Character counts at Fox News

Pair of hourlong specials examine conduct of presidential candidates

Fox News Channel has set aside some key cable news real estate next week for one-hour documentaries on Barack Obama and John McCain.

"2008 Presidential Character and Conduct" will premiere at 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday in a time slot usually held by cable news' top-rated program, "The O'Reilly Factor." Bill O'Reilly will be off both days, making way for Monday's Obama docu, hosted by Bill Hemmer, and Tuesday's McCain docu, hosted by Eric Shawn. Pamela Browne is the executive producer of both programs.

Months in the works, the specials will dig into the character, lives and actions of the presidential candidates through interviews with family members, friends and associates from their earlier days as well as colleagues in the Senate.

"This is an in-depth, detailed examination that's beyond what has been broadcast in terms of these typical type of biographies," said Shawn, who like Hemmer is an anchor at the channel.

What neither documentary will do is interview the candidates. Hemmer interviewed Obama in London last month; Shawn interviewed McCain earlier this year. But Shawn said the focus isn't on what the candidates say but instead what they do when faced with challenges.

"We specifically wanted to let the facts speak for themselves and let the people who have known (them) and examined (them) speak for themselves," he said.

Hemmer and Shawn said they knew a lot about their subjects going in but were surprised to find that there was more to know. McCain has been in the public eye since he was a POW during the Vietnam War, but Shawn said what isn't widely known is he refused his captors' offer to be released because it violated Navy code about prisoner releases.

The Obama docu talks about the tragedies of his early years, growing up with his grandparents and going to college, his job as a community organizer and later as a Harvard Law School student and Illinois legislator.

"By any standards, (Obama's) rise in politics has been meteoric," Hemmer said. "Everything we are learning about Barack Obama in one respect or another is new."

Shawn said that the McCain documentary looks at the character and conduct of the candidate, both pro and con.

"The voters are evaluating these men, Obama and McCain, and I believe these documentaries are terrific learning tools by which people can watch and learn, discuss and decide," Hemmer said. (partialdiff)
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