The Media Research Center has regularly downplayed the News of the World phone-hacking scandal in an effort to avoid implicating its beloved Fox News, and one of the chief worker bees has been Noel Sheppard.
In a July 17 NewsBusters post, Sheppard tried to deflect criticism of Fox News by CNN's Howard Kurtz for its initial reticence in covering the scandal by noting a Media Matters report on cable news coverage of it: "does Kurtz really think 30 reports on this subject by Fox from July 4 through July 13 is them ignoring the story? ... 30 reports in ten days not only means three a day, but also that Fox is continuing to cover the matter."
First, given that Fox News is a 24-hour cable news operation, shouldn't we expect more than an average of three reports a day? Sheppard is setting the coverage bar extremely low, especially since CNN and MSNBC aired at least twice as many reports on the scandal during that time.
Second, Fox News did actively ignore the scandal early on. Fox's first report wasn't until July 6, two days after it exploded with the revelations of phone-hacking of the voice mail of teenage murder victim Milly Dowler.
Sheppard also sought to exonerate Fox's media-criticism show, "Fox News Watch," for initially ignoring the scandal by huffing that the following week the show "did two segments on the scandal encompassing two thirds of the program." At no point does Sheppard comment on "Fox News Watch" not only ignoring the scandal the previous week but also declaring in a web-only segment that they won't "touch it" -- even though that's in the Kurtz transcript Sheppard includes in his post.
Sheppard was still at it in a July 24 post, responding to criticism of Fox News by Ariana Huffington by launching a personal attack on her:
Actually, one of the biggest embarrassments to journalism in recent memory was AOL buying out the perilously liberal Huffington Post.
As such, Huffington is in no position to accuse anyone or anything of embarrassing journalism given what her pathetic website does to the industry on a daily basis.
More embarrassing than Sheppard? We find that hard to believe.
Sheppard went on to uncritically parrot Fox Business employee Charlie Gasparino's defense of Fox News' coverage of the scandal, then reference his own previous post on the subject:
As NewsBusters reported last Sunday, Fox had done at least 30 reports concerning this scandal in the first ten days after it broke.
But facts don't matter to shills like Huffington.
She wants the only major news organization that doesn't have a decidedly liberal bias to be off the air, and she's going to do whatever she possibly can to accomplish that goal.
Once again, it was fortunate for "This Week" viewers that Gasparino was there to counter Huffington's absurd misrepresentations.
Nice job, Charlie. Bravo!
Again, Sheppard failed to acknowledge that Fox News' coverage of the scandal fell far behind that of the other cable news networks. Indeed, it can be argued that if it were not for scrutiny of that lack of coverage, the deficit might be even bigger that it is.