Letter: Fox News unfairly rains on moderate Huntsman

In a convoluted early primary campaign, where candidates struggle to distinguish themselves, a lesser-known candidate has managed to bring the back-handed hammer of Fox News upon himself. Fox, which, according to Chris Wallace (a Fox News program anchor, in a quote given during an interview with Jon Stewart on June 19, 2011) is : “…the counterweight [to the alleged liberal bias of NBC]. I think they have a liberal agenda, and I think that we tell the other side of the story.”

We can debate for days about who has what bias, whether it be liberal or conservative. However, let us simply take away from that quote, that at the very least, certain people on TV and behind the scenes at Fox News tend to “lean” conservative.

So why is Fox subtly trying to scuttle Jon Huntsman’s (a Republican) campaign?

People who are even slightly familiar with the ideas of rhetoric know that even one minor vocabulary or detail change to a question or a statement can completely alter a subject’s perception of the statement. Before polls are conducted (at least, unbiased polls), pollsters go through a great deal to understand the syntax of the statement being posed, and even do test runs of the question to be sure that nothing about the question is prone to lead to bias.

An example of how a few simple words can change how a question is perceived is found from the University of Purdue:

  • Biased: Don’t you agree parking on campus is a problem?
  • Unbiased: Is parking on campus a problem?

In the first example, pressure is put on the respondent to answer positively (yes, it is a problem), in the second, that pressure is not present.

Now, assume that a Republican (as they are the only ones who can vote in the GOP Primary) is reading the article Fox News “Huntsman Unleashes on Fellow GOP Candidates.” During the article, Fox references the undisputed fact that Mr. Huntsman served as Ambassador to China.

Which are they more likely to respond with a negative view to?

  • Option 1: “… former Utah governor and President Obama’s Ambassador to China”
  • Option 2: “… former Utah governor and Ambassador to China”

If the person has a negative view of President Obama (which, as we are assuming they are Republican, is a safe bet), they may read the first option (the one that was published) and react negatively that he has any sort of association with, or was appointed by, Obama. By doing this, they have turned what should be a major strength (experience with America’s primary emerging rival, China, something that no other candidate has), into a glaring flaw.

But it doesn’t stop there. The same article goes on to quote Huntsman, in reference to fellow candidate Rick Perry, as saying “I’m not sure that the average voter out there is going to hear that treasonous remark and say that sounds like a presidential candidate, that sounds like someone who is serious on the issues.” While the quote is, in fact, correct, there is one subtle difference: They neglect to reference what Perry had originally said. When reading through Huntsman’s quote, it appears that he is accusing Perry of making a treasonous remark, in Huntsman’s judgment. To supporters and potential supporters of Perry, this would be an absolutely un-based accusation, and it paints Huntsman as reckless and vengeful, and an enemy to the party favorites, as opposed to simply a competitor.

In reality, it was Perry who alleged treason of finance chairman Ben Bernanke, instead of Huntsman. Huntsman was simply commenting on the content of Perry’s remark. These two examples (and others from the same article, which I will omit for the sake of brevity) don’t seem exactly like Fox is screaming from the mountaintops, but these slights, however subliminal, can destroy an already-moderate candidate’s hopes.

Huntsman, it would appear, could draw broad interest from all spectrums, and unlike other candidates, is proud of his record, and could end up being a bastion of the Republican party, if given the chance. However, Fox’s coverage can quickly lead him to the dreaded charge of being a RINO (Republican In Name Only), which, without having a well-established public persona (a la Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin), could be fatal.

The way that news used to be, unbiased facts would be presented about an issue, and any conclusions and opinions would be left to the viewer to make. However, to Huntsman’s detriment (as well as the voting public’s), that doesn’t seem to be the status quo anymore. So the next time you’re reading an article, regardless of the source, pay attention to what is really being said in the background. It may surprise you.