Normally, Fox News doesn't like to talk about the fact that they have on their payroll five potential Republican candidates for president, providing them financial resources and national airtime, all of it masquerading as "news." As I noted a couple of weeks ago, Alan Colmes brought up that uncomfortable ethical fissure on the October 9 edition of Fox News Watch -- a program that pretends to be about media ethics -- and had his concerns dismissed by Fox News contributor Jim Pinkerton, who argued that the would-be candidates on Fox News' payroll only comprise about 20 percent of the potential candidate pool. (Pinkerton, a couple of years earlier on the same show, reacted to news of Chris Matthews' rumored Senate run by demanding that the MSNBC host resign so he would "not have a platform on the air.") Pinkerton's reaction was what we've come to expect from the network: they ignore the problem as much as possible, and when they can't they casually wave it off as a mere trifle.
But then there's Dick Morris. Last night, Morris (no stranger to wild breaches of ethics himself) went on Sean Hannity's program and seemed more than a little proud that the network he calls home is going to provide all the Republican presidential candidates, not just the ones he sees at the company picnic, the "national publicity" they wouldn't get from traditional campaigning:
MORRIS: In the old days, like the last cycle, Iowa and New Hampshire would get to see all the candidates first, because they couldn't afford national publicity. And they would look at them, they would decide who they liked, who they didn't like, and they would narrow down the field in their caucus and primary. And then we would choose among the top two in each party, basically.
Now I believe that's going to take place on Fox News. You have 67 percent of the Americans who identify themselves as Republicans saying that they watch Fox several times a week, and 51 percent who watch it every night. And 49 percent of the independents watch it several times week -- 21 percent of the Democrats, too, by the way. But as far as what's going to happen is that all of the Republican nominees and candidates who want the nomination are going to be on your show and O'Reilly's and On The Record and with Bret Baier, and they're going to be on all these shows -- Fox & Friends. And we're going to get to know them pretty darn well. It's not just going to be that Iowa and New Hampshire knows who Pawlenty is, or who Mike Pence is. We're going to know that, too.
What's most interesting to me is that Morris appears to recognize that for a Republican candidate, appearing on Fox News is little different from getting up on the stump in Des Moines. They're not going to be challenged, they're not going to be made to answer uncomfortable questions. They're just campaigning, but with the full complicity of an ostensible news outlet that still adheres to a "Fair and Balanced" mantra that stopped being a sad joke a long, long time ago.
Before you could at least fool yourself into thinking they were ashamed of it. But now they're just boasting.