In recent months, Sean Hannity has repeatedly handed the reins of his national radio show to Dan Bongino, an active congressional candidate. During his guest hosting stints, Bongino used the prominent platform to promote his political views, send listeners to his campaign website and Facebook page, and encourage people to watch a campaign ad.
Bongino is a former Secret Service agent who left duty in 2011 to run for Senate in Maryland. The fact that he left the presidential detail during Obama's first term in order to run as a Republican immediately endeared Bongino to conservative radio and Fox News, though he drew criticism from his former Secret Service colleagues. After losing his 2012 Senate election by roughly 30 points, Bongino announced in June 2013 that he planned to run for Congress in Maryland's 6th district against Democratic Rep. John Delaney.
Bongino's campaign has since gotten a big publicity boost from conservative media outlets like Fox News, which has hosted him several times over the past twelve months. He's also been endorsed by Fox employees like Allen West and Sarah Palin. But perhaps his biggest ally has been Sean Hannity.
The media relationship between the two dates back to Bongino's 2012 run. In a Facebook post promoting an appearance on The Sean Hannity Show shortly before that year's election, Bongino wrote that Hannity had been a "good friend and great supporter to the campaign."
Since announcing his congressional bid last June, Bongino has been invited to guest host Hannity's three-hour national radio program at least five times (on August 22, November 27, December 23, February 20, and May 5). Bongino officially filed to run on February 21, 2014.
While he mostly avoided directly discussing his active congressional race, during Bongino's two most recent hosting gigs he railed against Democrats and touted conservative principles, both of which are naturally themes of his campaign.
Bongino also used the hosting opportunities to direct listeners to his campaign's Facebook page and his official campaign website.
For example, hosting the show on May 5, Bongino told listeners to "go to my Facebook page, give us a Like." Bongino's Facebook page is identified as the "Official page of Dan Bongino for Congress. Paid for by Citizens for Bongino," his campaign committee. Bongino asked listeners to "give me your comments on our ad." The same day, Bongino's campaign had released its first TV ad of the election cycle.
Talking to a show producer while on-air, Bongino asked, "you liked it, right? You thought it was good? Different, right?" She responded, "I loved the ad. It gave me chills." Bongino explained, "I like to do things a little different, kind of an outside the box operator here. But, yeah, give me a comment on it. I'd love to get your opinion. I promise, you haven't seen anything like it before."
The defense continued to present its case in the fifth month of the trial of several News Corp. employees for allegedly compromising the privacy of crime victims, British royalty, entertainers, and politicians.
Former News International editors and executives -- including Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, and Stuart Kuttner -- are on trial in England for their accused roles in conspiring to hack phones and voicemails to find fodder for news stories.
On the stand in April, Kuttner denied paying off the investigator who did the phone hacking, while Coulson testified at length about his actions surrounding the disclosure of the hacking.
From the April 26 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative filmmaker and author charged this January with violating federal campaign finance laws, allegedly said that while he might eventually admit his guilt, he would initially plead innocent because it would give "him a window of opportunity to get his story out there." Conservative media have been happy to lend him a hand in doing so.
In January, federal prosecutors announced that D'Souza was being charged with filtering excessive campaign donations through straw donors to Republican Wendy Long, a friend of his who lost her 2012 campaign to unseat Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. D'Souza pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to The New York Times, D'Souza's lawyer is claiming that the conservative pundit is being "targeted...because of his consistently caustic and highly publicized criticism" of President Obama. (The prosecution has called these claims "entirely without merit.") The Times also reports that prosecutors claim to have a recording made by the husband of a woman D'Souza was "involved with romantically" who was "one of the alleged straw donors." According to the woman, D'Souza said that if he were eventually charged, he might plead not guilty to help "get his story out there":
Prosecutors also said they had obtained a copy of a recording made surreptitiously last October by the husband of a woman Mr. D'Souza was involved with romantically around the time of the donations, when Mr. D'Souza was separated from his wife. In making the recording, the husband was not acting at the government's direction, prosecutors said. The woman, Denise Joseph, was one of the alleged straw donors.
Ms. Joseph was recorded as saying that Mr. D'Souza had told her that if he were charged he might plead guilty, but would initially plead not guilty because that "gives him a window of opportunity to get his story out there," the government said. Ms. Joseph had no comment, her lawyer said.
Conservative media have been crucial in helping D'Souza "get his story out there" -- his allies on Fox News, talk radio, and right-wing online outlets have loudly and repeatedly claimed that D'Souza is a victim of persecution because of his political beliefs.
On Tax Day, Fox hosts provided a platform for six Tea Party members, disproving Ruport Murdoch's claim that the network doesn't promote the Tea Party.
