As the Fox 2012 GOP primary heats up, it's becoming increasingly clear that Fox considers itself to be the arbiter of who is, and is not, running for president.
On Wednesday, Fox announced the suspensions of contributors Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum as the two mull presidential bids. Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, who are also Fox employees and potential presidential candidates, were not included in the suspension -- a double standard that did not go unnoticed by many commentators, including conservatives.
Now, Fox is apparently backing up its seemingly random standard for suspending potential candidates by commenting on negative events surrounding those suspended, while leaving unmentioned the negative events surrounding employees still on the payroll.
During a panel discussion on today's edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace, along with guests Chris Stirewalt and Nina Easton, slammed Gingrich for making "a hash of it this week" by announcing an exploratory website instead of a traditional exploratory committee as "some of his aides" had initially indicated. The panel declared Gingrich "undisciplined" and laden with "a lot of baggage." Watch:
It's certainly true that Gingrich made "a hash of it this week" -- but he wasn't the only one. Left unmentioned by the Fox News Sunday panel was the fact that Huckabee's week amounted to an endless series of gaffes, including a flirtation with highbrow birtherism.
Indeed, during an appearance on WOR's The Steve Malzberg Show, while making clear that he doesn't question Obama's birth certificate, Huckabee nonetheless twice falsely claimed that President Obama grew up "in Kenya." Huckabee later walked back his remarks, disingenuously claiming, among other things, that they were a "simple slip of the tongue." Huckabee drew a large amount of criticism for his remarks, and even Fox's own Brian Kilmeade took issue, asking, "Why would you even bring up the president's upbringing?"
In another radio interview, Huckabee flirted with the long debunked claim that Obama was educated at a madrassa, claiming that Obama "has a different worldview," and adding, "our communities were filled with Rotary Clubs, not madrassas."
And during a radio appearance on Monday, Huckabee attacked Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman for having a child "out of wedlock," saying, "it's unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock." After intense criticism, Huckabee posted a statement to his Huck PAC blog asserting that he did not "slam" or "attack" Portman and that he did not "criticize the hardworking single mothers in our country."
Of course, any mention of Huckabee in this context would have amounted to a tacit acknowledgement that he is most likely considering a presidential bid. This certainly would raise more questions as to why Fox did not suspend Huckabee or Palin but did suspend Gingrich and Santorum. And while it's entirely possible that Fox knows something everyone else doesn't, all signs indicate that Huckabee is at least thinking of running.
This raises all sorts of ethical questions that Fox should, but probably won't, answer. It's clear that Fox is increasingly regarding itself as the arbiter of which of its employees are running for president, but it remains to be seen whether Fox is correct in doing so.