Rep. Alex Shrub: So you suggest we just stop making babies? People need a place to park their boat and trailer and to put their swimming pool! You're beginning to sound red, and by that, I mean you prefer a hammer and sickle over a hamburger.
Otherwise known as a DINO (Democrat In Name Only), a 'Fox News Liberal' is an ideological Strawman character who is used to bring the illusion of political balance in a narrative or discourse that is otherwise overwhelmingly slanted in the other direction. Named after a critique of the Fox News Channel, a United States news organization with conservative-leaning opinion programming, it has an opposite counterpart in the 'MSNBC Conservative' — named for a competing left-leaning US news organization — or RINO (Republican In Name Only). A conservative or RINO pundit appearing on CNN, MSNBC, PBS, or NPR is also referred to as a Very Serious Person (VSP).
Like any straw man trope, the *INO character's job is to seem to be representing one point of view while actually promoting the opposite through the provision of a spectacularly bad advocate and/or role model. What makes a Fox News Liberal/MSNBC Conservative different from other straw men is that they are not playing a satirical or sarcastic role, and they aren't playing a fictional character.
It's also very common for them to admit the solutions proposed by people with the (what their superiors consider to be) 'correct' political views are basically good and desirable, but quibble about the details or minutiae of their 'correct' policies.note
The presence of a 'Fox News Liberal' essentially gives a 'face' to the ideological enemies of the show and lets the show make ad-hominem attacks on them and by extension everyone who holds their views. For these reasons a 'Fox News Liberal' may well be ugly, rude, have poor public-speaking skills and/or a tendency to say the wrong thing (under pressure)... or maybe they're just really boring and speak in a monotone.
The show itself sets the agenda for what is discussed - a Fox News Liberal will almost never be presented with a topic which "their kind" think is actually important, and the topic is often deliberately chosen to invoke all the poor argument techniques listed above. Other favorites include being more soft-spoken than the other hosts/guests, allowing themselves to be talked over, bullied, representing a skewed, poorly-articulated or crazily extreme perspective (even by the standard of their own ideology) for the host to handily dismantle, and never, ever getting the last word.
In another formulation, the Fox News Liberal may be presented as the Only Sane Man with their particular political views. In appearing to be swayed by the 'superior' reasoning of their co-hosts, and agreeing with the position of the show, they make 'their' side look 'unreasonable'. Expect a heartfelt and theatrical sigh, followed by the words "If only the rest of them were as reasonable as this one is, the world would be a better place!" In particularly egregious cases of this version of the trope, the character's forsaking their (unreasonable) ideological beliefs and political allegiances (in favour of better/'the correct' ones) constitutes Character Development.
The common thread is that their status as an official representative of their ideology is used to reinforce the ideology and/or viewpoints advanced by all the other co-hosts in general and the show as a whole. Being a token socialist or liberal on a panel show - wherein there are representatives of 'numerous' ideologies - doesn't count if the show itself doesn't have a political-ideological slant. Also, keep in mind that a Fox News Liberal might be sincere, having been given the job because they're singularly ineffective at presenting their viewpoint.
- Icon from Milestone Comics was created by a black liberal writer as a supposed black conservative. However, the in-story reason for him being a conservative is that he was born in the days of slavery when the Republicans were on the anti-slavery side (as well as being the more liberal of the two major U.S. parties, something that wouldn't change until the mid-1960s, when the Civil Rights Act and other similar laws were passed) and in modern times his sidekick started convincing him that conservatism is bad for the poor. This doesn't exactly fit the definition, but it approaches it. It's as if the writer wanted to put a conservative in, but as the trope description says, couldn't think of any way for a reasonable person to be one today. This is a complicated example, as "liberals" and "conservatives" of 150 years ago share very few traits with their counterparts of today except for the names, not to mention that he's a two-century-old alien ex-slave and probably wouldn't think like a modern human anyway.
- This brought a unique real-life case of Misaimed Fandom as several black neoconservatives, notably Clarence Thomas, would cite the comic as a favorite. This upset writer Dwayne McDuffie as he was not a fan of Thomas, often insulting him as "Scalia's lapdog" among other things. This gave McDuffie writer's block as he was concerned he was just giving quotes to the movement he disliked.
- The DCU: Decisions election issues were designed around superheroes expressing political opinions about the 2008 election. The problem was that all of the Presidential candidates were fictional and there was no real sense of anything they stood for. Green Arrow seemed to be voting for the Green Party and Lois Lane seemed to be Republican (or possibly a Libertarian?) but everyone else's opinion was just obtuse. In the end, it seemed to come to a conservative-leaning writer (Bill Willingham) and a liberal-leaning writer (Judd Winick) picking heroes like they were choosing players for their kickball team. Needless to say, the whole story caused a Flame War. Green Arrow's (left wing) and Hawkman's (right-wing) political views were already well-established for years, but the idea of ascribing definite political views to all the other characters resulted in fans hysterically fighting over which characters "should" or "shouldn't" belong to which party.
- While Marvel's Civil War was meant to be both topical and balanced, the need to make it topical had too many Pro-Registration characters do morally questionable things.
- Cessy from Empire is a housewife who at one point in the novel even provides a Biblical case for militarism in American foreign policy. At no point does she express any liberal views other than to remind the audience, every few pages, of how liberal she is. Needless to say, she is the only self-described liberal in the book who is not an evil, craven plotter out to destroy America.
- Mrs. Bingham and the other "strong women" on the Confederation's side in Victoria. They appear to be intended to show that women in the Confederation aren't oppressed, and do have agency and power, which sort of works (to a point) — but they seemingly only ever use that agency to push an anti-feminist agenda.
