Fox News Ethics: Contributor Analyzes 2012, Doesn't Disclose He Reportedly Helped Write Bachmann Book

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

Politico's Ben Smith reported today that Fox News contributor James Pinkerton helped write Michele Bachmann's new memoir. Pinkerton is also married to Elizabeth Pinkerton, who until recently served as Bachmann's chief of staff. Despite these conflicts of interest, Pinkerton has repeatedly discussed the 2012 Republican presidential nomination race on, ironically, Fox News' media ethics show.

According to her LinkedIn page, Elizabeth Pinkerton served as the chief of staff for Bachmann's presidential campaign from July 2011 to October 2011.* It's not clear exactly when Jim Pinkerton began working on Bachmann's memoir, but the Associated Press reported on August 29 that the book "already has been completed."

Pinkerton is a regular panelist on the weekly show Fox News Watch (Pinkerton has appeared twelve times since August). According to a review of Nexis transcripts, Pinkerton has not disclosed his reported work for Bachmann despite regularly commenting on the 2012 GOP primary and on Bachmann's potential general election opponent, President Obama.

On Saturday's broadcast, for instance, Pinkerton suggested that Cain -- who is competing with Bachmann for tea party votes in Iowa -- wasn't ready to be a viable candidate for president:

PINKERTON: Look, Dan Balz, who is a fair-minded reporter for The Washington Post, said, look, this is just not a campaign ready for prime time. You hate to say it that way. You hate to sort of dismiss somebody who is fresh and original, with a great story, except for the National Restaurant Association part, as Herman Cain. But that's what -- look, it's horrible to say that there are rules and cynics and inside-the-Beltway types know that if you don't play by those rules, you don't make it. But it's true. It just is a reality.

During the October 22 broadcast of the show, while discussing the GOP Las Vegas debate, Pinkerton said the media "consensus" about the loser of the debate was Herman Cain:

PINKERTON: The consensus about the winner, I think the consensus about the loser of the last debate and that's Herman Cain, who was coming under genuine scrutiny now for the first time on all these statements about gay marriage, abortion, the 9-9-9 plan, what a neo-conservative is. And he does -- there's a useful process here of discovering who these people are and what they know.

Pinkerton mentioned his wife's role in the Bachmann campaign during a September 17 broadcast, when the panel was discussing Rick Perry's plan as governor of Texas to vaccinate girls against HPV. After stating, "I should say that my wife works for Michele Bachmann, who was leading the charge on that attack issue," Pinkerton called the HPV-mandate issue a "legitimate" concern:

SCOTT: Jim, the mainstream media made a lot about Perry's plan to vaccinate girls for HPV, a plan that was never put into effect. Do most people know that? Is that reflected in the coverage?

PINKERTON: I should say that my wife works for Michele Bachmann, who was leading the charge on that attack issue.

No, the plan was never put into effect, but he did try, he did issue an executive order. It was extremely controversial. He did withdraw it. He did apologize for it. And that was four years ago. But, the issue of mandates, whether it's the state mandate that Governor Romney put in on health insurance or the -- that did in fact do so, or the mandate that Governor Perry attempted to put in on HPV, it's a legitimate issue, given the comparison people are making to other mandates at the federal level that others presidents have put in.

On July 23, Pinkerton was also asked about the media's coverage of Bachmann. Pinkerton responded that his wife works for Bachman and said there was a double standard in the media's coverage of Bachmann and her migraines:

FOLBAUM: Jim, is there a sexist angle to this?

PINKERTON: Well, I should tell you first that my wife works for the Michele Bachmann campaign, so I will simply note that female reporters seem to have picked up on this -- I mean, journalists and observers, Cheri Jacobus (ph) at The Hill, Elisabeth Hasselbeck on "The View," a woman named Teri Roberts (ph), who writes for a health blog, called the Health Central Network. All of them said, women are three teams more likely to get migraines than men, and she's getting a different standard than, say, Joe Biden and his brain aneurysm or Dick Cheney and his multiple heart attacks and John Kennedy, and who knows what was wrong with him.

LOWRY: So -- so -- OK -- hold on now.

PINKERTON: So there's a different standard.

In contrast to Fox News, NPR host Michele Norris took a leave from All Things Considered because her husband became a senior adviser to Obama's reelection campaign.

This isn't Fox's only conflict of interest problem this election cycle. Questions have been raised about the involvement of Fox News host Greta Van Susteren's husband, John Coale, with the Cain campaign. Coale had previously advised Fox News contributor and frequent Van Susteren guest Sarah Palin and helped start both her political action committee and her legal defense fund. Fox News contributor Dick Morris has repeatedly defended Herman Cain on Fox without disclosing Cain has been a paid sponsor of a series of softball interviews with him on DickMorris.com.

Fox News has a long history of problems with its on-air employees and conflicts of interest -- problems that routinely go ignored.

* This post has been updated to reflect that Elizabeth Pinkerton has recently left the Bachmann campaign, as reflected in a change in her LinkedIn page and confirmed in a report by Media Matters; see:

EXCLUSIVE: Fox Approved Pinkerton's Secrecy on Bachmann Book Partnership

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