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Fox News's support for Turkish coup is true to form

That Fox News would pursue a singular narrative or embrace an explicitly anti-democratic agenda is not terribly surprising

American television news media coverage of Friday’s attempted coup in Turkey was a mixed bag. NBC lamented the possibility of an elected government being overthrown by the military, CNN provided mostly measured reporting about the ramifications of the coup attempt, and, perhaps predictably, Fox News offered up sensationalist, propagandist reporting.

Fox News celebrated the attempted coup, argued that America should embrace the overthrow attempt, and, ultimately, mourned its failure.

As news of the coup was breaking on Friday, Fox News trotted out guest after guest offering up support for the coup plotters and denouncing Turkey’s elected President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

For example, Fox News analyst Sebastian Gorka justified the coup attempt, arguing that Erdogan has been helping the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and that Turkey “has become a fundamentalist nation” under his leadership. Texas Republican Representative Michael McCaul, meanwhile, attributed the coup to Erdogan’s essential Islamism - the Fox News host interviewing McCaul agreed, and suggested that Erdogan’s “essential embrace to Islamism” was Turkey’s foremost problem.

In another interview, Fox News Insider Ralph Peters said, “this coup is Turkey’s last chance to avoid becoming an authoritarian Islamic regime if not an outright Islamist dictatorship.” He continued: “We should make no mistake, the people staging this coup are the good guys. It sounds paradoxical, but they are the ones on the side of constitutional democracy.” Peters went on to blame American President Barack Obama for supporting the democratically elected government.

“As usual, Obama/Kerry has got it wrong," he said. "God bless the people trying to save Turkey.” After it became clear the coup had failed, Fox News published on op-ed by Peters on its website. There, Peters wrote of his regret that the coup had failed. He said: “Friday night’s failed coup was Turkey’s last hope to stop the Islamisation of its government and the degradation of its society.”

One particularly telling interview featured Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Carlson and Huckabee agreed that elected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was Turkey’s primary problem and that it would be best if he were ousted. Huckabee said: “This current president, you know, he is the problem.”

Carlson, meanwhile, suggested that, instead of strictly embracing democratically elected leaders, the US should only embrace democratically elected leaders if they are not Islamists. According to Carlson’s line of argument, democratically elected leaders from Islamist backgrounds should not be afforded the same sort of protections by the United States and NATO.

Carlson said, “Why wouldn’t it be really simple? We support secular leaders in the region. We do not support Islamist leaders. If that is kind of the guidepost for our foreign policy, wouldn’t things work out a little better?” Huckabee agreed with Carlson: “They would work out a lot better, Tucker,” he said.

That Fox News would pursue a singular narrative or embrace an explicitly anti-democratic agenda is not terribly surprising.

Empirical examinations of Fox News content have not been very kind to the network. Scholarly research suggests that Fox News is blatantly partisan, explicitly propagandist, and inclined to support a pro-war agenda, among numerous other reporting problems. One media scholar, Sean Aday, suggested that Fox News should be considered “an alternative media source rather than part of the mainstream media”.

In Turkey many people are angry with US media over the reporting of the coup. While Fox stood out for its open support for the overthrow of Turkey's elected government, it was not alone in its selective approach to this failed coup attempt.

- Dr Mohamad Elmasry is an assistant professor in the Department of Communications at the University of North Alabama.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: A man gestures toward a Fox News satellite truck before on 30 October, 2010 in Washington, DC (AFP).

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