Think of Fox News as a vast rightwing theater production: Lately, the painted backdrops keep falling down, and the actors have to talk really loud to maintain the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
Take Ingrid Martin, introduced as an "unemployed health care worker" on Thursday’s Fox & Friends. Martin had been brought on the show because she "put the president to the test" by resolutely telling Obama she opposed health care reform after his speech in Strongsville, Ohio, last week–and the Fox folks clearly thought they had a female Joe the Plumber in the offing. Hoping that her almost two-minute chat with the president would turn up an incriminating quote or two, Steve Doocy asked her to dish: Well, Martin said, she’d been shaking her head "No" all through the speech, and when Obama came off stage to shake hands, he asked if she was OK. When she told him she was unemployed, he asked if she had COBRA. Then she informed this rotten fellow that she had lost her job because of the possibility that his Obamacare might become law. At this point, we are starting to see Joe the Tinkerbell flap its wings.
But then Martin lets it drop that she’s not exactly a "health care worker," she’s an insurance agent. And proud of it, adding that she’s "very active in the National Association of Underwriters." And loyal Fox viewers need to suddenly avert their chastened eyes.
That was a bit like Glenn Beck’s epic fail with Rep. Eric Massa (formerly D-NY), whose naked confrontation with Rahm Emanuel in the congressional gym showers would bring down the nazi-socialist presidency–at least, so Glenn promised the night before. But by the time Beck had wasted his entire hour trying to get Massa to reveal the true evil of Obamacrats, all we got was Massa’s heartfelt assertion that Washington needs…campaign finance reform.
Beck threatened to bleed from his eyes. Maybe Fox should not in principle give air-time to real human beings caught up in real human crises, because amateurs can’t be relied upon to know their lines. But even the pros have been giving Roger Ailes flop sweat lately.
Perhaps the biggest blooper of all came last month, when a VP from insurance giant WellPoint was scolded by a Fox Business panel–not so much for raising premiums in California by 25 percent, but for doing it in the middle of our monster health care debate. Why didn’t WellPoint "wait for this to blow over and maybe a year from now try to hike rates?" asked an incredulous Charles Payne, as his cohost Stu Varney chided, "You handed the politicians red meat!"
Eric Fluegel, the VP, calmly said, in effect, Duh: With rising costs and a shrinking pool of healthy customers who can afford individual policies in this economy, a bottom-feeding company like WellPoint can’t survive without government reform that forces the uninsured to buy coverage.