3-2-1. “RRING! RRING!”
The predictability in the air was palpable on Wednesday afternoon when we published a story on the abrasive comments Current TV’s David Shuster made about Fox News anchors Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace over the weekend. You may recall how Shuster took his stink with the FNCers to CNN’s airwaves on Sunday, telling Howie Kurtz that the trio had no business moderating a presidential debate due to their lack of campaign trail experience.
Communicating extensively with FBDC, Shuster reaffirmed his remarks and even took things a step further. He charged that Fox has lost all “credibility/watchability” since Brit Hume’s semi-retirement. He also explained that conversations with “friends” inside FNC prompted him to criticize the network on CNN. After finishing with Shuster, FBDC contacted longtime Fox News Communications Director Irena Brigante for a response or comment on the matter. Included in the note was a graph of quotes from our earlier conversation with Shuster.
So we waited. No response. Deafening silence. Still, not surprising. That is, after all, typical treatment for journalists who’ve been blackballed by Fox News PR.
“That’s how they operate. There’s a black list. So if they’re isolating you it means you pissed them off or were nice to someone at another network.,” said a TV insider who is familiar with Brigante’s operation.
“F–k her,” added another media insider with a key vantage point to know her history. “That’s her stock and trade to alienate people and never talk to certain media outlets. I’ve had this conversation with everyone in the media.”
But wait there’s more to FNC’s blacklist than the silent treatment. Things generally play out like this: While most of the network’s press shop is busy miming hateful replies to your request, one of the spokeshags hits the phones to sell your scoop or share your inquiry with one of their pet publications. Which is precisely what happened this week.
Sure enough, just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday the Washington Examiner‘s Nikki Schwab, who has taken the bait before, wrote FBDC explaining that she, too, was working on a Shuster/Fox News piece. What a coincidence! In the note, she posed a question about Shuster’s misspelling Baier’s first name. FBDC replied.
Schwab’s story published Wednesday. The piece contained zero new news and cited only Shuster’s comments to FBDC – coincidentally the very same quotes we’d sent to FNC PR when we originally sought comment from them. Schwab advanced the story with nothing more than a remark from an unnamed Fox News spokesperson regarding the quotes we’d emailed Brigante earlier in the day.
We reached out to both Schwab and Editor Stephen Smith, posing virtually the same question to each of them: Does the Washington Examiner see anything ethically challenging about Fox News using their publication as a mouthpiece? So far, no response.