During a March 2014 interview with Fortune, Rupert Murdoch called "bullshit" on the assertion that Fox News has gone to bat for the Tea Party, saying, "we don't promote the Tea Party. That's bullshit. We recognize their existence." But just as Fox can be credited with a staggering amount of early Tea Party promotion in 2009, Fox hosts celebrated Tax Day 2014 by hosting a number of Tea Partiers to discuss the movement.
On the April 15 edition of On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren questioned why the Tea Party hadn't planned any large scale events in honor of Tax Day and hosted three Tea Party members to promote the movement's new political plan. Van Susteren painted the Tea Party as victims, claiming that the movement has been "unfairly demonized by some members of politics." Van Susteren even gave the floor to the Tea Partiers to promote their favorite hopefuls for the 2016 presidential election:
In an interview with Fortune, News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch credited Fox News with having "absolutely saved" the Republican Party, praising the network for giving "voice and hope to people who didn't like all that liberal championing thrown at them on CNN." But Fox News has not just given "voice and hope" to conservative news watchers. The network has been instrumental in helping Republicans for years by actively promoting and fundraising for GOP candidates, serving as a staging ground for numerous network employees to prep runs for office, championing Republicans' legislative goals, and systematically smearing and lying about an immeasurable number of Democrats, progressives, and any policy initiatives the network found insufficiently conservative.
During the same exchange, Murdoch reportedly bristled at the suggestion that Fox promotes the tea party, potentially at the expense of the GOP:
Does it bother you at all, Rupert, that there is a view that Fox News has contributed in a big way to the political discontent in the U.S., degraded the political process, and maybe, in spotlighting the Tea Party, even hurt the Republican Party? I think it has absolutely saved it. It has certainly given voice and hope to people who didn't like all that liberal championing thrown at them on CNN. By the way, we don't promote the Tea Party. That's bullshit. We recognize their existence.
But Murdoch's assertion that it's "bullshit" that Fox News promotes the tea party is, well, bullshit. Simply put, today's tea party probably wouldn't exist -- at least not at its level of influence and notoriety -- without the integral role Fox News played in promoting the first round of tea party events during Obama's first year in office.
Even given the warped standards by which Fox News' journalistic ethics are often viewed, the network's early promotion of the tea party is still staggering to revisit. In the early months of 2009, Fox News personalities on several different programs aggressively plugged the supposedly upstart tea party movement. The network even held its own events on April 15 of that year that they branded "FNC TAX DAY TEA PARTIES." Fox News hosts Glenn Beck (who has since left the network), Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren all broadcast live that day from various tea parties around the country.
One of Fox News' more bizarre ethical violations has drawn to a close. After devoting a week of segments to promoting a Republican Senate candidate's fundraising ploy, Fox & Friends plagiarized the idea and spent another week passing it off as their own.
As Media Matters previously reported, last month Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse released a March Madness-themed competition featuring a bracket of 64 alleged Constitutional violations by the Obama administration.
Fox & Friends eagerly latched onto the "Constitutional Madness" bracket, devoting significant time to it on their March 21, 22, 24, 25, and 26 broadcasts. While promoting the Sasse campaign's bracket, both the hosts and on-screen text repeatedly credited Sasse with coming up with the idea. Fox hosts also adopted the Sasse campaign-approved branding that the Nebraska Republican is known as "the anti-Obamacare candidate."
After originally telling viewers to weigh in on Facebook and Twitter, Fox & Friends started directing viewers to vote in the competition at the Sasse-operated constitutionalmadness.com. (Sasse himself also directed viewers to visit the website during his appearance on the March 24 edition of Fox & Friends.)
The Sasse campaign was likely thrilled by the publicity boost, because the entire competition was a thinly-veiled effort to farm email addresses and solicit donations. Visitors to constitutionalmadness.com are greeted with a large "CONTRIBUTE!" button. Filling out a bracket automatically redirects people to the Sasse campaign's fundraising page, and in order to complete the bracket in the first place, you have to give the Sasse campaign your email address.
Inevitably, since filling out a bracket on March 26, Media Matters has been emailed fundraising solicitations from the Sasse campaign, including one on March 29 urging people to contribute before the end of the fundraising quarter.
But a strange thing happened in the middle of Fox & Friends' promotion of Sasse's "Constitutional Madness": the show kept running segments charting the progress of the competition, but stopped crediting Sasse for the idea. Instead, Fox & Friends started directing people to vote at their show's own website, where they had plagiarized much of the original bracket.
The defense began to present its case in the fourth month of the criminal trial of several News Corp. employees accused of being involved in the widespread phone hacking scandal. Crime victims, British royalty, entertainers and politicians all had their privacy compromised.
