James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Posts Tagged ‘Megyn Kelly’

Conservative quackery and Santa Claus

Posted by James McPherson on December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone. I hope your appreciation of the season hasn’t been dampened by recent controversy involving those wildly popular but oft-misunderstood bearded guys.

No, I’m not talking about “Daddy Duck” Phil Robertson and the other guys of “reality” television’s “Duck Dynastyclan, as I see no need to join the discussion over whether clan leader Phil Robertson is a homophobic racist or just a committed Christian (other than to point out that those who claim that Robertson’s free speech rights are being violated are clueless about the First Amendment).

I’m more interested in the controversy involving those other bearded guys — Santa Claus and Jesus — whom a defensive and “very, very blonde” professional spokesmodel Megyn Kelly brought into Fox News’ annual weird, wacky, hypocritical and ultimately pointless (except to fire up viewers and drive up ratings) “war on the war on Christmas” by insisting that both were white guys.

Not surprisingly, Kelly was wrong about both Jesus and the inspiration for Santa. (Incidentally, Bill O’Reilly has now declared the war over, making himself the commanding general in a Christian victory, and the “war on Christmas” is just a subset of the equally ludicrous (at least in this country) “Christians are persecuted” meme, anyway.)

The “white Santa/white Jesus” discussion continued over several days (not much real news before the holidays, apparently), and I actually heard someone on television question whether we even know Santa’s gender. I’m not making that up, though I wasn’t in front of the TV and so don’t know who said it.

Thinking more about it though, it occurred to me that since I am all for gender equality, I should examine the evidence. I then posted my findings on Facebook, but thought I’d share them here, too:

  1. Santa is beloved, despite his obvious weight problem — in fact, people leave Claus milk and cookies, rather than leaving an obnoxious note saying, “Lose some weight, fatso!”
  2. Santa spends a lot of time in a “workshop,” and apparently has a thing for toys.
  3. Santa needs a Rudolph Guidance System to make it through the fog and finds every house — despite no record of having ever asked anyone for directions.
  4. Mommy was spotted kissing Santa Claus.
  5. Santa stays out all night on the night before a holiday.
  6. Claus apparently hasn’t had a wardrobe update for decades.
  7. Santa has been accused of being a “peeping Tom,” spying on people while they’re sleeping.
  8. Santa prefers to do things the hard way — i.e., going down the chimney rather than simply using the spare key hidden near the door.
  9. Santa postpones delivery of gifts until the last possible moment — and then frequently gives you something that someone who really knew you would never give.
  10. Many people write to Santa, but he never writes back.

I report; you decide.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Personal, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments »

Excited about Obama vs. Romney?

Posted by James McPherson on January 3, 2012

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: As I predicted even before Obama was formally elected in 2008, the 2012 presidential election will be a contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Or more likely, a three-way race involving Obama, Romney and Voter Indifference. Unfortunately I later chickened out on my Romney prediction, and have wavered since then–stating on the radio and elsewhere that Romney had the best chance of beating Obama, but probably couldn’t win over enough evangelicals and Tea Party members to win the GOP nomination.

So assuming that Mitt will win the nomination, we can determine that another prediction in that October 2008 post also was accurate, that “the Religious Right will continue to decline in influence”–after all, many of evangelicals will end up voting for a Mormon over a Christian (though same may still insist they’re choosing a Mormon over a Muslim). Likewise, the Tea Party effect has apparently waned, so however much we may have enjoyed the loony antics of this Republican primary race, we may have fewer interesting characters getting serious consideration in 2012 Congressional races than we saw two years ago.

Of course tonight the three cable news networks are devoting all of their time to the Iowa Republican Caucus, trying to act as if it matters. Perhaps they really think it does, though I’m giving them–even Megyn Kelly on Fox News–the benefit of the doubt, assuming they’re smart enough to know better. But if they don’t put on the pseudo-breathless political horserace act, they know that no one other than media critics and political junkies will watch.