- Alan Colmes was accused of this when he co-hosted Hannity and Colmes with Sean Hannity on Fox News, and might be the Ur-Example of this trope. The show was the poster child for the channel's "Fair and Balanced" tagline, as the two ostensibly took on issues from different ends of the political spectrum. However, Hannity is a hard-right, conservative Republican, while Colmes is a self-described moderate, so it really seemed that Colmes' purpose was to make Hannity look good. Al Franken rakes Colmes over the coals for this in his book, Lies, and the Lying Liars that Tell Them, including a Running Gag of printing Hannity's name in large text and Colmes' name in small text (which was later adopted by Rational Wiki). That said, Colmes defended liberalism strongly himself in his own book, Red, White and Blue Liberal.
- The West Wing, like most Aaron Sorkin shows, makes heavy use of Strawman tropes, including this one, despite attempts to resist using them.
- Ainsley Hayes, the Trope Namer for Blonde Republican Sex Kitten (with a touch of Southern Belle). Presented, at first, as a strong Republican that had previously been a member of the Federalist Society and could smack around expert liberal debaters, she quickly lost or strongly downplayed her initial displeasure about pork-barrel politics, gun control, and what she saw as unnecessary legislation. Her quick decision to leave gun control off the discussion table in response to a politician's attempted assassination is a particular moment, coming as it does from a Ronald Reagan Republican.
- Arnold Vinick, the Republican Presidential nominee in the final season, rejects enough Republican principles that it's almost impossible the real-life Republican Party would nominate him for President. He's pro-choice and not at all religious, although he's a big believer in economic conservatism, as in big tax cuts and reducing the size of government. Vinick's strong economic conservatism would not go far in the Democratic Party, and he's not extreme enough to be accepted by the Libertarian Party, so he's more of a Republican than anything else. Of course, he's from California, where Arnold Schwarzenegger, with similar views, was successful as a Republican politician, so his being a Republican Senator is believable. But as for his presidential nomination, it's telling that the nomination fight itself happens completely off-camera. Word of God says Vinick was based on John McCain, who at the time of the show held similar views, though McCain was strongly pro-life. And McCain did win the 2008 nomination of his party, but by the time of the 2008 election, he had shifted considerably to the right.
- In fact, pretty much any Republican character whom the audience is supposed to like and respect gradually becomes one of these if they're around long enough. One particular exception is Speaker of the House and Acting President Glenallen Walken, who proves to be a competent president and reasonably likable man of integrity despite also being clearly depicted as a conservative Republican and military hawk. However, he was only around for three episodes, it's possible this wasn't intentional, and in any case, he was played by John Goodman, which goes a long way.
- Meanwhile, everyone who appears on the show and is to the left of the main characters seems to adopt the characteristics that Fox News associates with liberals: they are, almost to a person, shrill, mean-spirited, short-sighted, and egocentric. This is especially notable in any episode dealing with free trade, where opponents of free trade always get portrayed as hypocrites, grandstanders, or idiots. There's also Seth Gillette, a liberal Senator who calls out Bartlet's triangulations and is treated as a nut despite frequently being right. Basically, the door swings both ways: if Aaron Sorkin disagrees with you, you're either a nut or a meanie, and it doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on.
- The French Police show P.J has Chloé Matthieu, who is a Fox News fascist — she starts as a member of a far-right police union, her uncle ran an election for a far-right party (not named, but probably this real-life one), she seems to hate anything and anyone having a common point with Arabs, Muslims, human beings with dark skin, homosexuals... Yet she manages to become good friends with Muslims and/or black policemen, has a child with a black man, works part-time in a lesbian bar, asked a bisexual colleague to help her take care of her child when she has to work late, and implicitly admits that most of her opinions are bogus. This is a case of the trope being used as character development: she starts as a straw man, and then progressively realizes how evil her beliefs are during the course of the show.
- Entertainment Weekly editor Mark Harris wrote an article about this, specifically naming Harriet Hayes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Kitty Walker of Brothers and Sisters.
- The Newsroom
- The main character, Will McAvoy, a news anchor who identifies as a moderate Republican and had been a speechwriter for George H.W. Bush, repeatedly criticizes the current state of the Republican Party. He lists his conservative views, such as being for small government and strong defense, but also espouses a number of other views throughout the show that are pretty liberal, such as being anti-gun, pro-environment and pro-gay. He spends most of the show railing against Republican politicians (such as Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, and the entire Tea Party) who he feels have hijacked the party.
- In-universe, News Night can't get a good conservative representative to support SB 1070, so they're forced to get a bunch of idiots and wack jobs who don't know the issues. McAvoy has to make their own arguments for them and feels that the show dropped the ball.
- In-universe, one episode of All in the Family has Archie Bunker complain to a local TV station about a pro-gun-control editorial. After he confronts the station manager, he's offered airtime to present an opposing view, with the clear implication that the manager is cynically satisfying the letter of the then-extant Fairness Doctrine while making the pro-gun side of the argument look bad.
- In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will joins a group protesting the closure of a community centre in a majority-black neighbourhood, and gives an interview about it to a news anchor. When he watches the broadcast, it turns out that most of the interviews are with middle-aged white people who claim the centre is a source of crime and urban decay, and rather than Will, the protesters are represented by a Scary Black Man who yells at the camera, the implication being that the news channel is trying to skew the coverage and scare white viewers.
- Parodied in The Simpsons episode "Politically Inept with Homer Simpson", where a network executive tells Homer that they only have a few political pundits on staff, including their liberal strawman. Cut to an over the top left-wing stereotype singing "Oh, the plain and simple fact is, I'd love to raise your taxes and make your children gay..."