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Fox’s new hire, John Stossel, won’t diffuse complaints about network bias

By A. James Memmott

November 3, 2009 at 10:43am

Is reporter John Stossel objective?

Well, no. Nor does he claim to be.

But now that Stossel’s going to be grinding his ax on Fox News, he has become part of the reheated debate over that network’s objectivity.

Critics of the network, including members of the Obama administration, contend that Fox offers conservative commentary often disguised as news.

John Stossel
John Stossel

And the most recent proof of this bias, some say, was Stossel’s decision to speak last week at forums in Arkansas sponsored by Americans for Prosperity.

The group, which has libertarian roots, opposes a government-run health care plan.

According to news reports, Stossel told one of the forums Thursday that a government-run health plan was a “Ponzi scheme” that would eventually lead to “something like death panels”

Greg Sargent, who blogs on the Washington Post site whorunsgov.com, earlier suggested that Stossel’s participation in the forums would give ammunition to Fox’s critics.

“At a time when Fox is embroiled in a high-profile battle with the White House over its legitimacy as a news outlet, it seems less than helpful for one of its proudly touted journalists to participate in an event decrying Obama’s health care reform proposals as ‘government-forced health care,’” Sargent wrote.

In a statement to The Huffington Post, a spokesperson for Fox News suggested that Stossel is not bound by objectivity, as he is “not part of the hard news division at Fox News.”

Stossel, who was co-host of “20/20″ on ABC-News before leaving for Fox a few weeks ago, also spoke at an Americans for Prosperity forum in August in Wisconsin.

A libertarian, Stossel has long made a point of expressing his own views.

“Every reporter has political beliefs,” Stossel wrote in a column explaining his switch to Fox News. “The difference is that I am upfront about mine.”

The titles of Stossel’s two books certainly make it clear where he stands.

The first, Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media, was published in 2004.

The second, Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel – Why Everything You Know is Wrong, came out in 2006.

In his column on his switch to Fox, Stossel wrote that he didn’t always see eye-to-eye with officials at ABC, the network he joined as a consumer reporter in 1981.

“My bosses often disagreed with my point of view, but they usually let me air it,” Stossel wrote.

“But it was frustrating. My vision and that of my producers were often not in harmony. Too many stories I thought were important - such as the land theft called eminent domain, or the FDA’s endangering people’s lives by withholding life-saving drugs - were not aired.”

At Fox, Stossel, who is 62, will anchor a weekly program on Fox Business News and make appearances on the Fox News channel.

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