‘FAIR AND BALANCED’…. Fox News’ Neil Cavuto “interviewed” Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch yesterday, and the News Corp. CEO denied that the obvious propaganda network has a partisan slant.

“If we weren’t fair and balanced, we wouldn’t have the number one network in news — by a very wide margin. People believe we’re fair and balanced, and they love us.”

It’s interesting how often this comes up, in a variety of contexts. If a movie makes a lot of money, it must be a great film — if it weren’t terrific, it wouldn’t have been a blockbuster. If an album goes to the top of the charts, it must be the work of talented musicians — if there was no real talent, the music wouldn’t be a hit.

But this is an absurd way to measure quality. Bad movies make money, awful television shows get huge ratings, and no-talent musicians can churn out hits. In the same vein, confused, hard-core partisan may “love” Fox News, but that in no way reflects quality or professionalism. It’s a ridiculous cable news networks, created to serve as an arm of the Republican Party. That Republicans prefer it, “by a very wide margin,” tells us nothing about the credibility of the broadcasts.

Murdoch — who probably knows better, but enjoys playing along — has it backwards. The Fox News audience doesn’t tune in because standards-free media professionals offer “fair and balanced” coverage of the news; viewers tune in precisely because they’re looking for a Republican spin on reality, and Fox News delivers.

I can’t tell what’s more annoying — the network making a mockery of professional journalism, or the network maintaining the facade that it’s a legitimate, objective outlet.

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.