Fox News may turn out to be the biggest Super PAC of them all.
A recent report from Politico indicates that outside groups plan to spend $1 billion in attack ads against President Obama and the Democratic Party this year. That figure could be considerably higher if you factor in the free airtime and resources Fox News is donating to the cause. As Fox host Eric Bolling said, "We're all on board if Mitt's it."
The four minute long anti-Obama attack ad presented on Fox & Friends this morning not only crossed the ethical line but it may violate News Corp.'s own internal policy for ethical behavior. The policy states:
Contributing Company Assets: We do not donate any corporate money, services, products or facilities to any political party, candidate or political committee unless previously approved by News Corporation's Executive Vice President for Government Affairs, at the Government Relations Office in Washington D.C. Always keep in mind that "contribution" is defined broadly, and does not necessarily mean money. It may, under some circumstances, even include the use of Company email to solicit donations or support.
The ad presented on Fox & Friends was virtually indistinguishable from the sort of campaign videos regularly produced by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign, the Republican National Committee, or Fox News analyst Karl Rove's American Crossroads. Those videos at least provide a disclaimer noting their affiliation with a campaign or other sort of political committee.
This donation of airtime and resources in favor of the Republican Party is just the latest incident of its kind from Fox News.
The Fox Primary, during which Republican presidential candidates made themselves permanent fixtures on the channel in order to curry favor with conservatives, lasted 8 months with 12 candidates making 604 appearances for a combined 4,644 minutes of airtime. For many of the candidates, who did not have fully functional campaigns, Fox worked as a powerful substitute, giving them a platform to get their message out and to fundraise.
A single anti-Obama ad produced by American Crossroads, co-founded by Rove, was showcased on no less than seven Fox News programs in a 24 hour period. In most of the appearances Rove's affiliation with both Fox and American Crossroads was not mentioned while Fox personalities praised the ad as a "bombshell," "fabulous," and "effective."
Fox has often adopted RNC press releases and talking points and seamlessly integrated them into its programming. In 2009, Fox presented information critical of the Recovery Act taken directly from an RNC press release, including typos. As the GOP began attacking the Obama administration for supposedly injecting "uncertainty" into the economy, the phrase became part of Fox News programming.
A leaked internal memo showed Fox's Washington managing editor Bill Sammon instructing on-air staff to use "government option" rather than "public option" during the debate over health care reform, echoing language promoted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz.