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Fox News Watchdog Jon Stewart Levels Gretchen Carlson

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Thursday, December, 10th, 2009, 3:28 pm

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Jon Stewart ripped into Fox News for posting a graphic in response to the hacked emails of climate change scientists about their use of statistics in support of global warming. Stewart seized on the idea that Fox News and Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson might not be as stupid as she seems on the air.

The graphic, reporting misleadingly the figures about public opinion from a Rasmussen poll, showed responses to the question:

“Did scientists falsify research to support their own theories on Global Warming?”

The question results posted were:

59% Somewhat Likely
35% Very Likely
26% Not Very Likely

Here is the video:

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If you are able to do the math, as Stewart is, that adds up to 120%, which implies that there was some cherry picking of figures going on here to create an intended impression. I have no idea how many viewers typically check the math on news, or pseudo-news, programming; but I would suspect that most viewers are focused on the commentary more than on fact checking what is in front of them on screen.

Now while the statistics are not over a line with that 120% listed as the total underneath – and yes, this becomes important later on! – the voice over wording does add the numbers together. “About 60% of you say Somewhat Likely, 35% say Very Likely. So you got 90, you got a lot of people right there thinking it is likely, although 26% say Not Very Likely.”

Apparently Fox talking heads have to read their graphics to their viewers, and it would seem that where you have that talking head in this case doing the math, he stops himself when he realizes how the figures in the graphic add up. He doesn’t point out that if 94% disbelieve scientists falsify global warming, then you can’t have another 26% believing they haven’t. Instead, he switches in mid-sentence to “you got a lot of people right there thinking it is likely (falsified research).

Now apart from the condescension inherent in the graphic which assumes no one watching will catch the math discrepancy (to use a nice word for it), and apart from the implied misrepresentation of the information that is in the Rasmussen poll – they do better math than this – is the unintended irony pointed out by Stewart that this is Fox news “massaging” the data in a story that is about scientists possibly misrepresenting their data. Pot. Kettle. Black and blacker.

Wearing his usual dyspeptic expression of dismay as he contemplates the graphic and then looks into the camera, Stewart wryly observes, “So in attacking scientists for falsifying data to support their theories on global warming, you’ve cited a poll that adds up to 120%. This is, ah…….what’s known in the business….what’s known in the business as perfection.”

But Stewart doesn’t stop there, because Fox didn’t stop there with the realization of it’s first talking head that there was a problem. Fox wanted to push their skewed view, damn the data. Stewart went on to note in sarcastic understatement, “The only way you could, perhaps, top this Sundae, is with a couple of nuts completely ignoring the mathematical impossibility in front of them to further solidify their talking points du jour.” He refers to the comment that “In the spirit of fairness, I believe that question was asked before these emails were revealed, so that poll number may actually be different now.” As one of the other talking heads elaborates, “Substantially higher?”, and is answered “It might be, yes.”. This is followed with “Close to100% now?” and derisive laughter on the Fox news set in the clip. Or maybe it was nervous laughter from talking heads who realized they were lying through their teeth and might get caught at it if someone did the math.

Yeah, now it might be up to 130%, or maybe even 150%, or 200%, depending on who at Fox News is doing the graphics and cherry-picking data.

Stewart continues in his observations on Fox News with “Yeah, actually, actually, in the spirit of fairness, we should mention that this, this Rasmussen poll had a margin of error of monkey-bleeped-ridiculous.”

Ah, but ya gotta love Stewart, he doesn’t stop here either. He goes on to rip Fox, calling them out on their badly slanted so-called news coverage, so opposite from their espoused motto of “fair and balanced” news. He rightly (pun intended) labels their approach “passive-aggressive wonderment”, providing a sarcastic exaggeration of their reasoning. Speaking as if he were a Fox News commenter, he said “Isn’t it interesting that Obama gave a speech in Berlin? You know, Hitler used to speak in Berlin.”

