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Fox News defends hiring Karl Rove

Karl Rove Fox News faced heated questions from the Television Critics Association about tapping White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove to join their election coverage team.

Reporters expressed concern that hiring Rove was an appropriate hire for a news program after the political strategist last week refused an order to testify to the House Judiciary Committee.

"I don’t understand why Congress and the White House having a fight over executive power should in any way inhibit who an independent news organization, who they hire," said "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace.

"It is not between me and Congress; I have not asserted any personal privilege," Rove emphasized. "It’s between the White house and Congress."

Critics also questioned whether Rove’s presence could allow John McCain’s campaign to unduly influence Fox News coverage.

"He’s always on the honor system, all our employees are," said John Moody, executive vp of Fox News. "I don’t think Karl would cross an ethical line like that--"

Some critics guffaw.

Added Wallace: "I’ll be curious to see if you ask NBC about [hiring Republican strategist] Mike Murphy -- who has a much closer relationship with John McCain than Rove does."

Rove was also asked if he subscribes to online rumors that portray Barack Obama as a Muslim, or is anti-American.

Rove firmly said "no," and criticized the current New Yorker cover that shows Obama dressed as a Muslim.

"I don’t understand why [editor-in-chief David Remnick] put this onthe cover," he said. "You have 3 to 8% of the American people who thinkhe’s a Muslim, which he’s not. This is not healthy for the system andthe right-wing [bloggers who distribute the rumors] are not doing anyfavors for John McCain. I don’t think he’s anti-American. He’s got aliberal perspective on things that many Americans do not share. I dothink he made a mistake that after 9/11 he took the lapel pin off."

Rove was joined on stage by former Hillary Clinton campaign advisorHoward Wolfson, who has joined the Fox News team to represent theDemocrat perspective during its election coverage.

"You can imagine that I and my colleagues on the Clinton campaignwatched an enormous amount of cable news," Wolfson said. "We quicklycame to the conclusion Fox’s coverage was outstanding … comprehensiveand it was fair …. We always felt we had a fair hearing when we had acomplaint …. We understood quite well why it made sense for me to jointhe Fox team."

"It’s not like we’re coming from a completely neutral position,"Rove added, "but we got to become aware of that. My job is to helppeople understand the process."

Getty Images photo