discussion for the so-called top-tier?

I'll give you an example using the most fringe to make a point. This is not an endorsement of his candidacy. It is an endorsement for keeping him in the race if he has the money and stamina to carry on. Ron Paul has advocated getting rid of the CIA and FBI if I trust what has been mentioned by others. Run with it anyway if it isn't exactly his platform for the sake of argument. He is excoriated for such an absurd comment. Rather than pile on, why not use this as a foil for real debate? Based on performance, should the FBI and CIA as federal agencies and operating under an administration's thumb be enlarged or reduced to fulfill their missions? Are they stepping beyond their hypothetical roles and should some of their functions be reassigned somewhere else under a more proper authority? How does this reflect upon a candidate's proclaimed ideology that smaller and less intrusive government is "better" for the nation? Have these institutions met your expectations or do they deserve a top-to-bottom audit by the GAO to see if public monies are being judiciously spent? Is there an arm of either agency that deserves special recognition for outstanding service to the nation, and can its success be applied in other agencies, i.e. is it a transferable capability that would improve government and would you incorporate that capability as you downsize/increase federal agency operations?

I could go on endlessly (and I'm sure some think I already have) but I think you can see my point. One doesn't have to embrace a candidate to find value in their POV. So let's not pledge allegiance to media pundits, copy readers, and an MSM institution that is provably dishonest and biased. Keep the process open while trying to work in more serious content than the 30-second, laughtrack inviting one-liners that make for great entertainment yet serve really as icing instead of cake.

Those 5%ers and their votes are important to everyone. Take three 5% candidates (or just one for that matter) and now we're talking about the voices of millions. That adds up to real money.

Posted by I R A Darth Aggie | October 23, 2007 9:04 AM

IMO, this is a big case of so effin' what?. They've had 10 "debates" so far, and another...what? ok, 6 more by the end of January, 3 of which occur before the primaries begin.

Next one will be two days hence, in Souix City, IA. If the Romney campaign is complaining, then maybe they know something about Mitt's support that we don't, and it isn't good.

Besides, the news junkies will tune into the entirety of the debate. The rest of us read about the highlights the next day.

Posted by Jane | October 23, 2007 9:54 AM

Well I both live-blogged the debate and watched the Sox. My system was to change the channel whenever Ron Paul started to speak. Frankly if Fox made this easier for me, more power to them.

Posted by Scott McDonnell | October 23, 2007 10:10 AM

Christof: I don't agree with the candidate, so he should be removed from the debates!

Christof, I and MILLIONS of others don't like Rudy, won't vote for him even under threat of Hillary. Simply will NOT vote for him, period! So... can we throw HIM from the debates?

Christof, I and MILLIONS of others don't like Romney, won't vote for him even under threat of Hillary. Simply will NOT vote for him, period!
So... can we throw him from the debate, too?

Thankfully, YOU don't get to decide. And you should be thankful I and millions of others don't get to decide this early as well.

The media anointed top-tier are going absolutely nowhere. Fox news is and will be shilling for Hillary, mark my words. Any republican they are supporting is the one they are sure Hillary can beat.

Fox is not a republican news organization, it is a business. It is opportunistic. Plain and simple. Putting your trust in them just shows how incredibly stupid some people can be.

So f&ck you, retard.

Posted by pmm | October 23, 2007 10:52 AM

This sort of conspiracy theorizing is unbecoming on Captain's Quarters.

First, you have to assume that there's a proper and improper way to start a debate--in this case, that it's suspect to start a debate (one of a dozen) by focusing questions on the candidates with the most polled support.

Then you have to assign intent by connecting the debate timeline to a competing televised event.

So now the Fox News channel is scrutized not only for the biographies of the questioning panels and the quality of its questions, or who is given more overall airtime, but also on the timing of the questions as they relate to another event?

Posted by skeptic | October 23, 2007 11:43 AM

Patrick, if you have proof that Paul is being financed by Soros or Hillary or some group that seeks to just disrupt the GOP lets have it. Put up or STFU.

I guess Paul or his puppet masters must be responsible for the dismal fundraising the GOP is experiencing.

Posted by patrick neid | October 23, 2007 7:54 PM


Did I hurt your feelings? As a probable "phony Paul Deaniac" I suppose you would be sensitive to ruminating about Soros funding your idiot.

Get that counseling I mentioned earlier.

Posted by Christoph | October 23, 2007 9:01 PM

Christof: I don't agree with the candidate, so he should be removed from the debates!

Has nothing to do with it, it's a lie, I've never said it, and you know it. If you were an honest person, you would apologize immediately. You are not and you will not.

It has to do with marginal fringe candidates that keep the real candidates with a chance of winning from being able to adequately discuss the issues.

I don't agree with Barack Obama, but don't suggest he be eliminated from the Democrat primary debates. Your point is absurd and by mischaracterizing my position, I say again, you are a liar.

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