Veteran journalists and news ethicists are calling on Fox News to suspend Mike Huckabee's contract amid growing evidence that he is planning to run for president in 2016.
The Washington Post reported November 12 on Huckabee's various political activities as he prepares to mount a possible bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, including hiring staff, courting donors and activists, and scouting potential locations for a campaign headquarters. Post reporters Robert Costa and Tom Hamburger noted that Huckabee's team is doing its best to "finesse" the planning of a potential campaign while trying to avoid losing his Fox News platform.
In response to the Post piece, Media Matters called on the network -- which recently cut ties with former contributor Ben Carson due to his possible 2016 run -- to suspend Huckabee. Fox News executive Bill Shine subsequently told CNN that the network is "taking a serious look at Governor Huckabee's recent activity in the political arena and are evaluating his current status."
According to several media critics, ethicists, and reporters, it's definitely time for Fox News to part ways with Huckabee.
"Clearly if someone is organizing to run for president, they should not be given a platform by any news organization where they are basically posing as disinterested or not self-interested commentators," said Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker. "What we believe in journalism is full disclosure and no hidden agendas. The viewer watching the former governor on Fox News doesn't know necessarily if he is using his position to promote his position."
Tom Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and former editor of The Miami Herald, said the ethical question is easy.
"It's interesting to watch Huckabee try to find a loophole that would enable him to activate a campaign while holding on to his Fox gig," he said. "The idea that he thinks he could get away with using a political non-profit to masquerade as a campaign without 'crossing the threshold' at Fox strikes me as not only unethical, but dishonest and merits investigation. To me, the simple test of this political non-profit will be, 'if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck ....'"
Ed Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, agreed.
"It is unquestionably a problem to have somebody wearing those two hats to be privately or semi-publicly putting together a presidential campaign and positioning himself as a commentator who is applying his political judgments to disinterested subjects," Wasserman said in a phone interview.
Wasserman pointed out that when viewers watch a commentator who is engaged in a political campaign they can assume his views are affected by that. But if Huckabee does not disclose such a connection, the viewer is misled.
UPDATE: Howard Kurtz tweeted that according to network executive Bill Shine, Fox News is "taking a serious look" at Huckabee's activities and "evaluating his current status."
UPDATE 2: CNN's Brian Stelter reported on Huckabee's status at the network and included a more extensive statement from Shine, who said the network plans to meet with Huckabee when he returns next week from overseas:
"We are taking a serious look at Governor Huckabee's recent activity in the political arena and are evaluating his current status," Shine said in a statement to CNN. "We plan on meeting with him when he returns from his trip overseas."
It's time for Fox News to suspend Mike Huckabee's contract as he continues to take steps towards a 2016 presidential run.
A new Washington Post profile reveals that Huckabee is in the early stages of mounting a 2016 campaign, but doing so in a way that deliberately lets him keep his Fox News contract and weekly show. Huckabee's tightrope walk -- essentially running for office but avoiding directly saying so -- once again reveals the farcical nature of the network's relationship with contributors-turned-political candidates.
Last week, Fox severed the contract of contributor Ben Carson after he announced the release of a 40-minute biographical ad that was seen as the "opening salvo" in a 2016 campaign. Discussing Carson's suspension, Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz said on his show that "a guy who is more or less running for president shouldn't be on a network payroll, which means Fox also faces a decision about former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who is openly weighing a White House run as well."
Kurtz is right: someone openly discussing a run for the White House "shouldn't be on a nework payroll," which is why Fox News needs to cut ties with Huckabee.
By any reasonable standard, Huckabee has provided just as much evidence he plans to run for president as Carson. In their November 12 article, Washington Post reporters Robert Costa and Tom Hamburger highlight how Huckabee is "reconnecting with activists and enlisting staff to position himself in a growing field of potential Republican presidential candidates."
According to Costa and Hamburger, Huckabee's presidential campaign groundwork includes taking an overseas trip with "more than 100 pastors and GOP insiders from early primary states"; using a political non-profit "as an employment perch for his political team"; looking for a campaign headquarters in Arkansas; holding "private meetings with powerful GOP financiers" to court their financial support; releasing a new book; and "planning two strategy sessions in December...to discuss timing, potential staffing, and an opening pitch to voters."
From the November 9 edition of Media Buzz:
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Texas conservatives failed to submit enough valid signatures to put Houston's city-wide non-discrimination ordinance up for a public vote in November. Now those conservatives, led by Fox News, are pressuring the city to accept signatures determined to be improperly collected or otherwise irregular in order to "let the people vote" to repeal the measure.