Former editors and executives from News International -- Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, and Stuart Kuttner -- are on trial in England for their roles in allegedly conspiring to engage in phone hacking to produce news stories. The prosecution has presented evidence involving alleged orders to engage in phone hacking and payments to private investigators who did the hacking.
In March, former News Corp. executive Rebekah Brooks admitted that the company knew there were many more phone hacking victims than it initially publicly acknowledged. She also admitted to paying public relations gurus and making job offers in an ill-fated attempt to squash the scandal. She also directly denied some of the charges against her, including paying a public official in exchange for news scoops. Her husband also testified about back and forth behind the scenes efforts to keep her employed at News Corp. as the scandal emerged.
The Washington Times' new digital magazine targeted at "conservative blacks" features Ben Carson as its "founding publisher," his business associate as "executive editor," and in its first issue it wants you to know how great Ben Carson is.
In the Washington Times press release about the launch of American CurrentSee, the digital magazine is described as a publication that "aims to empower its readers to embrace an agenda of economic opportunity, moral leadership and freedom from government dependency."
In practice, the magazine is loaded with praise for Times columnist and Fox News contributor Ben Carson.
Over the past week, Fox & Friends has run numerous segments promoting the "Constitutional Madness" bracket created by Republican Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse. While Sasse's bracket is ostensibly an attempt to determine the worst constitutional violation among supposed Obama administration scandals, in reality it's a thinly-veiled attempt to collect donations and email addresses. Fox News liked the Sasse idea so much they eventually plagiarized it for FoxNews.com.
To coincide with the NCAA's annual March Madness basketball tournament, last week Sasse's campaign released a bracket of 64 alleged constitutional violations by the Obama administration. Sasse is a former Bush administration official running in a Republican primary to fill Mike Johanns' Senate seat in Nebraska. The bracket is made up of a panoply of Fox News-promoted pseudoscandals, including things like "death panels."
Fox & Friends has given the bracket a major publicity boost, discussing it at length on its March 21, 22, 24, 25 and 26 broadcasts. During some of the segments, Fox hosts -- and Sasse himself, who appeared on March 24 -- directed viewers to the competition website and pushed people to cast a vote. The network has also hyped how "thousands of people" are voting in the competition, which has gotten "a lot of buzz" -- thanks in no small part to Fox's efforts.
Visitors to constitutionalmadness.com -- many of whom likely did so after hearing about it on Fox News' highly-rated morning show -- are greeted with a green "CONTRIBUTE!" button above the actual voting process.
In order to submit votes, visitors must give the Sasse campaign their email address, which will undoubtedly be used for later fundraising pitches. After submitting a vote, the site redirects to the Sasse campaign's donation page, with the $100.00 donation option helpfully pre-selected. Text on the landing page reads, "Thanks for playing! Will you help fight back against Constitutional overreach by making a donation to the campaign today?"
On its March 26 broadcast, the show promoted its own version of the competition and encouraged viewers to visit the Fox & Friends website to cast votes.
Much of the language on Fox's version of the bracket is pulled directly from the Sasse campaign website, but Fox offers no attribution anywhere on its site. To the contrary, Fox News claims it's "our Constitutional Madness Bracket" and "we put together a 'Constitutional Madness' bracket." Fox also lifted language from other sources in writing "background" information about the alleged constitutional violations.
Fox News of course has routinely worked to bolster the political ambitions of Republicans, including those on its own staff. But even by the network's warped ethical standards, its week-long promotion of Sasse's campaign ploy has been egregious.
In 2010, the Democratic Governors Association filed a complaint (later dismissed) against Fox News after the network ran the campaign web address of former Fox employee and then Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich.
A rundown of Fox's "Constitutional Madness" hype is below.
Fox News finally terminated the contract of contributor Scott Brown after Brown told the network he is planning a New Hampshire Senate run. The move follows months of speculation about a possible run by Brown, a topic that was repeatedly raised during his appearances on the network.
Brown tweeted today that he "enjoyed being a part of the Fox family. Their analysis & insight has helped hold politicians accountable for their actions ... especially on ObamaCare. I am extremely grateful to everyone at Fox for their friendship, & wish them all the best moving forward."
It became clear shortly after Brown was hired by Fox in 2013 that he was planning to use the network as a springboard to the next stage of his political career. And Fox was more than happy to play along.
The network gave Brown an online column, which he used to write columns with headlines like "Time to hold Democrats in Congress responsible for the mess they created." Fox also let him practice stump speeches, plug his New Hampshire bona fides, discuss the need for Republicans to win back the Senate, and attack his possible opponent on-air.
Below are five segments that show the farcical nature of Brown's job as a "Fox News contributor."
The Baltimore Sun cut ties with their conservative blog after learning of the blog's potential unethical behavior, a Sun spokesperson said Monday.
