Politico reports that Fox News has extended Karl Rove's contract through 2016. If the past is any indication, you can expect the network to continue to be used as a fundraising and publicity vehicle for Rove-affiliated outside groups, Republican Party propaganda masked as news analysis, and repeated failure to disclose Rove'sentangled interests.
Rove, the so-called "architect" of President Bush's election wins, was hired as a Fox contributor in 2008.
During his appearances, Fox has frequently failed to inform its viewers that Rove is still an active participant in Republican Party politics -- specifically the creation and operation of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, his PAC and non-profit, respectively, that spent millions opposing Democrats in the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Rove has been reliable source of pro-Republican falsehoods on Fox during appearances in which he was often billed as an analyst, rather than as a Republican political operative with a vested interest in the outcome.
Another Fox News contributor is thinking of making a run for office as a Republican.
Fox News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow is reportedly considering running for John Kerry's Massachusetts Senate seat in the event Kerry is confirmed as the next secretary of state. Ablow, who has a long history of making outrageous (often anti-gay) comments, is the latest in a long line of conservatives who have attempted to use their Fox News platform as a springboard into political office.
According to a report in the Boston Herald, Ablow released a statement indicating he would be open to "seriously" considering a senate run if neither Scott Brown nor William Weld run for Kerry's seat:
Ablow, 51, of Newbury, who state records show has supported the campaigns of Republican candidates for office, including Charlie Baker's failed 2010 run for governor, could not immediately be reached for comment this morning, but in a statement said: "The dysfunction in Washington and the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut are both signs this country needs help, and, if neither William Weld nor Scott Brown is the candidate to bring that help from Massachusetts to Washington, I will take those who have asked me to run much more seriously.
"It is time, on so many levels, for real leadership based on the truth," he added.
Ablow is a member of the "Fox News Medical A-Team," and a regular columnist for FoxNews.com.
In 2012 The Wall Street Journal regularly failed to disclose the election-related conflicts of interest of its op-ed writers. The paper's editorial page published op-eds from 12 writers without disclosing their roles as advisers to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. It also didn't regularly disclose columnist Karl Rove's close ties to the super PAC American Crossroads and the affiliated political organization American Crossroads GPS, two groups which spent a massive sum of money attempting to aid Mitt Romney and various Republican congressional candidates in November's elections.
According to a Media Matters review, the Journal published 2012 pieces from the following Romney advisers without disclosing their campaign ties: John Bolton; Max Boot; Lee A. Casey; Seth Cropsey; Paula Dobriansky; Mary Ann Glendon; Kevin Hassett; Michael Mukasey; Paul E. Peterson; David B. Rivkin Jr.; John Taylor; and Martin West.
An October 2 study by Media Matters found that in 70 percent of op-eds written by Mitt Romney advisers, the Journal failed to disclose the writer's connections to the Romney campaign. In several instances, the paper failed to disclose an op-ed writer's connection despite its own news section reporting that the writer is advising Romney.
The Wall Street Journal failed to disclose that a small business owner it quoted to criticize President Obama's proposal to raise marginal tax rates on high-income earners is affiliated with the National Federation of Independent Business -- which is opposed to the tax rate increase.
The Journal faced criticism during the election when it failed on many occasions to disclose the affiliations of political operatives like Karl Rove and the affiliation of many former Romney campaign advisers when they wrote about the presidential and congressional campaigns.
In a Friday article, the Journal suggested that the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of income earners would adversely affect small businesses. A Journal report on deficit negotiations stated: "Small businesses are more sensitive to personal tax rates--the rates at which many are taxed, via their owners' personal returns. That helps explain why small business is more closely aligned than big business with the GOP opposition to raising personal tax rates for anyone."
However, experts maintain that only a tiny fraction -- about 3 percent -- of small businesses will be affected by the expiration of tax cuts on income above $250,000. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained that the overly broad definition of small businesses in these tax discussions includes large corporate law practices, accounting firms, and wealthy investors in financial and real-estate partnerships -- not what many people may consider to be small businesses.
The small business owner quoted by the Journal to substantiate this false claim, Albert Marce, and his business, are both members of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) -- but the Journal failed to disclose this. According to the NFIB's website, the Triple Play Café became a member of NFIB in 2009 and its part-owner Macre is "also owner of an NFIB member accounting practice."
NFIB, closely aligned with the Republican Party, has in the past actively opposed both the health care reform law and increases in the minimum wage. NFIB also helped finance a misleading study that claimed that 700,000 jobs would be lost if the marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans increased. It is currently lobbying against allowing the expiration of tax cuts for those making over $250,000.
