Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My Fox Debacle

Okay, I was on Fox News Live this afternoon with Bill Hemmer, that pretty little vapid fellow who used to be so cozy with Soledad O'Brien on CNN.

It had to do with a column I'd written about "Baghdad Boy" Farris Hassan, the 16-year-old who went to Iraq over the holidays. I opined that his father, Dr. Redha Hassan, should be charged with child endangerment for orchestrating his 16-year-old son's trip to Iraq and looked into his checkered background that included an arrest in 1985 for conspiracy to produce thousands of false Iraqi passports and military identification cards. One of his co-defendants was a pro-Khomeini activist named Schubbers. I talked to the informant in the case, who was Dr. Hassan's next-door-neighbor at the time, and he told me the FBI's investigation into Hassan went international and wound up spoiling a plot to kill Rajiv Ghandi, then prime minister of India. I mentioned offhand about rumors in the neighborhood that the father had a terrorist background and was sending little Farris to join al Qaeda. But I wrote that off as unrealistic and said he was actually more like an Ahmad Chalabi Jr.-type. I pointed out how Farris' writings sounded like they were written in Dick Cheney's office, etc etc. And I ended it saying that Farris would fit right in at the CIA.

Yesterday I told the producer, a guy named Jason Robinson, that I didn't think Farris was a wannabe terrorist, especially since his family had gotten so filthy rich in America.

So this morning, I'm sitting in this little studio in west Broward waiting for Hemmer to ask me some questions when I see the promo: "Sinister Trip?" on the television sitting beside the camera. And I'm thinking that I'm going to start this thing off with a disclaimer -- "No, Bill, I'm not saying this was sinister, just that there are a lot of unanswered questions about it."

Hemmer starts the questioning and I get going. I'm slow out of the gate, but every time I start to get to something interesting the beauty-marked host in the New York studio interrupts me. I can't get into rhythm, but I stay patient, answering his disconnected questions. At the end he says he's confused. I try to tell him that this is complicated, just like everything in the Middle East that the media is always glossing over. It's over and I go home.

It wasn't really a debacle. And it wasn't any good either. It was just average bad Fox television.
And to think I may have missed a chance to get on Keith Olbermann for that mess (Countdown was interested and called me a couple of times, but didn't put me on). Olbermann, I suspect, would get some of the subtler stuff and possibly have a good time with this thing.

But the truth is that I can't put it all on Hemmer or even Fox. TV is not my medium. I'm a writer, not a talker. But that doesn't change the fact that Fox sucks. Here's my vow to all you Pulpers out there (all three of you): I will never, ever go on Fox again. Unless, of course, it's bald publicity for a book, etc etc.

Who am I kidding?


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