RUNNING A NETWORK LIKE A GOP CAMPAIGN…. Way back in September 2003, Christiane Amanpour noted that in the months leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, CNN “self-muzzled,” in large part because it was “intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News.”

A Fox News spokesperson immediately responded, “Given the choice, it’s better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda.”

It was one of those moments that made it obvious how similar Fox News is to a Republican political campaign. Indeed, it’s become one of the keys to the partisan news network’s m.o. — attack and destroy anyone who dares to criticize or get in the way. This week, Fox News even started running negative ads against CNN. When was the last time a major national news outlet trashed a rival in an attack ad?

This came up again yesterday, when Jon Stewart had the temerity to tell the truth about Fox News. (via Faiz)

Jon Stewart ripped the cable news networks Monday as a “brutish, slow-witted beast” and castigated Fox News in particular as “an appendage of the Republican Party.”

Wearing a gray T-shirt, khaki pants and a healthy stubble, the “Daily Show” host told reporters at a University of Denver breakfast that Fox’s “fair and balanced” slogan is an insult “to people with brains” and that only “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace “saves that network from slapping on a bumper sticker…. Barack Obama could cure cancer and they’d figure out a way to frame it as an economic disaster.”

A Fox News spokesperson who preferred to attack Stewart anonymously, told the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, “Jon’s clearly out of touch…. But being out of touch with mainstream America is nothing new to Jon, as evidenced by the crash-and-burn ratings of this year’s Oscars telecast.”

Fox News could have just ignored Stewart, or perhaps could have defended its version of “journalism,” but it’s easier to trash the critic than to maintain professional standards.

In other words, the tactics of Fox News and the standard operating procedure of the McCain campaign are practically indistinguishable. What a coincidence.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.