By: Greg Mitchell
With controversy already brewing over the soon-to-be-released documentary “Outfoxed,” The New York Times Magazine, in this Sunday’s issue, offers an exclusive preview. Writer Robert S. Boynton calls the film’s “most stinging blow” to the Fox News “fair and balanced” claim a series of daily memos apparently sent to the entire Fox News operation by John Moody, a senior vice president.
According to director Robert Greenwald, the memos were provided by two unnamed Fox employees. The Times says the memos “set the agenda for how events will be covered.”
One memo, believed to be circulated in April, suggested how to cover the rise in American deaths in Iraq: “Do not fall into the easy trap of mourning the loss of U.S. lives.” Another covered the U.S. siege of Falluja: “It won’t be long before some people start to decry the use of ‘excessive force.’ We won’t be among that group.” Referring to the 9/11 Commission hearing, a third urged: “Do not turn this into Watergate.”
What’s being labeled a “press conference with Fox Whisteblowers” will be held on Monday at noon in New York.
The New York Times article also reveals the filmmakers’ concerns about legal actions by Fox. “Nobody has ever made a critical documentary about a media company that uses as much footage without permission as Greenwald has,” Boynton writes, “and the legal precedents governing the ‘fair use’ of such material, while theoretically strong, are not well-established in case law.”
Greenwald has hired several lawyers. “I want to make a great film,” he told Boynton. “But I’d like to do so without losing my house and spending the rest of my life in court.”
No one from Fox would comment on the film. The article says Greenwald’s lawyers were still deciding whether to “go through the motions” of asking Fox for permission to use the extensive clips or wait to see if the network will actually sue. “If they are lucky,” Boynton writes, Fox will not sue, recalling the backlash to its lawsuit against Al Franken last year.
The movie, which the Times says “combines the leftist partisan vigor of a Michael Moore film with the sober tone and delivery of a PBS special,” will make its debut Tuesday night in New York. A panel will accompany the showing of the film at the New School featuring, among others, Arianna Huffington and Nicholas Lemann.
It will be shown at Moveon.org house parties across the country a few days later. A large chunk of its $300,000 budget was provided by MoveOn and the Center for American Progress. Volunteers from MoveOn also helped Greenwald monitor the cable news channel day and night.
The film features interviews with Walter Cronkite and media critic Eric Alterman. Eric Clapton allowed the free use of “Layla” because of a longstanding dislike of Fox owner Rupert Murdoch. Don Henley donated his song “Dirty Laundry.” But CBS denied use of clips from “60 Minutes” explaining “it didn’t want to be associated with a controversial documentary about Murdoch,” according to the Times. WGBH refused permission for use of a clip from “Frontline” for fear to looking too “political.”
Appearing on Friday night, Greenwald said he interviewed for the film a total of nine ex-employees of Fox.