Sly Fox Move to Generate Buzz

What Everyone Is Talking About

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NEW YORK ( -- Fox News certainly got plenty of mileage out of its interview with former President Bill Clinton last week. And it couldn't have come at a better time. The leading cable news channel has just spent 11 months watching its prime-time ratings fall; they tumbled by double digits in the third quarter. Ad Age sibling Crain's New York Business noted the drop was "the first sustained loss of audience share since it rocketed past rival CNN in 2002."
Bill Clinton wags his finger in the face of Fox's Chris Wallace.
Bill Clinton wags his finger in the face of Fox's Chris Wallace.

The interview was done for Fox's Sunday morning show with reporter Chris Wallace, and the News Corp. network made sure to plug it heavily leading up to the show, billing it as a "showdown" between Clinton and Wallace over the former president's anti-terror record. And it worked, given the interview earned Fox its best ratings since the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003, according to Nielsen Media Research. It also guaranteed Fox News was the news for most of the week, as other news outlets tracked the fallout as everyone from Condoleeza Rice to Hillary Clinton to Rudy Giuliani weighed in.

Fox News at first seemed determined to keep the "Clinton Goes Crazy" theme going, even ordering YouTube to remove clips posted by its users that labeled the exchange "Clinton smacks down Fox News." But by week's end, Fox News had allowed the clips to be reinstated.

For all Fox's fierce rhetoric about its tough stands against spin, Wallace, whose journalistic chops were defended by no less than Fox News machers Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly, seemed oddly cowed by his confrontation with Clinton, telling Mediabistro's Fishbowl DC, "Former President Clinton is a very big man. As he leaned forward -- wagging his finger in my face -- and then poking the notes I was holding -- I felt as if a mountain was coming down in front of me."

Ah well, Chris, no one said reporting wasn't going to be scary sometimes. Watercooler's glad you survived. We wish you well.
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