Fox News Channel on Saturday apologized after the display of an on-screen chart showing stock-market gains in the wake of infamous killings of Black men generated sharp criticism, acknowledging that the graphic should not have aired without more context.
The illustration was used Friday on a broadcast of “Special Report with Bret Baier,” the cable-news outlet’s regular 6 p.m. program. During a segment examining recent stock-market performance, Fox News used a chart that showed how the S&P 500, a widely-used barometer of financial health, had made gains after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.; after the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014; after the acquittal of police officers who beat Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991; and after recent death in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“The infographic used on Fox News Channel’s ‘Special Report’ to illustrate market reactions to historic periods of civil unrest should have never aired on television without full context. We apologize for the insensitivity of the image and take this issue seriously,” the Fox Corporation-owned outlet said in a statement.
Use of the graphic drew condemnation from Bobby Rush, the Democratic representative from Illinois, who said via Twitter Friday that “this graphic makes it clear that Fox News does not care about Black lives.”
During the segment, viewers heard a reporter say, “Historically. there has been a disconnect between what investors focus on and what happens across the country. For instance., in 1968, the week after the tragedy of Martin Luther King, the S&P 500 rose over 2 percent. Also up the week after the Rodney King ruling. And Wall Street trading on the reopening instead in 2020.” The program followed the report with an interview between Baier and Shelby Steele, a conservative author and fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who studies race relations. Baier, the Fox News anchor, tweeted the network’s statement Saturday.
The graphic surfaces at a time when many media outlets are under intense scrutiny for how they cover the issue, a long-running topic in the American news cycle that has intensified to new levels in the wake of Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in late May. The New York Times recently came under fire from many members of its own staff after running an Op-Ed online from Republican Senator Tom Cotton urging the use of military to squelch protests centered around Floyd’s death. The Times has said the opinion piece and the process leading to its publication did not meet editorial standards.
Top executives at Fox Corp. have noted the tenor of the times. In a memo sent Monday, Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch told employees, “It is essential that we grieve with the Floyd family, closely listen to the voices of peaceful protest and fundamentally understand that black lives matter” and noted that “Our mission to provide the best in news is particularly vital at this time.”
Other news outlets have in recent days also pointed out in reports that the stock market tends to rebound after episodes of civil unrest, including Fortune, CNBC, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal.
In a different era, under the aegis of former top executive Roger Ailes, Fox News Channel rarely apologized for reports that generated offense or were deemed by critics to be inaccurate. The network has in recent years appeared more sensitive to matters of taste and propriety.