On Tuesday night, the Fox News Channel and MSNBC sharply diverged, as they so often do, in deciding how to cover the historic midterm elections, while the folks over at CNN decided that more would be, well, more.
Fox, perpetually scolded by the political left for perceived right-wing bias, opted to center its coverage around news anchors Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly, while relegating its highly rated conservative prime time hosts, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, to brief supporting roles as commentators.
Most of Fox’s punditry came from a panel that included Bush guru Karl Rove and Fox analyst Brit Hume, along with liberal Juan Williams, recently fired by National Public Radio, and Joe Trippi, a Democratic political operative best known for masterminding the rise of Howard Dean in 2004.
MSNBC, by contrast, decided to put all of its liberal prime-time hosts – Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews and Lawrence O’Donnell – on the set together to cover the election returns, with Ed Schultz cheerleading at Harry Reid headquarters in Las Vegas.
Conservative voices were few and far between, and MSNBC’s straight news journalists were also relegated to supporting roles, including Chuck Todd, who is arguably the network’s best political reporter.
Meanwhile, CNN’s air featured so many commentators (I stopped counting at 13) that at times it looked like the only people not miked and on the set were the guys washing dishes in the cafeteria. Anderson Cooper had to bring out his best kindergarten-teacher sternness to keep them from talking over the top of each other.
CNN also had the most confusing graphic of the night, a weird wall that listed vulnerable House seats by the year lawmakers were first elected but didn’t clearly show which seats had flipped Tuesday night. But kudos to CNN for retiring its well-worn election night music and replacing it with the stirring them from the HBO series “John Adams,” in a demonstration of Time-Warner synergy.
To enhance its election night experience, Fox rented a building in Times Square to use as a giant screen to display projections, then used a camera shot of the building on its air as Baier and Kelly called races in the studio. Alas, that camera shot also included a billboard for the Broadway musical “American Idiot,” which could be seen next to news of the budding Republican sweep.
Who says Fox isn’t fair and balanced?