Nearly four years ago, Associated Press reporters Ron Fournier and Liz Sidoti opened an interview with Sen. John McCain before the nation's newspaper editors by lavishing the then-presidential candidate with his "favorite treat," donuts ("with sprinkles!"). The gift was quickly panned as a symbol of the free ride that the press had given a thankful McCain for years ("we're his base," in the words of Chris Matthews).
This morning, Fox set a new standard in sugar-based obsequiousness, closing an interview by giving their "star" Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) -- who Fox figures have lavishly praised -- a birthday cake.
Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace concluded today's interview with Ryan by noting that "it's your birthday ... your 42nd birthday." A Fox staffer then walked onto the set holding a sheet cake decorated with a large dollar sign. Ryan, clearly surprised, laughed and said, "You've gotta be kidding me. Oh, my God. Where did you get this?" After Wallace joked that he made it himself, the two turned the cake's dollar sign into a plug for Ryan's calls to cut the budget:
WALLACE: I was up all night making it.
RYAN: Yeah, yeah you were.
WALLACE: You want to cut into that sucker?
RYAN: I don't know.
WALLACE: We -- it's the federal dollar. Don't you want to -- ? (laughing)
RYAN: Yeah, I see that. Right. Well, we need to make more of these for people in this country. Not cakes, dollars.
Wallace insisted Ryan cut the cake for what he admitted was a "photo op." Get it? Ryan was cutting the federal budget.
It's no surprise that Fox is handing out treats to Ryan (even though the congressman told Wallace he doesn't eat sweets) -- Fox figures have a long history of treating Ryan with extensive praise. After he delivered the Republican response to President Obama's 2011 State of the Union address, Fox & Friends hosted GOP pollster Frank Luntz to declare that "Barack Obama was the focus [of last night], but Paul Ryan seems to be the star." In May 2011, Fox News contributor Dana Perino gushed that Ryan "stands up on the merits"; later that month, two Fox News contributors called for him to run for president.
Fox has also been steadfast in helping Ryan push his proposals. In April 2011, after Ryan released his budget plan -- which would have replaced Medicare with a voucher system and increased out-of-pocket costs for seniors -- Fox figures went into overdrive praising Ryan's plan and protecting it from criticism. Brian Kilmeade declared Ryan a "genius," while fellow Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy sympathetically asked Ryan for his thoughts on how Democrats had turned his plan "to fix Medicaid, Medicare," into a "bogeyman." In July 2011, anchor Shannon Bream asked on one of Fox's alleged straight news shows how the GOP could "get ... the true facts" out about Ryan's Medicare plan.