Neil Cavuto’s Apology For Alleged CIA Fraudster Puts Pressure On Other Fox Hosts
On Friday afternoon, Fox News host Neil Cavuto took the rather extraordinary step of delivering a lengthy apology over his show’s use of Wayne Simmons as a terrorism expert, after it was revealed that Simmons had been arrested for allegedly lying about his ties to the Central Intelligence Agency. Cavuto told viewers that “it has come to our attention that a frequent guest on this show might not have been who he purported to be” (which presumably means Fox News will no longer be booking “presidential candidate” Bobby Jindal), but he also made a valiant attempt to stop the buck:
“If it’s true that all our due diligence and vetting on Mr. Simmons missed this, that’s big, and that’s on me. And only me.”
There are just two problems with that part of his apology, the first and most glaring being that Cavuto was hardly the only Fox News host or anchor to promote Simmons’ now-allegedly-fraudulent credentials as a “former CIA operative” and “terrorism analyst.” Although Simmons was most prolific on Cavuto, with dozens of appearances, here are just a few of the other Fox News hosts and programs who booked Simmons, too, and burnished his credentials. Pay close attention to the last, most eerily prescient introduction by Fox & Friends’ Brian Kilmeade:
“Wayne Simmons, playing the role of Wayne Simmons…”
Oh my God, you guys, Kilmeade knew the whole time!
All kidding aside, it’s all well and good for Cavuto to deliver a serious-face apology and promise to sin no more, but Simmons was all over the Fox News universe, and not just in their walled-off opinion section. In dozens of appearances, he influenced the largest cable news audience in the world by promoting torture, questioning the President’s experience, and advancing an aggressively interventionist foreign policy, among other things. Even a parade of apologies by the rest of Fox News’ hosts and anchors, or its executives, won’t unring those bells.
Neither will firing those responsible, but it would be a start. If past is prologue, Cavuto’s apology is an extraordinary step, but it will be as far as accountability will go for this lapse. That may or may not be the correct result, depending on your point of view. As Cavuto mentioned, the guy also allegedly managed to land himself a gig as an intelligence adviser to the military, so maybe the booker at Fox & Friends deserves a little slack. If that’s the case, though, then that position is inconsistent with the dour apology Cavuto delivered. If it’s a big deal, somebody should be fired at Fox. If nobody’s going to be fired, then maybe it’s not such a big deal to Fox.
Of course, it’s no longer possible to pick on Fox News when it comes to accountability in media. It’s a neat coincidence that this happens as the movie Truth hits theaters, chronicling the exile of Dan Rather over what would be a minor sin in today’s news climate. Most recently, New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt screwed himself out of a promotion with his false story about Hillary Clinton‘s email. But even when there is a measure of accountability, it is piddling and misguided.
When CBS News’ Lara Logan was suspended over her completely false Benghazi reporting, the decision to bring her back, and thus the decision to suspend her in the first place, was about business instead of ethics or editorial standards. Ditto Brian Williams, who was “punished” for his sins by being brought back as the new, serious face of MSNBC’s whiter daytime programming. Logan and Williams won’t rise or fall based on journalistic merit, but on whether or not their respective networks’ bottom lines can sustain them.
As a great Alderaanian once said, “If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive,” but you won’t be getting good journalism.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.