Liberty Hits Primetime (I): “Freedom Watch”

Libertarians have long noted the necessity of gaining mainstream, unbiased television coverage for expanding and “mainstreeting” their constituency.  As Thomas E. Woods recently put it: “You can't put a price tag on having a regular television program hosted by a knowledgeable and persuasive defender of property, peace, sound money, civil liberties, and the rest of the alternatives the American public is rarely allowed to consider.” (1) Or as Nolan Chart founder Walt Theissen once succinctly headlined an article: “The Revolution Must be Televised!” (2)

“Now,” the New York Times reported June 13, “the upstart Fox Business [Network (FBN)] is making room for libertarian talk,” in an article on the cable debut of Judge Andrew Napolitano's “libertarian talk show” on FBN, “Freedom Watch”. (3)

The Times noted that “An aggressive pro-civil liberties, anti-government streak is evident on both 'Freedom Watch' and 'Stossel,' a weekly Fox Business show hosted by the former ABC News anchor John Stossel that was added last fall.” It calls the shows “part of a retooling” at FBN, which “is searching for higher ratings by adding provocative commentators.”

“I think Fox is seeing a business opportunity here,” Jacob Hornberger, president of the Future of Freedom Foundation,  told the paper. “In an interview, he said, 'There's always been this debate between left and right, liberals and conservatives. All of a sudden here's Napolitano saying, where do you stand on this libertarian position?' Libertarian commentators, he said, have largely been locked out of TV debates in the past.” (3)

Judge Napolitano [states his Fox  bio] is the youngest life-tenured Superior Court judge in the history of the State of New Jersey. While on the bench from 1987 to 1995, Judge Napolitano tried more than 150 jury trials and sat in all parts of the Superior Court — criminal, civil, equity and family. He has handled thousands of sentencings, motions, hearings and divorces. For 11 years, he served as an adjunct professor of constitutional law at Seton Hall Law School, where he provided instruction in constitutional law and jurisprudence. Judge Napolitano returned to private law practice in 1995 and began television broadcasting in the same year. (4)

Napolitano joined Fox News in 1998, and serves at its senior judicial analyst. He also co-hosts a talkshow on Fox News Radio, “Brian and the Judge”. He began hosting “Freedom Watch” as a webcast in the summer of 2009.

Napolitano is also the author of several books, his most recent being Lies the Goverment Told You (Thomas Nelson, 2010). (5)

Napolitano had 2008 presidential contender Ron Paul (who wrote the foreword  to Lies) as a guest on his debut show, appearing with Sarah Palin in a special “Tea Party Summit.” Also guesting were self-described “constitutional conservative” Rand Paul, whose campaign for Senator from Kentucky has attracted national attention; Sen. Jim DeMint; Rep. Michelle Bachmann; and Dick Armey of FreedomWorks, which (like DeMint, Palin, and Rand's father Ron) endorsed the younger Paul's candidacy. (6)

Reaction was mixed. The Times called the show “arguably Tea Party TV in its purest form to date.” (3) Congress.org remarked that it “could give voice to the libertarian cause and shift the political debate.” (7) Lew Rockwell called it “the most important libertarian broadcast in the history of the American media.” (3) Before It's News headlined its coverage: “Ron, Sarah, and Rand hit one out of the park”. (8)

On the other hand, Media Matters for America condemned the show before it even aired, calling Napolitano “a libertarian who espouses anti-government conspiracy theories and views” and quoting novelist Michelle Goldberg's criticism of the webcast version of “Freedom Watch” for using “the kind of rhetoric once confined to the short-wave radio broadcasts of militia movements”. (9)

Liberty Maven reported that even some libertarians criticized the show, objecting to Palin's inclusion. But Maven's Marc Gallagher thought the guest list set just the right tone: “The Judge used his debut show to bring together various factions to find some common ground on the issues. How fitting it was to see Rand Paul sitting between Ron Paul and Sarah Palin on the show. I'm not sure if this seating arrangement was purpose-driven, but it certainly seemed like it could have been deliberate. Rand Paul represents the 'coming together' of these factions into a more effective liberty-driven whole.” (10)

Woods exhorted his readers: “Let's hope Freedom Watch becomes the most highly rated program on the entire network. Scratch that. Let's make it the most highly rated program. Tune in. Tell your friends. Blog about it. Make YouTubes…. The Judge has supported us again and again. Now it's time for us to support him. Let's do everything we can to make Freedom Watch a smashing success.” (1)

“Freedom Watch” airs four times each weekend on FBN, at “10:00am and 8:00pm EST on Saturdays, and 8:00pm and 11:00pm on Sundays.” (1) Next weekend's show, says the Times, will feature “a special guest, Glenn Beck”. (3)


Sources:

Photo: Judge Andrew Napolitano recording an episode of Freedom Watch at CPAC, Feb. 18, 2010. Photo by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – Share-Alike 3.0 Unported (CC-BY-SA-3.0) License. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Andrew_Napolitano_by_Gage_Skidmore.jpg

(1) Thomas E. Woods Jr., “America’s Judge“, LewRockwell.com, June 11, 2010. Web. June 14, 2010.
http://www.lewrockwell.com/woods/woods141.html

(2) Walt Theissen, “The Revolution Must Be Televised!“, Nolan Chart, Mar. 26, 2008. Web. Jun. 14, 2010.  http://www.nolanchart.com/article3289.html

(3) Brian Stalter, “Libertarian Talk, Now on Fox Business Network“, nytimes.com, New York Times, Jun. 13, 2010. Web. Jun. 14, 2010.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/business/media/14fox.html?dbk

(4) “Senior Judicial Analyst: Andrew P. Napolitano,” FNC Bios, FoxNews.com. Web. June 14, 2010.
http://www.foxnews.com/bios/talent/andrew-p-napolitano/

(5) “About the Book,” Judge Andrew Napolitano: The Constitution in Exile, judgenap.com, n.d. Web. June 14, 2010.
http://www.judgenap.com/2010/lies-the-government-told-you/

(6)Tea Party Summit: Ron Paul Meets Sarah Palin,” RonPaul2008dotcom, YouTube, June 13, 2010. Web. June 14, 2010.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhzTzvmEf-A

(7) Ambreen Ali, “A talk show for tea parties,” Congress.org, Jun. 14, 2010. Web. June 14, 2010.
http://www.congress.org/news/2010/06/14/a_talk_show_for_tea_parties

(8) NH Tea Party Coalition, “Ron, Sarah, and Rand hit one out of the park…”, beforeitsnews.com,  Before It’s News, Jun. 13, 2010. Web. Jun. 14, 2010.
http://beforeitsnews.com/news/78/023/Ron,_Sarah,_and_Rand_hit_one_out_of_the_park_8230;.html

(9) Eric Hananoki, “Fringe-promoting Freedom Watch debuts on Saturday,” County Fair, mediamatters.org, Media Matters for America, Jun 10, 2010. Web. Jun. 14, 2010.
http://mediamatters.org/blog/201006100032

(10) Marc Gallagher, “Freedom Watch without ‘Stay Free… America!’,” libertymaven.com, Liberty Maven, 14 June, 2010.
http://libertymaven.com/2010/06/14/freedom-watch-without-stay-free-america/9987/

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