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Media Matters Goes After Fox News’ Front Row Seat Over RGA Donation

Perhaps emboldened by recent successes like the Dr. Laura retirement and the scrubbing of Breitbart scribe Dr. Kevin Pezzi, Media Matters is taking a swipe at Fox News’ recently-acquired front row seat in the White House briefing room. In a letter to the White House Correspondents Association board, Media Matters joins several groups in citing News Corp’s recent $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association as reason to rescind the plum seat.

The WHCA would not comment for this article, but there really is no mechanism to do what Media Matters is asking. Even if there was, there’s certainly no will to set that kind of precedent. The WHCA board would quickly become a body that did nothing but evaluate seating chart complaints from various watchdogs.

News Corp. properties also currently hold several seats in the Brady Briefing Room (WSJ, Dow Jones), so what would become of them? Does their sphere of influence peter out in the 2nd row?

Finally, as we have pointed out before, there’s really no case to be made against the reporters who actually occupy the seat.

Here is the full text of Media Matters’ press release, announcing the letter:

Watchdogs to WHCA: Reconsider Fox News’ front-row seat

Media Matters, Public Campaign, Center for Media and Democracy issue joint letter to WHCA in light of News Corp.’s RGA donation

Washington, DC — Today, following reports that News Corp. donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, Media Matters for America joined Public Campaign and the Center for Media and Democracy in issuing a letter to the White House Correspondents Association asking them to reconsider its decision to allow Fox News Channel a front row seat in the White House briefing room.

The letter reads:

To Board Members of the White House Correspondents Association:

We are writing today to ask that the White House Correspondents Association reconsider its decision to allow Fox News Channel a front-row seat in the White House briefing room in light of reports that Fox News’ parent company, News Corp., has donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association — a massive ethical lapse that demonstrates Fox News’ inability to function as an objective media institution.

Media outlets are supposed to cover elections and issues to inform voters, not help to elect candidates who espouse certain positions. With so much News Corp. money invested in the election of Republican gubernatorial candidates, can Fox News be expected to disinterestedly cover those races or Republican politics in general?

News Corp.’s generous gift to the RGA, and its subsequent explanation that “News Corporation believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA’s pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy,” should demolish any continued claims from Fox News and its enablers that the organization operates objectively and in good faith.

When confronted by Nathan Daschle of the Democratic Governors Association about the need for disclaimers to Fox News’ coverage of gubernatorial races, the network responded: “Nathan’s stunt has run its course. His 15 minutes are up. Time to leave the stage.”

This is not how legitimate news organizations respond to ethics scandals. Stonewalling tactics and snide attacks on critics such as these are more suited to political campaigns.

What message does it send to reward a “news outlet” that ideologically and financially supports the Republican Party with a place of distinction in the White House briefing room? How is the country better served by continuing to disregard Fox News’ unabashed partisan tilt even as it becomes more and more obvious?

This is an issue that transcends mere ideological squabbling. If democracy demands a free press, then it also demands that partisan political outfits not be treated as legitimate news outlets or rewarded for masquerading as such. It also demands that news outlets maintain strict financial separation from the political parties and candidates they’re supposed to cover. The White House Correspondents Association can demonstrate its commitment to preserving the media’s role as independent agents of good governance by rescinding Fox News’ front-row spot in the White House briefing room.

David Donnelly, Public Campaign

Lisa Graves, Center for Media and Democracy (publisher of Sourcewatch.org)

Ari Rabin-Havt, Media Matters for America

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