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Criticize Fox, in any form or fashion these days, and even if you are completely correct in your criticism, you are almost automatically branded a liberal, a commie, a socialist, or worst of all, a “non-believer.” Well, at the risk of all those labels, I am intentionally going out on a limb today to call out, and criticize, the organization that calls itself “Fox News.”

While in midtown New York City for some meetings early this week, I had an occasion to spend the night at a midtown hotel, and to walk down to 49th street for a quick fish dinner. When I departed the restaurant, I glanced to the right as I turned up 6th Avenue, and read a large red scrolling headline at the News Corp building that was so subtly at odds with the truth, that I read it first and continued walking the other direction. Yet, when I ran it through my head a couple of seconds, I thought to myself, “That’s not true…that’s not what happened…and it creates a false narrative, a truly false impression, and an undue advantage -- when it is stated that way.”

 

The bold headline, pictured below, read exactly, “He’s No. 1…Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 44, becomes first high-profile candidate to announce…”

But, importantly, the first part, the part that is read first, and the part that has the first and thus probably most important impact, is absolutely wrong, because it is not what happened today.

On Monday, March 23, 2015, Texas’ U.S. Senator Ted Cruz did become the first, timing wise, to announce for president. But, to be clear, nothing about what Ted Cruz did made him “Number One,” and that’s a very important difference.

Nothing that Ted Cruz did today brought him qualitatively further up any ladder, yet “Fox News” suggests exactly otherwise when it states that by simply announcing his candidacy, Senator Cruz becomes “No. 1.” In short, being “first” to announce does not make Ted Cruz “Number One” of anything near or worth that “No. 1” headline.

This is a huge distinction, because some, maybe many, people will miss the distinction, which gives Ted Cruz and undue and unearned advantage over other candidates (of every party affiliation). The “No. 1” moniker also suggests people should support his candidacy and vote for him for the wrong reason.

Indeed, a good “news” editor, one bent on telling the truth, stating facts, and avoiding sending improper and inaccurate implications or messages, would have immediately caught the inaccuracy and removed the words, “He’s No. 1.”

Why is that important? It is important because by stating that “Ted Cruz is Number One,” the headline states that he did something that represents quality, or a choice by others, of some kind. The headline suggests Mr. Cruz took actions which allowed him to rise above others for some important and substantive reason. But Ted Cruz did not do that today...at least not in any way that can yet represent that judgment by anyone at all. Indeed, by announcing “first” according to the calendar, Ted Cruz may have actually become even less of a “No. 1” candidate. “Fox News” saying Ted Cruz is “Number One” for being the first to announce is saying he’s the “best” because of the procedural timing of announcing whenever he did. It makes no sense. And no one can yet say that any candidate is “No. 1,” for any reason.

Again, to be clear, importantly, Ted Cruz did not do anything worthy of a quality judgment or ranking on the part of “Fox News” that was based solely on the timing of his announcement. Yet, that that substantive quality measurement is what “Fox News” intentionally led with, and put in people’s heads, globally, when it wrote, edited, and posted in front of America and the world these kinds of “news” headlines. It is perhaps somewhat subtle, and “Fox News” folks and their supporters will say “they didn’t mean it that way,” but the best at their jobs know the difference, or sometimes as important…they should know the difference.

When I presented this column to several critiques, including a handful of true “conservatives,” one even hinted that “Fox News” intended the inaccuracy, testing whether anyone would call them out and, if not, then using that as a springboard to more substantial inaccuracies and nuances. Worth remembering here is that if that is true -- which I do not believe it is – then that, too, is certainty not worthy of a bona fide “news” organization.

Call me liberal/commie/socialist, and non-believer (or yes, Sarah Palin…’lame stream media’), but I just don’t believe in this kind of hyperbole and rating/ranking on the part of a “factual teller of the truth,” i.e., a news organization. A substantive rating or ranking –especially for something as important as president of the United States -- is appropriate when there is some valid basis, in fact, for what is stated as fact…which clearly here, in this headline, there was not. In summary, being “first” is simply is not being the “best,” which was certainly the implication among this handful of words.

“Fox News” has been on the ropes for this “non-news-as-news” and “non-truth-as-truth” for weeks now, and it’s high time as true and truthful news people -- which they say they are which I assume they are -- that they not only should know the difference, but do know the difference, and that they act to make it right…before it is stated! (Plus, in this instance, to offer a correction and an apology to its audience!)

And if he truly merits consideration as president of the United States, Ted Cruz should call them out, and make the correction, as well.

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