Brent Bozell: Jon Stewart Distorts the Facts on Fox

June 29, 2011 - 5:08 AM

Jon Stewart

Comedian Jon Stewart (AP Photo)

The Republican presidential contest is picking up steam. Obama is consistently polling under 50 percent. This one's a toss-up, and in the thick of it is the Fox News Channel. It's not just their role in hosting and vetting the candidates. It's their role as the chief villain in the eyes of liberal Democrats struggling to push their version of the "truth" about Obama.

Jon Stewart rhetorically asked Chris Wallace about Fox on "Fox News Sunday" because he thought he knew the answer: "Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers? The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll."

In the real world — outside Stewart's smug bubble — this is garbage. A 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center asked media consumers three questions: Which party was in control of Congress (Democrats), who was the secretary of state (Condi Rice), and who was the prime minister of Britain (Gordon Brown)?

Let's document how the viewers of "Hannity and Colmes" were better informed than Stewart's "Daily Show" gigglers on basic political facts. Hannity viewers beat Stewart's on the Democratic majority (84 percent to 65 percent correct answers), Condi Rice (a dramatic 73 percent to 48 percent gap) and Gordon Brown (49 percent to 36 percent). Overall, as a percentage getting all three questions right, Hannity won 42-30.

But there is nothing the left believes in more robotically than the stupidity of conservatives. Otherwise, they would not be conservatives. When liberals get routed in an election, they do not question themselves. The first and, for most, the only verdict is that the American people were disastrously flooded by a tsunami of stupidity and misinformation.

The liberal pranksters masquerading as pollsters at the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) are to blame. Last year, they claimed their survey showed that those who watched Fox News Channel on a daily basis were significantly more likely to believe in "misinformation." But how is that word defined? Look at the details, and you will be floored by the misinformation — coming from the pollsters themselves.

Here's their Exhibit A: Fox viewers were more likely to believe: "Among economists who have estimated the effect of the health reform law on the federal budget deficit over the next 10 years, more think it will increase the deficit."

That is misinformation? This question is not about facts at all. It's about the opinions of economists looking into a crystal ball, and PIPA's "economists" estimate that herding 35 million uninsured Americans into a new federal entitlement program is going to reduce the deficit.

This assertion by liberals that Obamacare would cut deficits isn't technically a "lie" — yet. It is merely a patently ridiculous claim that doesn't acknowledge the real world. But somehow, Fox News viewers are tagged as "misinformed" dummies because their opinions are grounded in logic.

Here's Exhibit B: Fox viewers were more likely to believe: "Most economists who have studied it estimate that the stimulus legislation saved or created a few jobs or caused job losses." Once again, this isn't about facts, but about economists and their estimations. The idea that there is "misinformation" afoot, and it's not about the incredibly nebulous and politicized notion of "saving or creating" jobs — something so nebulous it can never be factually verified — shows you the bias of the PIPA pollsters.

Let's go all the way back to the drawing board on this poll. Is it fair — whether the pollsters are liberal or conservative — to expect the American people to identify correctly the estimates made by a panel of economists organized by news editors of The Wall Street Journal? In a random polling sample, how many memorizing Journal subscribers are you going to find?

There was a more serious polling problem here for PIPA. Their polling sample size was 848 respondents, for a margin of error of 3.4 percent. Given that an average primetime audience of Fox News is 2.2 million out of a nation of more than 300 million people, that's 0.7 percent. Out of 848 poll respondents, 0.7 percent would give us a total of about six Fox viewers. In their own polling breakdown, PIPA says 17 percent said they were almost-daily Fox viewers, or about 145 people. Even that is simply not high enough to test in a serious poll.

That is why this survey wasn't food for the national media, but it keeps popping up on left-wing blogs and with "fake news" hosts from Comedy Central. Jon Stewart did the right thing and conceded that he was the one misinforming people on Fox News.