Retired donors to a super PAC supported by Dick Morris say they are dissatisfied with how their money was spent. It's not hard to see why.
As Media Matters reported last week, Federal Election Commission documents show that Morris' Super PAC for America paid nearly $1.7 million, or nearly half of all money the Fox News political analyst and columnist for The Hill helped raise, to Newsmax Media, which manages Morris' for-rent email list.
The circular scam apparently worked like this: Morris, acting as chief strategist for the group, sent at least 21 emails to his private for-rent email list, urging readers to give generously to the PAC to fund television ads Morris claimed were essential to a Mitt Romney victory. Newsmax.com sent an additional 25 emails to their own list, featuring a similar pitch and often the signature of either Morris or Michael Reagan, a Newsmax columnist and the PAC's chairman. Then a large percentage of the take was directed back to the coffers of Newsmax, which derives significant profits from its ability to rent out its mailing list to various groups.
Super PACs are unregulated and free to spend their funds however they see fit. But they generally contribute most of their money to candidates or partisan advertising. It is unusual for them to spend half of their revenue on fundraising, and more so for that fundraising to directly profit the PAC's primary spokesperson and strategist. Said Viveca Novak of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political spending: "Spending 50 percent for fundraising and other expenses would be high."
Morris' own supporters agree. Media Matters contacted more than 100 of his donors using publicly available information from the FEC. A disproportionate number of those listed in the FEC filings are retired, and at least a dozen of those contacted seemed extremely confused in their responses. Many more were openly hostile when asked for comment, especially in response to this reporter's stated association with Media Matters.
Others were polite and curious to know how Dick Morris spent their money. Richard Clark, a retired farmer in Jefferson, New Hampshire, made two donations totaling $350 to Morris' group. He was taken aback to learn where roughly $160 of it went. "Half of the budget going to fundraising is probably too high, a quarter of the total is probably closer to the maximum," said Clark, who is also disturbed by Morris' wide margin of error in predicting the election's outcome. "Dick Morris' emails convinced me to contribute, but he was way off. I'm less likely to send him money in the future."
Don Hall, a disabled and retired insurance man in Amarillo, Texas, made five donations to Super PAC for America totaling $1,000. As a longtime fan of Morris' "lunchtime videos," the numbers and implications of the FEC filing disturbed him. "If it is true [that nearly 50 percent of funds went to fundraise through Newsmax and Morris' website] then it would definitely affect my trust in Morris," said Hall. "It would stop all contributions to him in the future."
So it seems that Karl Rove and Dick Morris are on the outs at Fox News. New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman reports that Roger Ailes wants the two pundits off the air, for the time being, and that Fox News producers "must get permission before booking Rove or Morris." The reasons for their benching? "Morris's Romney boosterism and reality-denying predictions became a punch line" within the network, and "Ailes was angry at Rove's election-night tantrum when he disputed the network's call for Obama."
At last we're getting a clearer picture of what it takes to face a reckoning at Fox News. Glaring conflicts of interest, grossly unethical behavior, and naked GOP boosterism adorned with a journalistic fig leaf are just fine. To reap the Ailes whirlwind, you have to become such a transcendent embarrassment that the network has no choice but to treat you as a liability.
It's not a hard-and-fast rule, but there exists some precedent. The most prominent example is, of course, Glenn Beck, whose short-lived Fox News tenure was an ongoing exercise in damage control. Beck managed to stay in Ailes good graces owing to high ratings and ad revenue, but as he grew increasingly unhinged (caliphate, anyone?) and big-name advertisers fled en masse, they had a falling out and Beck was shown the door. "Half of the headlines say he's been canceled. The other half say he quit. We're pretty happy with both of them," Ailes told the Associated Press.
And then there's E.D. Hill, the Fox News anchor who in 2008 memorably characterized a fist bump between Barack and Michelle Obama as "a terrorist fist jab," generating howls of outrage from all corners. Her program was canceled within two weeks, and later that year the network declined to renew her contract.
On the other hand, there are plenty of Fox News personalities who have very publicly disgraced themselves and the network and who remain secure in their jobs. Look no further than the cast of Fox & Friends. Their 2008 stunt in which they smeared two New York Times reporters by Photoshopping yellow teeth, big noses, and receding hairlines into their publicity photos should have sent heads rolling. And yet, Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade are still on the air. Eric Bolling declared himself a birther on his Fox Business Network show: "There is a legitimate question as to whether or not the president of the United States is allowed to be president of the United States." He's since moved up to the big leagues and now co-hosts The Five on Fox News.
