In the wake of Heidi Collins's insanely hostile interview with Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Fox9 is trying to defend itself.
"If you want to watch hard-hitting interviews that hold politicians accountable, watch Fox9," says news director Bill Dallman.
Just a few months ago, Fox9 tried to set me up for a hostile interview with Jeff Passolt, and this was exactly the technique they asked me to agree to: a studio-to-studio hook-up, talking into a camera, which puts the guest at a tremendous disadvantage when they get blind-sided by a hostile
On September 2, City Pages published a story called The Facebook photos Tom Emmer doesn't want you to see. The story revealed the hitherto unknown fact that the GOP guberatorial candidate's 20-year-old son--a paid member of the campaign and star of its first commercial--had recently been cited for under-aged drinking. Obviously not something flattering to a candidate with two DWI's on his record, who was subject to a scathing commercial from the mother of a kid killed by a drunk driver.
A Fox9 producer emailed me to ask if I would appear in-studio to discuss the decision to publish the story. Initially, I agreed.
It was only when I received a follow-up email with details that my spider sense started tingling.
The interview would be with Jeff Passolt. I would be in a separate room, talking into a camera.
At that moment, I flashed back to watching a recent interview Passolt conducted with Clyde Bellecourt.
It was a truly cringe-worthy exchange, with many of the same elements of the Heidi Collins debacle. Passolt berated the Native American activist for seemingly no reason on the issue of immigration. At one point, Passolt attacked Bellecourt by reminding him that Native Americans "scalped innocent women and children."
"You call yourself a progressive, how about progressing through the centuries?!" Passolt bellowed at the Native American.
Not only was Passolt to be my interviewer, but the producer's description of the setup matched the same technique used to put Bellecourt at a disadvantage: being in a separate room of the studio, talking into a camera.
It was like a flashing neon Admiral Akbar:
She responded with a harangue about how unprofessional I was to cancel, and tried to guilt me into appearing, even though it went against my own instincts.
The show went on without me. Fox9 got MinnPost press critic David Brauer to appear in my stead. Brauer wasn't nearly as attractive as a sparring partner--he had nothing to do with the decision to publish and had himself criticized it. Passolt took a passing shot at me for not appearing, which brought a look of confusion to Brauer's face, but other than that it mostly seemed like an excuse for Fox9 to air the lurid Facebook photos they were criticizing--again and again and again.
Flash forward to Heidi Collins's insanely hostile interview with Mark Ritchie. It's clear from watching these videos back-to-back that this isn't an isolated incident--it's part of a technique meant to goose conflict and stiffen ratings.
Let future Fox9 guests be warned:
Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Agree to a Studio-to-Studio Hook-up.