Tuesday, November 27, 2018


At the Daily Beast, Maxwell Tani reports that parts of an interview segment with former EPA administrator Ryan Zinke were carefully scripted to Zinke's specifications:
In one instance, according to emails revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Sierra Club and reviewed by The Daily Beast, Pruitt’s team ... approved part of the show’s script....

In May 2017, Pruitt’s staff wanted to set up an interview to discuss how the then-administrator was interested in helping communities his team claimed were “poorly served by the last administration.”

And so then-EPA press secretary Amy Graham proposed an interview to Fox & Friends producer Andrew Murray, who quickly agreed to bring Pruitt on the next day to discuss the topic.

Murray then copied producer Diana Aloi, saying she said she would follow up with “pre-interview questions on the agreed-upon topic, the new direction of the EPA, and helping communities that were poorly served by the last administration.”

In subsequent emails, Aloi repeatedly sought “talking points” and the “top three priorities are for the EPA that Mr. Pruitt would like to discuss specifically.”

Once Graham sent over the talking points, Aloi sought the government official’s approval for the script introducing Pruitt’s segment.

“Would this be okay as the setup to his segment?” producer Diana Aloi asked.

She wrote:

“There’s a new direction at the Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump—and it includes a back-to-basics approach. This after the Obama administration left behind a huge mess more than 1,300 super-fund sites which are heavily contaminated—still require clean-ups. So why was President Obama touted as an environmental savior if all these problems still exist?”

The EPA comms shop was pleased.

“Yes — perfect,” Graham replied.

And when the segment aired the next day, the network stuck to that exact government-approved script.
I'm not surprised. I've long assumed that Fox and many of its interviewees agree beforehand not just on discussion topics or bits of interviewer flackery, but also on the wording of specific exchanges in the interviews themselves.

Here's an example from my archives: In 2015, the ISIS magazine Dabiq identified some U.S. political figures as enemies of the caliphate. One was former senator Rick Santorum. Santorum subsequently appeared on Fox & Friends, where he had this exchange with host Steve Doocy. (Apologies for the wingnutty tweet below, but it's the only working source I could find for the video.)

DOOCY: You know, it's one thing if The New York Times quotes you, or we quote you on Fox, but when ISIS quotes you, what did you think?

SANTORUM: Well, the difference is ISIS actually quoted me accurately, composed -- compared to The New York Times, which is sort of a remarkable comment on the state of the media today.
Notice how Santorum slips and says "composed" before correcting himself and saying "compared." That's not a mistake you'd make if you had a brain freeze and couldn't remember the word you meant to use. It's not a mistake you'd make if you stumbled over the pronunciation of the word "compared."

It is, however, a mistake you might make if you were momentarily misreading a scripted line from a Teleprompter.

An an interview by a real journalist, the interviewee isn't supposed to know the questions in advance, and is expected to answer spontaneously. But this was clearly a prepared exchange. And it's a classic Fox exchange -- the story is about ISIS, but Doocy and Santorum make it about the right's real enemy, the non-conservative part of America, specifically the hated American "liberal media."

I suspect this happens a lot at Fox.

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