All this to say that, despite Morris' and Rove's benching -- which has every appearance of being temporary -- there is still no real culture of accountability at Fox News. The only way to get in trouble is to make such a spectacle of yourself that the network brass are forced to act (sagging ratings seem to be a precondition as well). And even then, there's a good chance you won't face any consequences whatsoever.
You might even get promoted.
No one seemed to believe that Ailes had breached media ethics. Nor was anyone surprised that Ailes had asked Fox News analyst K.T. McFarland to ask Petraeus if there was "anything Fox is doing right or wrong that you want to tell us to do differently." Indeed, it is just what people have come to expect from the veteran Republican strategist who, in 2005, sent a note to then-Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice offering "help off the record" any time.
If there is a line of demarcation between the conservative Fox News and the liberal MSNBC, this is it: MSNBC may be hyper-partisan, but -- at least for now -- it is not a political operation.
It's a perverse sort of dynamic in which the president of a news organization is shielded from revelations of unethical behavior by his long-established record of unethical behavior. And while it's certainly true that Fox News is first and foremost a political operation, that doesn't explain entirely why Ailes is free to behave the way he does. The network also has a dysfunctional (one could argue nonexistent) culture of accountability.
Ailes has long benefited from Fox News' low standards for professional conduct. Most significantly, this isn't the first time he's been caught trying to persuade Republicans to run against President Obama. New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman reported last year that Ailes personally "called Chris Christie and encouraged him to jump into the race. Last summer, he'd invited Christie to dinner at his upstate compound along with Rush Limbaugh, and like much of the GOP Establishment, he fell hard for Christie, who nevertheless politely turned down Ailes's calls to run." (Ailes later denied the Christie report. He also claimed his Petraeus pitch "was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have.")
The Denver Post is reporting that Fox News contributor Monica Crowley spent Thursday speaking at rallies in Colorado sponsored by Americans for Prosperity as part of the group's "second statewide Obama's Failing Agenda Bus Tour." Crowley's appearance adds to Fox's long history of ethics problems.
In a press release announcing the bus tour, Americans for Prosperity indicated that it "includes three continuous buses crisscrossing the nation, giving a voice to the millions of Americans who oppose the policies of this administration."
From The Denver Post:
So much for "fair and balanced." Fox News Channel is doing the RNC's work on the ground in a key swing state. Note, AEP wouldn't use the word "stumping," they're bashing Barack Obama, not promoting anyone else.
According to a press release for the event, "this tour will educate Americans on the most harmful aspects of President Obama's big-government agenda..." The group adds that "The Failing Agenda bus tour is an issue advocacy effort by Americans for Prosperity and does not expressly advocate for the success or defeat of any candidate for public office." But you get the drift.
To be clear, AEP does not count itself a pro-Romney group. It's an anti-Obama group. There.
This appearance by Crowley raises significant ethical questions since she regularly appears on Fox News' "fair and balanced" segments to opine on political issues, including the 2012 campaign and the Obama administration's policies.
However, this is not the first instance in which a Fox employee has appeared to cross the ethical line.
While on a Fox News Sunday panel, New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny received feedback from right-wing radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham on how the Times should cover the controversy over the terrorist attack in Benghazi during which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed. This seems to be in conflict with Times guidance against its staff members making appearances that could undermine the impartiality of the paper's journalism.
Discussing the Benghazi attack, Ingraham lectured Zeleny on how the Times should be covering the administration's response to the Benghazi attacks, asking if the paper was "camped outside" of U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice's home to question her on whether she was a "sacrificial lamb" for the Obama administration.
The Wall Street Journal disclosed that Hoover Institute fellow John Taylor is a Mitt Romney adviser after not doing so when it published two previous op-eds by Taylor.
The Journal has published a total of 23 op-eds from 10 other Romney advisers without disclosing their Romney connection. Editorial page editors from across the country have criticized the Journal for its lack of transparency in its editorial pages, and several media outlets have noted their failure to disclose. Media Matters has also launched a petition urging the Journal to disclose the conflicts.
But recently, the Journal identified Max Boot as a Romney adviser in a book review he wrote for the paper. Following criticism, the Journal has also disclosed that weekly columnist Karl Rove is linked to the pro-Romney American Crossroads Super PAC in Rove's two most recent columns.
