Reporters at The Hill newspaper are levying tough criticism at the publication's columnist Dick Morris following recent outlandish predictions that caused Fox News to restrict his time on the air.
"I think everyone at The Hill views him the way that people outside The Hill do," said one staffer. "He is a laughingstock, especially the way he acted in this last election."
"I don't think people take his column seriously," added another. "What did he predict, 300 electoral votes for Romney?"
New York magazine's Gabe Sherman reported December 4 that segments involving Morris and fellow Fox News political analyst Karl Rove would now require approval from a top network executive. He explained of Morris:
Inside Fox News, Morris's Romney boosterism and reality-denying predictions became a punch line. At a rehearsal on the Saturday before the election, according to a source, anchor Megyn Kelly chuckled when she relayed to colleagues what someone had told her: "I really like Dick Morris. He's always wrong but he makes me feel good."
Morris had used his Fox perch to offer an array of outlandish predictions, including repeated claims that Mitt Romney would win the presidency by a "landslide," Republicans would pick up 10 Senate seats, and stating it was "very possible" President Obama would drop out of the race altogether.
The commentator's record at The Hill was not much better, using his widely-mocked final columns before Election Day to predict a Romney "landslide" of more than 5 points in the popular vote and several GOP Senate victories.
But while Fox News - famously lacking accountability - has decided to reduce Morris' appearances in response to his embarrassing commentary, The Hill appears to be taking no such steps. And that concerns some of the paper's reporters who worry that his work adversely affects their brand.
"If it was up to me, I would not have him as a columnist, but it's not up to me," said a third reporter. "His columns are wildly outlandish. I think that he, as evidenced by this [interview], he probably brings more negative attention than positive to the paper."
Media Matters reached out to more than 30 Hill staffers seeking their views on Morris and his recent "benching" by Fox. While some staffers declined to comment, indicating they found Morris irrelevant or feared retaliation, none would support or defend him.
Those who chose to speak, requesting anonymity, said the columnist lacked credibility.
"I saw his piece about predicting a landslide and just kind of shrugged," said a fourth Hill scribe
Then there was the Hill writer who said simply: "He is what he is, I don't read his column, he is sort of a joke."
At one point, after Media Matters began seeking comment from Hill staffers, a "mass email" went out to the paper's reporters "specifically instructing us not to talk," according to one staffer who had agreed to speak, but indicated it would not be possible after receiving the email.
Managing Editor Bob Cusack then emailed Media Matters stating: "I am the best contact for any piece you are writing about The Hill. Thanks." He later requested questions via email rather than participate in a phone interview.
Media Matters emailed Cusack several questions asking about his view of Morris, the columnist's future at the newspaper, and what Cusack thought of staff members' concerns.
His email response: "We're not going to comment."