Fox News Racist And Xenophobic?

Dan Riehl argues that they are. Strangely, he’s not talking about sensationalistic coverage of the immigration debate but rather their differential coverage of the Natalee Holloway and Duke Lacrosse rape cases.

In the Holloway case the Dutch boy has been called every kind of name by Fox, including rapist, child pornographer, and repeat sexual abuser, all without any proof. His Father is a judge, which has repeatedly been suggested to be all but proof positive that it is only cronyism and corruption which has kept the young man out of jail. Does anyone think for a minute that there might not be a few judges among the parents of members of the Lacrosse team at Duke? But no such suggestion has or will ever be made by Faux News. It wouldn’t play to its audience, I suppose.

In the Duke case we hear from these faux pundits at Faux News that we must be patient … that we must gather the facts. No need to rush to judgment when it’s American white boys who might eventually be hung for an alleged assault on some trifling black go go dancer. But it simply wasn’t so for the Surinamese or the Dutch. Why they have to be guilty Fox has consistently spewed to its audience almost from the time the story began.

In fact, Fox has smeared an entire island, Aruba, a colorful island, to be sure, without giving it a thought. And they haven’t spared Holland, a loyal American ally either. They went so far as to be complicit in support of a boycott of the colorful island of Aruba without any evidence of a crime. I wonder, will they call for America’s graduating high school seniors to also boycott Duke? Don’t hold your breath.

Frankly, I never cared much about either story. Even though I’m from Alabama, the fact that a pretty young girl is missing and presumed dead is sad but hardly worthy of national attention, let alone fixation. As drunken college athletes getting too rough with a stripper is hardly news, either.

Still, I understand why one non-story is getting so much more coverage than the other. And it has nothing to do with race but rather what viewers are interested in. As noted here and elsewhere nearly a year ago, both the mainstream press and the blogosphere overly fixate on “damsels in distress,” almost invariably young, attractive, white women.

As best I can determine, Greta van Susteren has been covering the Holloway matter rain or shine every episode since the incident hit the news. While that strikes me as incredibly insipid, especially for a woman who made her name as a legal analyst, it apparently is garnering her better ratings than whatever else she might want to talk about.

Similarly, the O.J. Simpson trial transfixed the nation in a way that, say, the Robert Blake trial did not. That one involved a black man killing a white woman (and, incidentally, a white man, too) and the other a white-on-white crime may have played some small part in that. Mostly, though, it had to do with Simpson having been a household name and Blake well past his fifteen minutes of fame.

Why people fixate on the Jon Benet Ramseys, Chandra Levees, and Natalee Holloways of the world escapes me. I very seldom get pulled into the “human interest stories” that seem to transfix much of the public. Then again, I spend an inordinate amount of time fixating on minutia of political news that bore most people and probably have no great long-term consequence.

The bottom line, though, is that when seeking to understand why the media, especially television, do almost anything the advice Mark Felt gave to Woodward and Bernstein, “Follow the money,” is almost always the most fruitful avenue. While there are no doubt political biases and other hidden agendas at work, the profit motive is almost always the best explanation.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Christopher says:

    Why’s he picking on FOX? They all do it!

  2. craig henry says:

    It’s true that they all do it, and FNC is, at least, consistent when they do it. They are always “big stick” conservatives when it comes to other countries.

    And FNC did not start defending the rugby team until stuff like the DNA evidence raised serious questions.

  3. Mark says:

    You forgot to mention Lacy Peterson! Oh how we all seem to forget too quickly!

  4. jacob says:

    Greta van Susteren has been covering……

    How this women ever got on TV is beyond me, every time she tries to talk or smile it looks like her face is gonna break. She must have got the job because she is so fair and balanced.

  5. just me says:

    Gotta agree with Jacob-why anyone would give Greta a job is beyond me-she made her name with OJ and seems determined to live her 15 minutes covering pretty white girl stories.

    I admit the only TV news I watch (and not even regularly) is Britt Humes news hour on Fox. If I even hear the name of Natalie Holloway, I cringe and turn the channel. I feel bad for her family, it is a tragedy, but the constant news coverage is way out of proportion.

    I hadn’t really followed the Lacrosse thing until the DNA tests came out-and I have read some articles on that, and I think it probably does warrant local attention-not sure that it warrants national coverage, but how much coverage was it getting before this?

  6. floyd says:

    did anyone tell dan what they tell parents of young children when they complain about the content of television foisted on them ? TURN IT OFF OR CHANGE THE CHANNEL! not very satisfying is it?