The Wall Street Journal identified Taylor in his October 3 column as a "professor of economics at Stanford and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He is an economic adviser to the Romney presidential campaign."
The Journal previously published a September 11 op-ed that Taylor co-wrote with former GOP senator Phil Gramm without such disclosure. The Journal instead identified Taylor as "a professor of economics at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He was undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs in the first George W. Bush administration." The Journal also did not disclose Taylor's affiliation with the Romney campaign in a September 16 op-ed Taylor co-wrote.
An August 15 Fortune article, identified Taylor as part of Romney's "Economic Policy Steering Group," a group that convened on July 4. also co-authored an August 2 paper for the Romney campaign titled "The Romney Program for Economic Recovery, Growth and Jobs."
Fox & Friends hosted former senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) this morning to rail against a tax on medical devices included in health care reform legislation passed by congress in 2010. Neither Bayh nor Fox News disclosed that Bayh is currently a partner at a law firm that represents several medical device companies.
Bayh, who was hired as a Fox News contributor last year and voted to pass health care reform when he was a senator, appeared on the network to criticize the tax for several minutes. Bayh joined the hosts in claiming the tax would harm innovation and cost jobs in the medical device industry. During the segment, Bayh expressed hope that current members of Congress would "do something" about the tax:
At one point, the network displayed a graphic purporting to show a "breakdown for the typical medical device company." The "source" listed on-screen for the data was "Evan Bayh, Former Senator (D-IN)."
Last January, Bayh joined D.C. law firm McGuireWoods LLP as a partner. On their website, McGuireWoods touts how they are "dedicated to providing legal services to clients in the pharmaceutical life sciences and medical device industries." Next month, the firm will host the "4th Annual Medical Device and Life Sciences Conference," which is dedicated to "addressing key legal and business matters focusing on innovation, investing and regulatory issues in the medical device sector." Bayh is scheduled to give the opening speech.
Bayh was introduced on Fox & Friends only as a "Fox News contributor and former Democratic Indiana Senator."
The Wall Street Journal's failure to disclose that 10 of its op-ed writers are Mitt Romney advisers has drawn criticism from veteran editorial page editors at some of the nation's top newspapers.
In a total of 23 pieces, the op-ed writers attacked President Obama or praised Romney without the paper acknowledging their Romney connections.
Media Matters reached out to several veteran opinion editors who either criticized the Journal directly or noted that their papers handle such disclosures more openly.
"Not disclosing is inexcusable," declared Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press since 2009. "If you don't know, that is one thing, but if you are hiding it or purposely not disclosing it I am not sure what the rationale would be. We are pretty careful here to disclose any affiliation. There are times we have declined pieces because someone is too close to it. I am pretty shocked by that."
He added that it's the newspaper's responsibility to discover and report conflicts: "The Journal is publishing this stuff, so the responsibility falls on them. I expect my op ed editor to ask anyone who is writing about a campaign or a ballot issue, 'are you involved with the campaign? Are you being paid by someone to write this?' That is our job."
Nicholas Goldberg, Los Angeles Times editorial page editor since 2009, said that providing transparency for the relationships of op-ed writers is "absolutely essential."
"Op-ed writers aren't supposed to be objective or to have no stake in the subjects they're writing about," he explained. "But when a writer does have a particular relationship to his subject that is not immediately apparent to the reader, it is important to disclose that so that the reader can evaluate the argument intelligently."
But such information is not always provided to readers of the Journal.
This is not the first time the Journal's editorial page has come under fire for lack of transparency. Several of the editorial page editors who spoke with Media Matters had previously criticized the Journal for failing to disclose that weekly columnist Karl Rove is the co-founder of a super PAC, American Crossroads, which raises funds to oppose Democrats. The Journal apparently changed that practice, disclosing Rove's super PAC connection in his latest column published Thursday.
Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot and a Journal spokesperson did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the paper's failure to disclose the op-ed writers' Romney ties. Media Matters sought comment both before and after the Journal's apparent change in policy to disclose Rove's role with Crossroads.
The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey pushing the bogus rumor that President Obama may release convicted terrorist Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so called "Blind Sheikh."
The Journal did not disclose Mukasey's position as a Romney campaign adviser. This fits with the Journal's practice of repeatedly publishing columns by Karl Rove without disclosure of his role as head of pro-Republican groups dedicated to defeating President Obama. The paper has also published op-eds by nine Romney campaign advisers without disclosure of their roles.
