The ‘other side of the story’

The exchange was edited out of the broadcast version of the interview, but when Jon Stewart appeared on “Fox News Sunday” this week, he asked host Chris Wallace, “You believe that Fox News is exactly the ideological equivalent of NBC News?”

Wallace replied, “I think we’re the counter-weight. I think that they have a liberal agenda, and I think that we tell the other side of the story.”

It was an odd admission from the Fox News figure. The Republican network likes to maintain the “fair and balanced” pretense, but Wallace was effectively giving away the game. Fox News doesn’t tell both sides, it counters liberals by telling the other side. This, in Wallace’s mind, constitutes “balance.”

Yesterday, Wallace appeared on Fox Radio and elaborated.

“What I meant — and perhaps I could have phrase it a little better — but what I really meant is that everybody in the mainstream media tells one side of the story.”

Wallace then shared an anecdote about Hurricane Katrina coverage, when Brit Hume shifted the blame to Democratic officials in Louisiana, when those other mean news organizations focused primarily on FEMA.

I’m not sure how this makes Wallace’s accidental truth telling any less embarrassing, but he seemed to think it was important. I, on the other hand, think it’s more important that he’s now admitted that his employer tells one side of the story.

I’d note, by the way, that Wallace has accidentally told the truth about this before. A year ago this month, Wallace talked to Don Imus about Helen Thomas’ seat in the White House press briefing room, in the wake of her retirement. Wallace said Fox News getting the seat would be “payment for Helen Thomas,” because “obviously, she was very far to the left wing.”

Wallace added, “If her seat were to be taken by Fox News, it would just be kind of poetic justice.”

Of course, it’s obvious exactly what he meant — Thomas was to the left, Fox News is a Republican outlet. It would be “justice,” from Wallace’s perspective, precisely because it’s payback, trading someone from one end of the spectrum for someone at the opposite end.

Imus noticed the implicit concession, and called Wallace on it. The “Fox News Sunday” host quickly realized he’d gone too far. “Well, I just realized that’s probably not the way to go on this,” he said.

Don’t worry, Chris. Your words speak for themselves.