Outfoxed, a recent documentary by filmmaker Robert Greenwald, is a scathing critique of how Fox News conducts its business. It includes many interviews with former Fox employees as well as a few prominent media analysts like Walter Cronkite. Greenwald paid a visit to what was billed as a “Bill O’Reilly Shut Up-athon” this past Tuesday outside of Fox News headquarters in New York City. The Daily Planet stuck a tape recorder in his Greenwald’s face and started asking questions.
Daily Planet (DP): What has been Fox’s reaction to your movie?
Robert Greenwald (RG): Fox was mad that we didn’t call them when we were making the movie, and of course, if we did they would have sued us and got us to stop. So, we finished the movie and then we called them to ask them for a comment and they said “No comment.”
DP: Has there been any reaction at all? From O’Reilly?
RG: Bill O’Reilly has called me a smear merchant, which I consider a proud honor and award. We haven’t seen any real change in Fox’s behavior, but we expect, over time, there might be. What we’re starting to do is affect the sponsors and we’re seeing an effect in that area. And that’s what makes the most concern to Fox News…it’s that sponsors know that liberals buy cars, they buy soap. And they [sponsors] don’t want to be identified by one political point of view. So, we are extremely hopeful over time and through AlterNet’s lawsuit (Don Hazen of AlterNet was standing nearby) that we will see change.
DP: How is OutFoxed being distributed?
RG: OutFoxed was first available on DVD and distributed through Moveon.org and the Center for American Progress. Through AlterNet, with Buzzflash, it is available for people who want to buy it and have house parties. But now it’s also in the theaters. It was number one on Amazon for over two weeks.
DP: Do you have any reaction to how John McCain singled out one of your colleagues, filmmaker Michael Moore, in his speech the other night? (McCain referred to a certain “disingenuous filmmaker” without realizing Moore was sitting in the press area at Madison Square Garden.)
RG: I am thrilled that the Republicans are focusing on the most serious issue of the day, which is Michael Moore, rather than on terrorism, lack of jobs, lack of education, and this horrible war that is going on. It just indicates where the priorities are. But on a serious level they are doing what they consistently do. They’re not dealing with the questions that Michael raised which are profound and important. They’re just trying to smear him. It’s what Fox News does. It’s what these guys, and women [Republicans] are doing over and over. Character assassination.
DP: The film’s subtitle Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. Why is that?
RG: Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch who owns the News Corporation, which reaches some billion people around the world. And what Murdoch is doing with Fox News is not just being partisan and Republican. There is no news, it’s all opinion. He’s created an opinion station. And to that degree it affects and harms all news. There’s news that is objective facts, there are realities…and what Murdoch does, by design, is mix news and commentary, news and opinions. And you end up saying, ‘Well I can’t tell one from the other therefore it’s all equally valid.’
DP: Would you like to make a final comment about Fox?
RG: I like watching wrestling on television, occasionally. Fox News is mud wrestling for people who have nothing else better to do during the day.›