On Monday night, Jesse Watters took the plum spot of 8 pm on the Fox News Channel – the Bill O’Reilly/Tucker Carlson hour – so it’s not surprising that NPR’s professional Fox-hater David Folkenflik tried to ruin the moment on Monday’s Morning Edition. The media reporter’s story was headlined “Fox’s newest star Jesse Watters boasts a wink, a smirk, and a trail of outrage.”
“Critics don’t find his rise a laughing matter,” Folkenflik announced. His theme was that unlike O’Reilly or Carlson, Watters is a clown.
Late in the story, Folkenflik said Watters is “entirely a creature of Fox, but there’s a stark contrast with his predecessors on the 8 pm show. Then he turned to former Fox News regular Julie Roginsky, who said “They were not there to be clowns. They were there to provide what Fox considered to be serious analysis of the day’s news.”
Folkenflik was just honest enough to note Roginsky “disagrees with pretty much anything either O’Reilly or Calson has had to say.” That’s because she’s a Democrat strategist, which he didn’t mention. He added that Roginsky settled with Fox News in the Roger Ailes harassment scandal, and “Roginsky draws a straight line between what she calls the toxic environment she experienced off the air and what Watters says on it.”
Roginsky added: “let’s call it what it is. It’s audience maintenance. It’s certainly not humor or a joke.” As if NPR doesn’t do “audience maintenance” with its liberal base by viciously attacking Fox on the regular.
Folkenflik also turned for analysis to Joe Muto, who also worked on the O’Reilly show. Muto says Watters showed a “mean streak.” Guess what Folkenflik didn’t add: Muto wrote a Fox-bashing book that came out in 2013 called An Atheist in the FOXhole: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right-Wing Media.
The only other Watters “expert” in the story was angry leftist comedian Ronny Chieng from The Daily Show on Comedy Central. NPR recounted how in 2016, Watters did one of his humorous O’Reilly man-on-the-street segments in New York’s Chinatown to talk about how China was prominent in the presidential race. Folkenflik noted Chieng “went on a tear” in attacking the Watters segment. Chieng said “everyone’s been wondering who would be the target of 2016’s worst racism. I didn’t even know Asians were in the running.”
Folkenflik did not add the mean streak Chieng went on to please his leftist audience: “Hey, douchebag…why do you look like you have hookers on speed dial? Oh, and how hard is it to get Bill O’Reilly’s entire scrotum in your mouth?”
The NPR reporter also said Watters gave $500 to President Obama’s re-election campaign,” but “These days, he’s embraced Trump, advanced conspiracy theories, and even cited QAnon approvingly on the air.” On Twitter, Folkenflik clarified that Watters said the donation was intended to get him into a Katy Perry concert/Obama fundraiser, which led to a Fox segment.
Folkenflik concluded the story: “Fox ousted Carlson this spring. The network has paid a total of $800 million to settle two separate lawsuits in which Carlson featured prominently — one involving defamatory conspiracy theories, the other allegations of a workplace that’s hostile to women.”
All this fuss means Folkenflik has dropped bombs on Fox News in five of his last eight stories for NPR. So far this year, Folkenflik has performed in forty-one anti-Fox News segments.