These are words I never thought I would say: I feel kind of sorry for Bob Beckel.
That was a strange sentence to type. I could almost feel my fingers rebelling. After all, in his capacity as a “liberal” Fox News analyst, Bob Beckel has staked a claim for himself as one of the more odious personalities on television. In a past life, I wrote a story entitled “Bob Beckel Has A Long History Of Saying Awful Things On TV,” a roundup of some of his choice thoughts on diverse topics such as Muslims (he basically thinks they should all be interned), “Chinamen,” and rape. I once ran a picture of Beckel under a headline that simply read, “THE WORST.” So it takes quite a lot to elicit sympathy for the man from me.
Well, thanks to the notoriously scorched-earth press team over at Fox News, the unthinkable has happened. On Thursday afternoon, the network informed Mediaite that Beckel—who had been off the air for a while thanks to some well-publicized struggles with drug addiction—is no longer on the payroll and won’t be returning as a co-host of panel show “The Five.” After the site said that the parting was “amicable,” Fox News went to Politico to emphasize that, no, it was not:
To call that “harsh” isn’t even an understatement. It’s an under-under-under-under-understatement. Fox News is famous for the pugnaciousness it employs when talking about its competitors, but to turn on your own employee like that when he’s dealing with a drug problem is fairly jaw-dropping. No matter what private misery Bob Beckel may have put his colleagues through, Fox News had the option of letting him go quietly and leaving him to handle his clearly tough fight with addiction. Instead, the network chose to drive the knife through. That’ll definitely help Beckel get better, won’t it?
Really, I don’t know why I would have expected anything less from the Fox News PR team, which operates like a particularly vindictive campaign war room rather than a standard media operation. Any journalist who has had even the faintest brush with the communications staff there comes away from the encounter fairly astounded at the vitriolic, heavy-handed tactics they employ. I should know; when I was editing the Huffington Post’s media section, I landed on the network’s notorious blacklist. Fox News cut off all contact with me completely. Spokespeople would email editors of other sections if they had corrections. They would call my deputies and if I picked up the phone, they would panic and hang up. It was crazy! (Though I definitely preferred being frozen out to having to deal with the constant, hyper-aggressive messages.) And my experience is nothing when you compare it to that of Matthew Flamm, a reporter whose crime was writing about the good ratings CNN was enjoying in 2013. As NPR’s David Folkenflik reported, Fox News actually planted a false story with Flamm and then released a statement to a rival outlet ridiculing him after he printed it.
Fox News will even turn on its own PR people, as it did when its former press chief Brian Lewis fell out with Roger Ailes. Bill Shine (remember him from a couple hundred words ago?) told reporters that Lewis was fired for “issues relating to financial irregularities, as well as for multiple, material and significant breaches of his employment contract.” However, some reports suggested that the real reason for his (very public) axing was the suspicion that he was a source for New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman’s much-touted book about Roger Ailes.
So, poor Bob Beckel never stood a chance. He has now become an official enemy of Fox News. If he’s reading this, I want him to know something: Life is better that way. And if it means anything, his former employer even got me to feel bad for him.
by Jack Mirkinson
June 27, 2015