Fox News host Mike Huckabee denied responsibility for shady email pitches sent to subscribers to his email list, telling Media Matters that he is "simply a conduit to send messages" and "can't always vouch for the veracity" of the promoted products.
Huckabee is part of the conservative movement's attempts to cash in on their followers by renting out their email lists to suspect sources. Fox News contributor Scott Brown was recently forced to disown a quack doctor after he sent a sponsored email touting the doctor's dubious Alzheimer's disease cures. Huckabee also sent emails promoting the doctor.
During a press conference held at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) outside Washington, Media Matters asked Huckabee about shady sponsored emails he's sent with his name on it, such as the Alzheimer's disease emails.
Huckabee shrugged off responsibility for the emails, saying "You are supposed to read the disclosure and the disclaimer that is a part of the messages. You know, we are simply the conduit to send messages, these are sponsored and I can't always vouch for the veracity."
Huckabee's sketchy sponsored emails extend beyond questionable medical cures. He recently sent a sponsored email touting the stock recommendation of a financial analyst who was fired from Fox News for ethical violations.
Huckabee sent an email on February 14 from "Fox News alumnus" Tobin Smith and "our paid sponsor, Champlain Media" about "important information" regarding the stock of Gray Fox Petroleum (GFOX). Huckabee's message added that the sponsorship does "not necessarily reflect my views." A Smith-penned message implored readers to "Buy shares of GFOX now while you can still get them at around $1.00 and you could... TURN $10,000 INTO $282,000 in the next 6 months!"
Tobin Smith is so disreputable that he was fired from Fox News -- no small feat -- for receiving compensation to promote a company stock, a violation of network policy. Smith engages in "sponsored research," in which companies hire analysts like Smith to act as pitchmen. MarketWatch's Chuck Jaffee noted that people like Smith take "money to help small stocks find a market using fluff-and-shine hyperbolic chatter" and target "novice investors who fail to do due diligence."
Small print in the Huckabee email states that the email is part of a "paid advertising" campaign "by Tobin Smith" and "Cenad Ltd. has paid $155,040.88 for the dissemination of this info to enhance public awareness for GFOX." It also adds that Smith "has received twenty thousand dollars for this and related marketing materials." It is not clear how much Huckabee received for the email dissemination, though a MikeHuckabee.com card states that his list has 700,000 subscribers and charges $27.50 per thousand emails, with a "300,000 NAME MINIMUM ORDER $1,000.00 MINIMUM PAYMENT."
While it is too early to know how GFOX will perform, Huckabee fans should be cautious about taking the advice. In addition to the investing dangers of sponsored research, a Media Matters review last year found that Smith regularly pitched lofty stock price targets which weren't met. For instance, Smith recommended in January 2013 that readers buy the stock of Boldface Group "at less than 50-cents, and you could ... Turn $10,000 into $50,000 in the next 6-12 months!" It's now trading at one cent.
Fox News helps grow Huckabee's email list, as the former Republican governor regularly promotes MikeHuckabee.com on his weekly program. When visitors reach the page, they're immediately asked to sign-up for his list. In other words, Huckabee is growing his email list through Fox News, and then selling access to that list so hucksters like Tobin Smith can target his Fox fans.
As Salon's Alex Pareene noted, "the conservative movement is an elaborate moneymaking venture. For professional movement conservatives, their audiences and followers are easy marks."