Editor Bill Keller Blasts Fox News' 'Unhealthy' Impact on National Discourse

Executive Editor Bill Keller and Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet were interviewed at the National Press Club Monday night by Marvin Kalb for "New York Times Behind the Scenes," which aired on C-Span.

As reported Monday night by Keach Hagey of Politico, when Kalb asked what Keller thought of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who has launched a New York edition of the Wall Street Journal, Keller impishly replied "Who?" before saying he thought Murdoch's greatest impact in the United States comes through Fox News.

After hesitantly giving Murdoch credit for investing in journalism, albeit tabloid-style journalism, Keller criticized Murdoch's "most lasting effect in this country," Fox News, even bringing up the attempted murder of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords:

I think the effect of Fox News on American public life has been to create a level of cynicism about the news in general. I think it has contributed to the sense that 'they're all just, you know, out there with a political agenda, Fox is just more overt about it.' And I think that's unhealthy. I think Fox has also raised, we have had a lot of talk since the Gabby Giffords murder, attempted murder, about civility in our national discourse, and I, you know, make no connection between the guy who shot those people in Tucson and the national discourse. But it is true that the national discourse is more polarized and strident than it has been in the past, and to some extent, I would lay that at the feet of Rupert Murdoch, yes.

Keller's newspaper certainly tried to make a connection between Giffords' shooting and the national discourse, as Times Watch documented.

Keller has sniped at Murdoch previously, including an April 25, 2010 review of a book about Time and Life magazine founder Henry Luce, calling Murdoch "a 79-year-old Australian billionaire whose impact has been more corrosive than cohesive." (For the record, Murdoch is an American citizen.)