Jack Shafer is often a very astute media critic, but ultimately, he’s a man of the left, which explains the howlers in this paragraph in an otherwise somewhat interesting piece on “What Liberals Still Don’t Understand About Fox News” at the Politico:
The Republican Party had been fielding “Foxy” presidential candidates for decades before the network’s 1996 launch, such as Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Richard Nixon in 1968 (Ailes, by the way, was his media consultant), which suggests that the network isn’t leading the right-wing parade but has only positioned itself at the front of the procession. Another Foxy candidate on the 1968 general election ballot was George Wallace, who collected 13.5 percent of the presidential vote as a third-party candidate. Wallace traversed the sort of outré political frontiers that have become Fox territory. His politics make the Tea Party’s look like a very weak brew. To suggest that Fox alone pushed the GOP in the direction of radicalism is to ignore the political history that followed: After wounding Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential campaign, Reagan completed the reset of the GOP as an ideologically driven conservative party in 1980, and there it has largely remained.
Where to begin?
It’s difficult to think of two more ideologically diverse candidates than Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon; Goldwater, smeared as a crypto-National Socialist by no less than Walter Cronkite in 1964, was in reality the first postwar conservative presidential candidate, and the most libertarian candidate since Calvin Coolidge. In sharp contrast, Richard Nixon governed domestically as an extension of LBJ’s Great Society; and inflicted the EPA, OSHA, Amtrak, and for a time, a disastrous freeze on wage and prices on America. In recent decades, leftists such as New York Timesmen Thomas Wicker and Paul Krugman, film critic Roger Ebert, and Mad Men producer Matthew Weiner have all expressed their grudging admiration for Nixon’s intrusive big government policies. George Wallace’s politics do indeed “make the Tea Party’s look like a very weak brew,” as no matter how many times the Politico, Salon and MSNBC insinuate, he wasn’t a Republican. And try as the Politico might, Nixon wasn’t a racist; building on Ike’s efforts, he campaigned on civil rights in 1960; Jackie Robinson supported him then, and black Americans as diverse as James Brown and Sammy Davis Jr. supported him in ’68 and ’72.
But Shafer is right — there’s much “Liberals Still Don’t Understand About Fox News” — which makes sense, as the above paragraph from Shafer illustrates, there’s so much 21st century “Liberals” get wrong about 20th century history in general.