Howard Kurtz of Newsweek believes the Republican debate last week, co-hosted by Fox News and Google, indicates that Fox, at the behest of its chairman Roger Ailes, is moving back from the far right. Describing the situation more broadly, Kurtz writes:
[Ailes] calls it a ‘course correction,’ quietly adopted at Fox over the last year. Glenn Beck’s inflammatory rhetoric — his ranting about Obama being a racist — ‘became a bit of a branding issue for us’ before the hot-button host left in July, Ailes says. So too did Sarah Palin’s being widely promoted as the GOP’s potential savior — in large measure through her lucrative platform at Fox. Privately, Fox executives say the entire network took a hard right turn after Obama’s election, but, as the Tea Party’s popularity fades, is edging back toward the mainstream.
After the Gabrielle Giffords shooting triggered a debate about feverish rhetoric, Ailes ordered his troops to tone things down. It was, in his view, a chance to boost profits by grabbing a more moderate audience.
Next fall’s election could well pivot on whether Ailes is more interested in scoring political points or ramping up ratings and revenue.
Kurtz stumbles here, because of course Ailes could do both: If Fox moves toward the center, it could garner broader viewership and higher profits and help the Republican party prevail in 2012, by pushing it back to the center and gaining wider electoral approval.