By all rights it will rank as one of TV news' singular moments — along with Edward R. Murrow tongue-whipping Joe McCarthy, and with Walter Cronkite turning against the Vietnam war.
It was the night a Fox News anchor told Karl Rove to get over himself — in so many words.
Election Night 2012: Rove who holds perpetual squatter's rights on the Fox News set, refused to believe the network's projection that Barack Obama had won Ohio.
For a few odd moments it appeared Rove would not allow the evening to proceed — grabbing and dangling from the hands of the clock, as it were. It was like having the Jerry Jones in the broadcast booth to overrule a ref's review because it went against America's Team.
Cameras followed anchor Megyn Kelley into the bowels of Fox Election Central. There, a mole-eyed numbers guy timidly explained to her that Ohio was toast, GOP-wise.
Back on the set, Rove remained in code-red denial. From Kelly came five words no Fox anchor or Republican mouth-for-hire imagined saying again about Barack Obama: "He won, Karl. He won."
Now, the question arises: What about Christmas bonuses from Rupert Murdoch this year? We assume them to be performance-based, and Obama's re-election is the ultimate "system fail" at Fox News. Bonuses? Heck, shouldn't heads roll?
The prime-time soap opera involving Rove and arithmetic is the capper to a four-year campaign the likes of which American television has never seen.
Sum it up with a rhetorical question: Does the Republican Party control Fox News, or vice versa? Roughly from his first breath as president-elect in 2008, Fox News sought to make Obama a one-term president, and congressional Republicans got the memo. (Or the network got the memo from the Republican Party. Doesn't matter.)
Many have tried to paint the tea party movement as your basic salt-of-the-earth grassroots development. That would be true, except that no grassroots effort before had a 24-hour TV spin machine selling tickets on its behalf.
Any detached viewer who wanted to give Fox News a chance to act out its "fair and balanced" credo would have dropped any such notion to see how the network promoted the tea party rallies in 2009 — dispatching its "news" personalities across the country to pump up numbers. Said a promo for Glenn Beck's appearance in Texas: "Taking a stand at the Alamo: Citizens revolt against more taxes . . . plus Ted Nugent fires back at the government . . . Glenn is live at the Tea Party . . ."
Blocking passage of the Affordable Care Act was an all-hands-on-deck effort at Fox News, and not just the work of the Sean Hannities and Bill O'Reillys, whom Fox apologists would have us believe are different from Fox's allegedly top-notch reporters. Whatever actual journalism Fox reporters might have done, it constantly is discredited by exquisitely foxy presentation, such as whatever information Fox deems fit to print in the crawl at the bottom of its screen and on its Web site.
"Fox Nation victory! Congress delays health care rationing bill" announced FoxNews.com when Obama's bill stalled for a moment. From the cheerleading tone of this "bulletin" all the way to the exclamation point, this wasn't something to which any actual journalist would admit. This was propaganda at its finest.
In related news, nearly 1 million Americans this week have petitioned to secede from the United States following Obama's victory. Working title for new country? Fox Nation (?)
As David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt describe in their book, The Fox Effect, Fox News was the key player behind wholly inexcusable myths being perpetrated about the health-care bill.
The network jumped on a single, baseless tweet from Sarah Palin about "death panels" and rode what PolitFact.com called "the lie of the year" for weeks. It didn't matter what actual experts said about the legislation, or its authors.
Oh, and shortly thereafter, Fox employed Palin's eminent baselessness for regular stints as a "news" analyst.
All is in keeping with the designs of former Nixon operative Roger Ailes, who founded Fox News and runs it today with the expressed intent of appealing to a certain demographic with a finely honed bias.
He's certainly got the ratings. The only thing not in keeping with Ailes' grand design today is the man now preparing for four more years in the White House.
Meanwhile, Ailes paces the floor sweating arrival of that letter containing no year-end bonus but instead membership in the Jelly of the Month Club.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: email@example.com.