Maybe viewers would mostly tune out anyway, keeping in mind how few (thankfully) actually watch cable news regularly. Fox News likes to brag about how its talking heads draw bigger audiences than do those on either CNN or MSNBC, but that’s a bit like claiming to be the most popular hooker in church. All of the traditional network nightly news programs have dropped considerably, but NBC, ABC and CBS news shows all get far better ratings than anything on Fox News. And when it comes to cable, the top five networks are USA, the Disney Channel, ESPN, TNT and the once-credible, now badly misnamed, History Channel.

Of those top five, only ESPN offers anything resembling news. And its high standing simply demonstrates the key point of sports columnist’s Norman Chad’s outstanding column of this week. Even if you’re not a sports fan (and especially if you are), I encourage you to read the piece, in which Chad points out, “We spend more money on stadiums than schools,” and “At our institutions of higher learning, we care more about basketball than biology.”

Chad also writes: “Think about this: We have been at war somewhere in the world since 2001 — at war — and that gets less scrutiny than an average NFL game. For real. Buccaneers-Falcons is dissected in detail much more than U.S.-Afghanistan; that’s an NFC divisional game weighed against an international armed conflict.”

Back to the Iowa Caucus: Some may argue that Rick Santorum’s relatively strong showing means something. But that would be true only if Iowa had been significant in any election since 1976. But Iowa doesn’t matter–just ask John McCain, who finished fourth there four years ago.

Romney will be the GOP nominee, and he may even win. Looking at today’s Republican party, though, I seriously doubt it. More likely is that my next trip to Washington, D.C., will correspond with Obama’s next inauguration. And chances are, I’ll watch it on a hostel TV again, just as I did in 2009. With luck, maybe Chief Justice John Roberts will get the words right this time.

A final word about the Republicans who might end up voting for Romney. My favorite recent political quote comes from a music professor I won’t name because the words come from an email: “If you were for Michelle Bachman, before you were for Rick Perry, before you were for Herman Cain, before you were for Newt Gingrich, before you were for Rick Santorum–mainly because you were against Mitt Romney before you were for him–do you waive your right to complain about flip-flopping? For all time?”

Faced with that quandry, I suspect many voters will simply stay home, helping the Obama machine win again.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Lying Fox News Pin(al)-headed about geography

Posted by James McPherson on June 16, 2010

Remember when “news” was supposed to be timely? Fox News and bimbo Megyn Kelly [sorry, even though it was Kelly’s name on the screen, it was a different woman doing the Kelly-style reporting] today led with a story that is more than three years old–while suggesting that the story and the direct quote that Fox lifts from an October 2006  public document are something new.

In addition to the misleading timing of the story, like far too many Americans, Fox News seems to have a geography problem. Or maybe it’s just trying to bolster John McCain’s Arizona campaign while making a hero of a certain Arizona sheriff.

How else do you explain that the current lead story on Fox’s website (above even the latest on the Gulf oil spill, Iran’s nuclear program and “Bipartisan Jeers for Obama Oil Speech”) relies most heavily on the sheriff who starts in John McCain’s ridiculous anti-immigrant commercial? That’s a sheriff, remember, whose county does not even border Mexico.

Why not quote a border sheriff? Perhaps because those from Pima, Yuma and Santa Cruz counties all disagree with the state’s stupid new anti-immigration law, and therefore with the reactionary rednecks who provide much of Fox’s primary audience.

Also, remember who was president at the time of the closure that Fox is now yipping about? And at that time, McCain opposed a border fence.

Same-day update: More unethical journalism–supposed “investigative reporter” Michael Webster at the American Chronicle offers most of the same garbage as Fox.

Numerous conservative blogs have knee-jerkedly repeated all or part of the misleading Fox/Webster story (some examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), as if their readers wouldn’t have already seen it; naturally several of those blame Barack Obama. I’ve only seen one correction.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »