By Eric Boehlert
November 3, 2009
Fact: The breathless claim that Fox News' ratings recently spiked thanks to the White House's public critique is bogus hype -- hype that Fox News and the Beltway press have relentlessly pushed.
It's just not true.
No matter how many times reporters and pundits made the claim, a detailed analysis of Nielsen ratings numbers clearly indicates that in the two weeks after the White House in mid-October sparked a media controversy by claiming Rupert Murdoch's channel was not a legitimate news organization, Fox News' ratings did not soar or go "through the roof." In fact, not only did Fox News' overall ratings not soar, they experienced no significant increase at all. Instead, in the two weeks following the initial verbal jousts with the White House, Fox News' total day ratings virtually flatlined.
Another example of the Beltway press not letting the facts get in the way of a good story? It sure looks that way. In this case, we saw nearly universal agreement among media elites that the White House decision to publicly call out Fox News was monumentally dumb, thin-skinned, short-sighted, and uncivil. (Paging the etiquette police!)
Everyone said so. Therefore pundits were certain that Fox News' ratings were way up and that Obama and his aides had made a huge tactical blunder. The ratings angle simply provided statistical ammunition for what the Beltway press corps already knew to be the truth: Fact-checking Fox News, in the immortal words of The Washington Post's CW-loving Sally Quinn, was "absolutely crazy."
Except it turns out none of that was true. There was no viewer stampede toward Fox News.