The Journal vs. Fox (Huh?)

Hard though it be to believe, a Wall Street Journal editorial Monday actually had the temerity to criticize Fox News. Not by name, of course—Murdoch editorialists are nothing if not discreet when going after other parts of the Murdoch empire—but the criticism was directed at some unnamed organization that puts Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly on television every night.

The criticism came in an editorial on the late, lamented Herman Cain campaign. After noting that Cain was in no way ready for prime time, the editorial asserted that Cain had too many flaws to take on President Barack Obama. At that point, the Journal dipped its toe, gingerly, into criticism of the right-wing media. Cain’s unelectability, it said,

is the weakness that the talk-radio establishment overlooked when it dismissed the sexual-harassment accusations against Mr. Cain as one more left-wing conspiracy. Whether true or not, the accusations resulted in settlements by the National Restaurant Association, where he had been CEO. These were facts on the record. They were bound to come out, especially if he won the nomination.

And it wasn’t just the talk-radio establishment that was to blame for trying to dismiss the Cain brouhaha.

Mr. Cain’s failure to disclose them himself, and his inept response once they emerged, revealed a candidate who didn’t appreciate the merciless realities of a modern Presidential campaign. Primary voters got the message despite the cable-TV wagon circling, and he fell in the polls.

Cable TV? What network could that be? MSNBC? Unlikely. CNN? Probably not. Turner Classic Movies? Close, but no cigar. The careful reader is compelled to conclude that the Journal’s editorialists are criticizing their fellow Murdochians at Fox News.

We don’t often think about such things, but the free-market zealots who fill up the Journal’s editorial pages with free-market zealotry are probably mortified by their cousins at Fox more than we may imagine. Marching under the same banner as yahoos (whose ratings depend on stirring up other yahoos) can be a problem for elites in any movement, and in this case, it apparently was for Gigot’s grandees. Fox News is their Smerdyakov—the unacknowledged, illegitimate, feeble-minded brother who actually does the dirty deed. Annoying, but the Murdoch family wouldn’t amount to much without him.

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