Sunday evening, as a long-debated health care bill passed through Congress, something quite strange was happening on the websites of two eminent news organizations.
Here was Fox News, Sunday night:
Fox News, of course, is famous as an embodiment of the right-wing machine. Yet its web page that night looked like a resounding endorsement of the health care bill. There is a dignified picture of the president, in a room full of celebrating aides. The picture is titled, in big white font, “This is what change looks like.”
If one clicks on the link for a larger view, the subtitles are sometimes quite left-leaning. On Fox Business: “It’s Here: Democrats Pass Sweeping Health Care Reform.” Below the image: “Obama Celebrates With Hugs and High Fives.” One subtitle implies Republican craziness: “Stupak Called ‘Baby-Killer,” presumably by a Republican.
Then there was the MSNBC response:
MSNBC is often depicted as the liberal contrast to Fox News. Last night, however, MSNBC’s website appeared anything but happy.
Take a look. The title – “House Sends Health Care Bill to Obama” – is far more restrained than Fox’s “This is What Change Looks Like.” There’s a somewhat unflattering portrait of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
And the details could have come from Fox itself. First, MSNBC assures its readers that the Democrats haven’t won yet; “there’s no certainty that the Senate will pass the House’s ‘corrections’ bill intact.” Then, just below, a poll asks the audience if they’re “jazzed or mad?” On the Stupak deal, an article claims that “Both anti-abortion groups and abortion rights supporters slam Dem’s deal.”
In other words, MSNBC was behaving just like…Fox would. And Fox was behaving just like MSNBC.
So what happened? Did the staffs of Fox and MSNBC suddenly switch places? Did Rupert Murdoch and Jeff Zucker decide to play an early April Fools joke? Was it just coincidence that Fox was acting like MSNBC, and MSNBC was acting like Fox?
We may never know.