US elections: Fox forced to apologise to Obama for third time in two weeks
Rupert Murdoch's Fox News television station has been forced to apologise to Barack Obama for the third time in a fortnight after screening a racially tinged caption referring to his wife Michelle as his "baby mama".
Bill Shine, senior vice president of programming at Fox, said in a statement on Thursday that a producer "exercised poor judgment" during the segment.
The statement came as Obama established a website to help counter what he referred to as smears and rumours.
One of his first moves was to defend Michelle by debunking a persistent rumour that there is a video showing her speaking from the pulpit of the Trinity church in Chicago in which she allegedly refers to whites as "whitey". He said she had never spoken at Trinity or used such a phrase.
Republicans see her as vulnerable because she is more inclined than Obama to make off-the-cuff remarks. Obama's communications director, Robert Gibbs, rejected this in an interview with MSNBC yesterday, describing her as an "asset to the campaign".
Fox, seen by liberals as a cheerleader for the Republican party, carried an interview this week with the conservative columnist Michelle Malkin about whether Michelle Obama was being unfairly targeted.
During the interview, a caption was flashed up saying: "Outraged liberals: Stop picking on Obama's baby mama." The term is slang for a woman who has a baby with a man who is neither her partner nor boyfriend.
The apology comes just over a week after one of Fox's anchormen expressed regret for a comment on the night that Obama won the Democratic nomination. Obama, in a show of affection, lightly touched his fist against Michelle's and the anchorwoman referred to it as a "terrorist fist jab". Previously, a Fox contributor Liz Trotta had to apologise after making a joke about Obama being assassinated.
The trio of apologies is embarrassing for Fox. Murdoch last month praised Obama but stopped short of endorsing him, though his New York Post came out for Obama in January.