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When Fox drops the pretense

<p>&lt;p&gt;Even by Fox News standards, yesterday&amp;#039;s edition of &amp;quot;Fox &amp;amp;amp; Friends&amp;quot; was jaw-dropping.&lt;/p&gt;</p>
An image from Fox News' anti-Obama attack ad.
An image from Fox News' anti-Obama attack ad.

Even by Fox News standards, yesterday's edition of "Fox & Friends" was jaw-dropping. The show produced and aired its own four-minute attack ad targeting President Obama, brazenly shifting Fox from the role of an ostensible news organization to that of a Republican super PAC.

The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik said Fox's attack ad was reminiscent of "1930s propaganda," adding, As the guy who challenged the Obama administration two years when it tried to deny Fox News access to interviews and other opportunities offered to the media on the grounds that Fox was not a legitimate news operation ... even I am shocked by how blatantly Fox is throwing off any pretense of being a journalistic entity.... Any news organization that puts up this kind of video is rotten to the core."

Bill Shine, the executive vice president for programming at Fox News, eventually blamed "an associate producer" for the incident. It was a curious response that leads to some follow-up questions:

* Did this associate producer stage a bloodless coup, commandeering Fox's control room against the wishes of the senior producers and hosts? And if so, why did the in-house attack ad air twice?

* If this associate producer was to blame, why did Gretchen Carlson introduce the attack ad by telling viewers, "We decided to take a look back at the president's first term to see if it lived up to hope and change"? And why did Fox Nation tout the piece as a "must-see Fox video"?

* If this associate producer did something wildly inappropriate that embarrassed the network and removed all doubt about Fox serving as an appendage to the Republican Party, why did "Fox & Friends" lavish praise on him after the attack ad aired?

Whatever the answer to these questions, Fox News' executives apparently weren't pleased with yesterday's developments -- by mid-day, the "Fox & Friends" attack ad was removed from the show's website as well as Fox Nation, the network's aggregation site.