In August, opponents of Houston's recently enacted Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) reportedly submitted more than the seventeen thousand signatures needed to qualify put the measure on the November ballot. However, upon review of the petition under the City Charter, City Attorney David Feldman determined that thousands of the signatures failed to meet the legal requirements set by local and state law for a voter referendum. As explained by the Mayor's office:
"The Charter requirements are in place to ensure a fair and legal process, absent of fraud," said City Attorney David Feldman. "In this instance, there are too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook. The petition is simply invalid. There is no other conclusion."
"I fully expect the petitioners will want to fight this decision at the courthouse," said Mayor Annise Parker. "I am confident the courts will agree that the rules set out in our Charter and state law to protect the integrity of the process should be followed and that the results of our review will be upheld. The judicial review will provide additional assurance to the voters that the process has been fair."
On November 2, thousands of conservatives met in Houston at the "I Stand Sunday" rally to demand that the city government allow for a public vote on the ordinance, despite the failure of the repeal petition. The event, which was hosted by the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC), was widely promoted by Fox News and featured speeches from Fox's Todd Starnes and Mike Huckabee.
At the rally, speakers demanded that the city of Houston "let the people vote" on the ordinance, accusing openly gay Mayor Annise Parker of violating the religious liberty of HERO's opponents by refusing to count their improperly collected signatures:
From the November 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Saturday:
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Fox News helped turn a bogus story about subpoenas sent to a handful of Houston pastors into a national rallying cry for religious liberty. Now the network is helping promote an event that will pit some of the country's most extreme anti-LGBT voices against the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.
In May, the city of Houston made history by enacting the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a measure that prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and several other categories. The ordinance was championed by the city's first openly gay mayor, Democrat Annise Parker.
Opponents of HERO -- led by the Houston Area Pastor Council -- responded by launching an effort to put a repeal of the ordinance on the ballot in November. Their campaign peddled the myth that HERO would allow men and sexual predators to enter women's restrooms -- a myth that was widely circulated by local media. Though opponents submitted the required number of signatures to put the repeal on the ballot, City Attorney Dave Feldman determined that many of the signatures were collected improperly, and the city announced that not enough valid signatures had been collected.
Opponents quickly filed a lawsuit to have the signatures reviewed, prompting the city to respond by issuing subpoenas to five local pastors for a broad range of documents -- including sermons and personal communications -- related to their opposition to HERO.
On October 14, Fox News reporter and serial misinformer Todd Starnes broke the news of the subpoenas, misleadingly characterizing them as an "attempt to deconstruct religious liberty" and describing HERO as a "bathroom bill." Starnes' report relied heavily on spin from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the extreme right-wing legal group representing the pastors in their effort to quash the subpoenas. ADF attorney Christina Holcomb called the subpoenas "an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of [the city's] actions."
Before long, Starnes' report made the jump to Fox News' airwaves. On October 15, Starnes appeared on The Kelly File to discuss the story, describing HERO as a measure that would let "men who identify as women" to use women's restrooms:
Starnes' appearance was followed by a barrage of misleading segments about the story, all of which depicted the subpoenas as an attack on religious liberty. Multiple Fox personalities incorrectly described the subpoenas as part of the enforcement of HERO, suggesting that the ordinance might criminalize anti-gay speech. Others repeated Starnes' lie that HERO would allow men to use women's restrooms. By the end of the week, in just three days of coverage, Fox had spent nearly thirty minutes of airtime peddling its Houston horror story*.
Fox's panicked coverage was grossly misleading and left out crucial details about the anti-HERO lawsuit. But it worked perfectly as a right-wing horror story about Christians being victimized by a city's attempt to protect LGBT people.
Soon, Houston had become -- as one Fox anchor put it -- "ground zero for religious liberty." Conservative media outlets quickly regurgitated the victimization spin from Starnes and ADF. Conservative groups -- led by the notorious anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC) -- began organizing "I Stand Sunday," a November 2 rally in Houston to support the pastors who had been "unduly intimidated by the city's Mayor."
Potential 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says his Fox News platform is helping him in the crucial primary state of Iowa.
A Huckabee profile from Real Clear Politics (RCP) documents the Fox host's recent trip to Iowa to support Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst. According to reporter Scott Conroy, Huckabee was approached by several "Iowa Republican activists and volunteers" who told the Fox News host that they regularly watch his show.
