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The real punk in Fox prank

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Updated: October 20, 2012 6:13AM



Columbia College film student Max Rice might want to consider casting himself in a future project. He was pretty convincing playing a jerk on Fox News on Monday.

Rice, 20, duped “Fox & Friends” producers into believing he was a 23-year-old, unemployed, former Obama supporter intending to vote for Mitt Romney.

In a satellite interview with Gretchen Carlson, Rice started out by saying, “Hello, Miss USA, it’s an honor, I wish I could see you!”

“Miss America,” corrected Carlson, “but close enough.”

“Miss America, Miss Universe in my book!” said the smirking Rice.

By then, the interview already had a vibe straight out of HBO’s “The Newsroom.” One could picture executive producer Mackenzie McHale tensing up in the control room.

“Now tell us your story,” said Carlson. “You believed in the hope and change of President Obama, so you voted for him —”

“Oh, I was a huge supporter in 2008,” said Rice, who grabbed an empty coffee cup and took a swig. “I met him in the 3rd grade! I met him when I was little. … Why am I supporting Mitt Romney? It’s actually a funny story. I lost a basketball game to a friend of mine.”

Rice continued to smirk and fidget and said, “I can’t see your face right now this is so weird.” At that point Carlson started to wrap up the interview.

“I’m not sure you’re ready for prime time,” said Carlson.

Fox cut away from Rice and Carlson continued, “All right. We’re going to give Max another chance, maybe when he’s ready to do the interview.”

The entire episode clocked in at two minutes.

Kid didn’t even get in a “Baba Booey!” before he was wiped off the screen.

The great American hoax

Rarely will you encounter a human being more intense and frantic than a booker or producer working for one of the cable news channels. Every day they face the forbidding canyon of another show to be filled with segment after segment, interview after interview.

When you first start getting calls from these shows, you’re flattered. Hey! They want to talk to ME. But as the years go by, you realize yes, they want to talk to you — but they also want to talk to hundreds and hundreds of other people. On more than one occasion, when I’ve told a producer I wasn’t available, she has immediately responded with, “Do you know anyone who would be available?” These people shift gears faster than a NASCAR driver leaving the pit.

Rice told the Washington Post the appearance came about after a friend in conservative politics sent out an email asking “for an unemployed college graduate who wants to be on national television.” This led to an email exchange with a Fox producer explaining they were looking for someone who was a college graduate, unemployed and disenchanted with Obama. Even though Rice is too young to have voted in 2008 and he’s still at Columbia, he presented himself as just the kind of interviewee they were looking for.

“I’ve always hated ‘Fox & Friends,’ ” Rice told the Post. “It’s so horrible for this nation, it’s clearly so fake. Now I know firsthand.”

Full disclosure: I’ve been on “Fox & Friends” a few times. I’ve also guested on Bill O’Reilly’s show and a few other Fox News programs, and even though I’m nowhere near in step with the overall Fox News agenda, I’ve always been treated fairly.

That doesn’t mean I’m the least bit surprised Fox was so eager to find a prototype guest to support yet another anti-Obama segment they didn’t do the little bit of research required to sniff out this kid. I guarantee you the same kind of prank could be pulled on a producer at MSNBC or CNN.

Yes, in a perfect TV world every guest should be vetted, every story should be checked out. In the real TV world, prank callers sometimes get through and hoaxster guests can make it all the way to the live interview before it becomes apparent something isn’t right.

I thought Carlson actually handled the situation pretty well. If Rice’s goal was to exploit the system and demonstrate how phony the process can be, he tipped his hand by going into jerk mode almost immediately. He would have gotten a lot more air time and would have delivered his message with more impact had he played it straight for a couple of minutes before revealing his true identity.

And years from now, one imagines/hopes Rice, perhaps by then a successful filmmaker and a real-world grown-up, will look back at the stunt and feel sheepish about his younger self, because it’s a coin toss as to who should be feel more embarrassed by that stunt.



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