He then segues with the comment “We begin to believe that the organization may be a tad disingenuous. Now I believe that Gretchen Carlson may be another example of this.” Stewart focuses his attention specifically on talking head Gretchen Carlson, whom I have followed since her early days, before her career in the media. Carlson is yet another right wing beauty pageant queen, this one from the Minnesota.

Stewart pans Carlson for her persona on Fox and Friends as “a troubled mom, who is just trying to make sense of this crazy, modern country we’ve got. Like when Hugo Chavez referred to Obama as an ignoramus.” In a clip of Carlson, she states “I just wanted to see how much of an insult it was to be called an ignoramus. Since I didn’t know what it meant, I just googled it.”

Let me interject here that Minnesota, where Carlson grew up, has a pretty decent and competitive educational system in the public schools. As a product of that same educational system, I can assure readers we were taught a respectable vocabulary, including words like ignoramus. And when we genuinely don’t know the meaning of a word – as contrasted with Carlson’s statement here – we were taught how to use a dictionary, not just reliance on search engines like Google. I found the notion that Carlson isn’t familiar with this word to be even more improbable than Stewart found it.

The clip of Carlson continues with her stating “For all of you out there who don’t know what ignoramus is, like me…” This is a blatant case of Carlson dumbing down her real intellect and education. I don’t know what is more offensive here, her deception, or the assumption that she has a stupid audience to whom she has to pander. Now, without looking it up, I knew – as I assume readers here would know – that ignoramus is more usually used to mean ANY ignorant person. Carlson however defines it more specifically, on Fox News, as “It’s an ignorant lawyer. We all know Barak Obama IS a lawyer”.

Carlson is not actually wrong either. If you research the word, it derives from the latin, ignorare, which translates “to be ignorant”. There was a play titled “Ignoramus” waaaay back in 1615, by the English playwright G. Ruggle who used the word as a name for a character. That usage also derives from the legal terminology, “a grand jury’s endorsement upon a bill of indictment when evidence is deemed insufficient to send the case to a trial jury” according to the American Heritage Dictionary. Carlson is, to borrow a phrase from my grandmother, “dumb like a fox” (pun intended).

Stewart picks up on this playing dumb by Carlson, when he goes on to mimic her, speaking in falsetto, “I mean I’m no fan of Chavez, but Obama IS a lawyer.” In his own voice, Stewart continues “and of course all that talk about money and business just confuses the heck out of the old girl”, going on to mock Carlson’s pretense that she didn’t understand the economic term “double dip recession’. Continuing in the falsetto as if he were Carlson, Stewart says “So it turns out that double dip means that Obama is not taking us all out for ice cream, but leading the country to an economic disaster.”

He similarly excoriates Carlson over pretending to be unfamiliar with the word Czar when Stewart says “How do you get a job on television if you appear to be one of those people who need to pin their address to their coat so a stranger can help them find their way home? Unless, unless…unless…unless you are just dumbing yourself down to connect with an audience that you think sees intellect as an eletist flaw.”

Noting “But that would be easy to check”, Stewart gives the results of googling Gretchen Carlson, he notes that she was valedictorian of her high school, and went to college at Stanford, graduating with honors, then spending time abroad studying at Oxford, “not the Mississippi one, the Europe one.”

Stewart then continues on about Carlson’s talent competition performance as an accomplished classical violinist, when she won the 1989 Miss America pageant. He sarcastically observed “Of course, if she entered today, she’d probably just dress up like Raggedy Ann and sing “My Funny Valentine”.”

Stewart ends his segment on Carlson and Fox News with “Gretchen, Baby, come back! You don’t have to stash your IQ in an off shore account. Just ’cause you’re on the couch with Jack Tripper and Janet doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be Chrissy. So I don’t want to have to turn you on tomorrow and see you are actually surprised that the Interior Secretary is in charge of the outside stuff. From now on, I want to see you give it 120%.”

Ya gotta love Jon Stewart.

Fox News Watchdog Jon Stewart Levels Gretchen Carlson was written by Guest Contributor for PoliticusUSA.
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