During a recent Republican fundraiser, party activists bid on the chance to take a guided tour of Fox News' New York studios with employee Dick Morris.
The auction benefited the Republican Party of Lake County (FL) as part of its March 9 Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner, which featured Morris as its keynote speaker. A note on the party's website stated: "Dick Morris auctions himself as personal tour guide for a visit to Fox News in New York and raises an additional $6,000 for the Lake County REC Campaign Season":
Sold Out -2012 Lincoln / Reagan Gala A Huge Sucess [sic]. Keynote speaker Dick Morris auctions himself as personal tour guide for a visit to Fox News in New York and raises an additional $6,000 for the Lake County REC Campaign Season.
The Lake County Republican Executive Committee thanks Dick Morris for a wonderful event and his gracious availability to all our guests.
The Lake County GOP subsequently removed mention of the Morris auction from its event recap after receiving questions from Media Matters (a screenshot of the original recap is posted below). In an email, chairman Alan Winslow wrote that the party "contracted with Triangulation Strategies" -- Morris' firm -- for the speech and "[h]e was chosen as an author and pundit who spoke primarily on his new book, sharing facts therein!"
Contacted by Media Matters about the auction, Morris emailed: "FoxNews has no involvement in this auction nor have they either approved or sanctioned it. It was simply a private, personal offer of a personal meeting in NYC and a tour of the Fox studios."
Media Matters subsequently asked Fox News executive vice president Bill Shine -- whom Morris cc'd on his reply -- if Fox News viewed the auction as appropriate since it benefits a political party, and whether the tour would be permitted to occur. Media Matters also asked Morris if he could disclose how much he was paid for the appearance. Shine and Morris have not replied to those questions as of posting time.
During the 2009-2010 election cycle, more than 30 Fox Newsers supported Republican candidates or organizations. As a Fox News contributor, Morris has repeatedly discussed candidates and organizations on-air without disclosing his financial connections to them.
In April 2010, Fox News executives prevented host Sean Hannity from taping his show at a Cincinnati Tea Party event which charged admission and had "all proceeds" benefiting the organization. Executives were reportedly "furious," but The Los Angeles Times noted that "[w]hile there have been post-mortem discussions about the incident, it does not appear that they have resulted in any serious disciplinary measures taken against any staffers involved."
A screenshot from the Republican Party of Lake County's website, accessed on March 16 (click for full size):
Photo of Morris speaking via Lake County GOP's Facebook page.
TVNewser's Alex Weprin reports that Fox News has "reprimanded" Morris for auctioning off the Fox News tour, which has now been canceled:
Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming for Fox News, told TVNewser that "The tour will absolutely not take place nor would something like that have ever taken place if we were aware of it." Shine also said he spoke with Morris yesterday and reprimanded him. We're told Morris apologized profusely and knows this was a major mistake. Additionally the tour has been canceled.
Morris' website states that he was scheduled to appear on Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight and Fox News' Hannity last night. However, according to a search of TVEyes.com and Nexis, Morris did not appear.