"The Baltimore Sun's editorial independence is among our most fundamental values and we have a strict separation between advertising and the content we produce," Sun Director of Marketing Renee Mutchnik told Media Matters in a statement explaining the paper's separation from the bloggers.
Late last year the Sun inked a deal with the conservative blog Red Maryland to provide content for baltimoresun.com as well as a weekly op-ed page in the paper's print edition. In a November op-ed, Red Maryland's Mark Newgent explained that their blog was "the premiere source for conservative news and opinion in Maryland" and that he and his colleagues would now have "the opportunity to advance conservative, limited government ideas to a larger audience." While the bloggers would continue to operate their private blog, they would also write content for a Red Maryland blog on the Sun's website.
But questions over the bloggers' ethical behavior surfaced last week when a rival conservative blogger posted what he claimed was an email he received from friends outlining a pitch from Red Maryland urging Republican candidates to advertise on the bloggers' radio show to "get the message out to like-minded conservatives in your upcoming primary election." The email claimed that Red Maryland would use all "our platforms at BaltimoreSun.com, RedMaryland.com, and the Red Maryland network" to introduce candidates to the public, suggesting that candidates who paid for the ads could also expect favorable coverage from the bloggers in their roles as paid contributors to the Sun.
Red Maryland did not dispute the authenticity of the email but denied the conservative rival's pay-to-play accusation in a March 7 blog post on their original website, stating that they had provided platforms to candidates since the site's founding to give these candidates media attention and statewide audiences. However, Red Maryland also formally acknowledged that Newgent, who wrote for both Red Maryland's original site and in the Sun, has been paid by Larry Hogan, a Republican gubernatorial candidate Red Maryland has endorsed:
First, we've never claimed to be "objective." We wear our biases openly on our sleeve, always have. You've always known where Red Maryland was coming from. Newgent has repeatedly disclosed his work for Change Maryland and the Hogan for Governor Campaign. He has performed research work for both organizations. Hardly a "political favor."
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.
Former Republican Senator Scott Brown's latest appearance as a Fox News contributor exemplified the ethically murky middle ground between being a potential political candidate and a news commentator.
Since his initial hiring by Fox News in 2013, there has been widespread speculation that Brown would return to politics and mount a run for Democrat Jeanne Shaheen's Senate seat in New Hampshire. Both Brown and Fox have mutually benefited from the publicity surrounding his potential run, and have discussed his possible candidacy during his appearances on the network (including his first appearance on-air after renewing his contract last month).
If Brown wants to keep his contributor status, he needs to walk the tightrope of repeatedly toying with the idea of running while not actually taking formal steps to declare his candidacy (in the past, Fox has severed the contracts of contributors once they have filed the requisite paperwork).
Earlier this week, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren tweeted that she was told it is "certain" that Brown is going to run, prompting Brown to deny the report, telling Politico, "I will make my decisions in due course."
As Brown continues to delay his decision, Fox News is happy to help bolster their employee's potential candidacy. Brown sounded like a candidate today during an appearance on Your World with Neil Cavuto, where he attacked Shaheen and Senate Democrats. He also attempted to prove his New Hampshire bona fides in the wake of carpetbagger criticism.
Cavuto wondered whether Obamacare would be Brown's "issue" if he chose to run, prompting Brown to reply that "it's no secret" he's thinking of getting into the race before launching into speech about "dysfunctional" Washington and how we "need to fix it."
Cavuto raised the attacks on Brown as a possible "carpetbagger" were he to run in New Hampshire, since he was previously senator in Massachusetts. Brown called the attacks "laughable," adding "people know that I have long and strong ties to New Hampshire, you know, going back generations" and explaining he has been a resident for "a couple of months."
Brown then turned to the "real issue," which was attacking his possible opponent Jeanne Shaheen for joining Democrats in having "rammed" health care reform through Congress.
Pressed by Cavuto for when he planned to make his decision -- and whether he would make any announcement on Cavuto's show -- Brown was coy as usual, explaining that "I'll make an announcement sooner rather than later."
In the meantime, Fox is willing to hand him a paycheck while he practices potential stump speeches.
The trial of several News Corp. employees accused of being involved in the widespread phone hacking scandal has now entered its third month. British royalty, actors, politicians and crime victims all had their privacy compromised. In February, the prosecution -- which rested its case during the month -- alleged that former Prime Minister Tony Blair offered to "secretly advise" News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch as the scandal unfolded. Testimony from former News Corp. executive Rebekah Brooks supplied the bulk of information for the month, as the defense began its presentation. Among other revelations, Brooks admitted to authorizing "half a dozen" payments to public officials during her time working as an editor at The Sun.