Fair and Balanced and White? Why Fox News Needs Black Conservatives

Fox News Channel, the hugely successful conservative cable TV network whose motto is “Fair and Balanced”, is anything but when it comes to on-air personalities.

Libertarian Greg Gutfeld, host of Fox News Channel’s Red Eye and The Five, believes the network has a race problem. During Wednesday’s opening segment on The Five, Gutfeld noted the incongruous scenario of constantly discussing race without a black person participating in the discussion.

Gutfeld said, “We are here talking about this and there are five white people. I think Fox should be hiring more black conservatives. Because, dammit they need to be here and they need to be everywhere. That’s fair and balanced.”

Gutfeld’s keen observation should not be taken lightly. Fox News’ lack of African-American representation at the highest level of its TV shows, anchors and hosts, has a negative ripple effect throughout the conservative movement.

Cable TV news is less about news and more about presenting opinions and analysis that generate ratings and voter action. Given that statement, it is safe to assume that the opinions of black on-air personalities do not resonate with Fox News’ audience. And if it is safe to assume black on-air personalities do not resonate with Fox News audiences, then they definitely don’t resonate with Republican voters.

The paucity of on-air black anchors and hosts at Fox is completely consistent with the lack of black elected officials in the Republican Party. It is no secret that Fox News is largely seen as the most influential and important communication vehicle of the GOP. It is not a coincidence that there are relatively few black on-air show hosts on Fox and only one black Republican in Congress. If Fox News is not promoting black conservatives for elected office — and they are not— then it is highly improbable that they will be elected. Why Fox is not pumping up the profiles of conservatives like Mia Love, Erika Harold, or Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is anybody’s guess. You would think electing the first African-American Republican woman to Congress and providing a platform for the only black Republican in Congress would be high priorities of the conservative network. Unfortunately, Fox doesn’t have any opinion-making conservatives with black faces to make that point.

Harris Faulkner, the anchor of Fox Report Weekend, is the only permanent black host of a Fox News show. The award-winning Juan Williams has infrequent part time duties filling in for Bill O’Reilly on the O’Reilly Factor and Bob Beckel on The Five.

MSNBC, on the other hand, features weekday shows Politics Nation with Rev .Al Sharpton, News Nation with Tamron Hall, and The Cycle with Toure. Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry hosts an eponymous two-hour show on Saturday and Sunday mornings and Karen Finney hosts the weekend show Disrupt with Karen Finney on Saturday and Sunday.

Most conservative audiences don’t seem to relate to broad-based, opinionated black political commentators, and they relate even less to them as elected officials. Conservative audiences seem to prefer black pundits that reserve their analysis and opinions to negative criticism of the conditions and culture of the black community. Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and Shelby Steele are cherished for their extensive analysis of the black community but they aren’t going to be offered a show. Larry Elder piloted a show for Fox in 2008 that was not picked up. The charismatic Herman “9-9-9” Cain works for Fox, as does former Congressman Allen West, but neither will be getting a job as an anchor or host.

From time to time Fox News will reach into its coffers and find a black contributor to remind its audience that all black people don’t support President Obama. Occasionally, they’ll bring them all together, but other than that black people don’t appear to have a substantially influential on-air presence on the network. It is enough to make you wonder what will happen when Obama’s term ends in 2016. What role will they play if they can’t be the black conservative that doesn’t like the black president?

If Fox News is not featuring black conservatives on-air, then rest assured that conservative America is not going to support them at the ballot box. The Republican National Committee has an outreach program, largely based on using the media to spread the conservative message to African-Americans.  Maybe they should ask Fox News to help out.