In his Journal op-ed, Mukasey acknowledged that he had no direct evidence that Obama is considering a release or transfer of the Blind Sheikh, who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Instead, Mukasey purported to present circumstantial evidence to make his case.
For instance, Mukasey suggested that statements made by U.S. government officials regarding the Blind Sheikh were not clear enough:
Then there are the statements of U.S. officials on the subject, which all have sounded excruciatingly lawyered. Asked before Congress in July whether there is an intention "at any time to release the Blind Sheikh," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano responded: "Well, let me just say this. I know of no such intention."
The State Department's spokesperson last week, after the ceremonial "let me be clear," said that there had been no approach on this topic "recently" from any "senior" official of the Egyptian government -- an elucidation laden with ambiguity and certain to send chills up the spine of anyone familiar with Abdel Rahman's record and President Morsi's inclinations.
Mukasey hid the fact that the State Department spokesperson he quoted, Victoria Nuland, also said "there is no plan to release the blind sheikh, there is no plan."
And Nuland isn't the only Obama administration official to make such a clear statement. Department of Justice spokesperson Dean Boyd told the Glenn Beck's the Blaze that the rumor that the Blind Sheikh may be transferred to Egypt is "utter garbage":
The assertion that the Blind Sheikh may be transferred to Egypt is utter garbage. The Blind Sheikh is not being transferred to Egypt nor is he being released. He is serving life sentence in federal prison. Suggestions that there are discussions to transfer or release him are absolute garbage and completely false.
Niall Ferguson's Newsweek cover story on President Obama exemplifies a deficiency in today's media. As criticism of Ferguson's shoddy work mounted -- both from outside and inside of Newsweek/The Daily Beast -- Newsweek explained to Politico's Dylan Byers that Newsweek "rel[ies] on our writers to submit factually accurate material." Indeed, Byers also noted that Newsweek does not even have a fact-checking department.
This admission is disturbing on face. Newsweek wants to sell you stories and news about the world but can't even be bothered to check the claims it publishes. Even worse, they didn't seem all that uncomfortable with the admission. Newsweek's defense is that others are this lackadaisical at journalism, which is to say Newsweek has no defense. In a media environment without fact-checkers, it's no wonder we have fabulists and problems with facts and the media. But there's a more pernicious ramification of Newsweek's abdication of journalistic practices: This is what the predatory conservative echo-chamber and Fox News count on.
Fox and the right-wing echo chamber exploit these vulnerabilities in the media. When the media process seems shoddy (regardless of whether it actually is) and the result produces news that is inconsistent with conservative ideology, right-wing media pounce and attack the outlet as part of some left-wing media cabal. We've seen Fox do this from Dan Rather to Politico to ABC News to MSNBC and more. On the other hand, when they find the argument useful, the right-wing echo chamber can herald the piece and ignore inaccuracies within.
It's no surprise that while discussing Ferguson's article across multiple programs, Fox never discussed the myriad factual problems in Ferguson's piece that one could find with a rudimentary Google search. This is even as Ferguson's self-professed friend who writes for the same outlet called the piece "absurd propaganda."
Fox News' disclosure problem just got worse.
Fox once again turned to businessman Thomas Belesis for commentary without disclosing his position as an official for the New York State Republican Party.
As Media Matters has previously documented, according to the biography on his website, Belesis "is currently Co-Chairman of the New York State Republican Finance Committee." A 2011 press release touted Belesis as a "key backer of the State Party's efforts in the 2010 election and has also been an active supporter of the Republican National Committee over the last election cycle."
On today's edition of Fox's Your World with Neil Cavuto, Belesis attacked the Obama administration as "anti-business" and claimed that a Romney administration, on the other hand, would be "business friendly" and help spur "a lot of economic activity and pent-up entrepreneurial demand that's been on the sidelines." Belesis concluded his analysis by saying, "I think people are going to wait and sit on the sidelines until after or we get close to an eventual Romney win in the White House."
During the segment, Cavuto identified Belesis' as "a CEO, just down on Wall Street" and a caption identified him as "John Thomas Financial CEO," but his Republican ties were never disclosed.
Cavuto's failure to identify Belesis as a Republican official is part of Fox News' longstanding disclosure problem. The network has repeatedly hosted Romney advisers John Bolton, Jay Sekulow, and Walid Phares without acknowledging their participation in Romney's campaign. Fox has also heavily promoted contributor Karl Rove's anti-Obama super PAC, American Crossroads, often without identifying his connection to either American Crossroads or Fox News.