Huckabee reportedly cited his platform at the network with helping put him in a "very good place to be" as he decides whether to throw his hat in the ring for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, explaining that it has helped increase his visibility and name recognition in Iowa because he has "been in these people's homes every week":
As a driver shuttled him between events, Huckabee told RealClearPolitics that his work on Fox has put him in a "very good place to be" politically as a self-imposed decision date looms in the early spring of next year.
"When I came up here eight years ago, nobody knew who I was," he said. "I had to spell my name. They didn't recognize me, and that was true all over the country. And now I come back, and I've been in these people's homes every week."
Huckabee isn't the first Fox employee/politician to credit their role at the network with helping their political aspirations. In July, former Fox News contributor turned Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown told Fox News Radio that being on the network "really charged me up" to run for office. When he was running for president in 2012, former Fox News contributor Rick Santorum pointed to his Fox role as having "been big" because it "helped folks remember who I am."
Fox continues to allow its employees to publicly weigh runs for office while remaining on the network payroll. As Conroy points out, Huckabee's Fox News show gives him "hundreds of hours of free advertising that hits some of the most reliable Republican voters," which is "the kind of media exposure that any of the more frequently talked about GOP contenders can only dream of."
During the run-up to the 2012 Republican primary in 2010, Media Matters calculated that Fox News had essentially gifted its five employees that were considering running with roughly $55 million in free advertising. Huckabee was by far the biggest beneficiary, with about $31 million worth of free airtime.
Though Huckabee declined to run in 2012, Conroy reports that "the consensus among many plugged-in conservatives in his orbit is that he is already determined" to enter the 2016 race.
A conservative group backed by several Fox News contributors has pulled ads featuring footage of murdered journalist James Foley after his family sharply criticized the campaign as "deplorable."
Secure America Now (SAN) had been running advertisements attacking Democratic candidates with footage of Foley's beheading at the hands of ISIS. Foley's parents told New England Cable News (NECN) that the ads are "very sad" and "deplorable," and called for them to be pulled with an apology.
The group announced on October 15 that it would launch advocacy campaigns featuring the Foley footage in ads against Democratic Senators Mark Pryor (AR), Mark Udall (CO), Mary Landrieu (LA), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Congressman Gary Peters (MI). Secure America Now president Allen Roth said that "Pryor, Udall, Landrieu, Shaheen, and Peters have all ignored the crisis at our southern border. While evading efforts of those attempting to secure the border, they have silently supported President Obama's rumored amnesty plans." The group also posted on Facebook that day, "Watch the ad that's got the left riled up. Help us get it out, SHARE this video now."
Roth later told NECN, "It has been brought to our attention that a news report image of American hostage James Foley that appeared in a Secure America Now video has upset his parents, so we have decided to take the video down. It was never our attention to upset Mr. Foley's family and we apologize for any pain we inadvertently caused."
Fox News host Mike Huckabee advised Republicans to "grow a spine" and oppose marriage equality, blasting court rulings overturning same-sex marriage bans as "the betrayal of our Constitution."
During an October 7 interview with the anti-gay American Family Association's radio program, Huckabee said that he's "utterly exasperation with Republicans ... who have abdicated on this issue," and warned that he might leave the Republican Party and become an independent if the GOP stops fighting marriage equality. The former governor of Arkansas is reportedly considering a run for president in 2016.
Huckabee reiterated his criticism in the opening monologue of his October 11 Fox News show. Huckabee denounced the court decisions that led to same-sex marriage becoming legal in several more states, emphasizing that judges overruled "the collective votes of the people themselves" in a "betrayal of our Constitution." He concluded that he is "utterly disgusted" with Republican governors and other officials that complied with the court orders overturning same-sex marriage bans, arguing that they should "[g]row a spine, show a modicum of knowledge about the way we govern ourselves, and lead, follow, or get the heck out of the way."
Fox News host Mike Huckabee is claiming the American public should distrust statements made by President Obama and the federal government about the spread of Ebola because they have purportedly lied about the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
During the October 4 broadcast of Huckabee, the former Arkansas Republican governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate said that "the Ebola scare goes to the heart of a simple question: do you trust the government. Audience, do you trust the government?" After Huckabee's audience responded no, Huckabee replied: "And why would you? I mean remember these?" He then played clips of Obama talking about health care, the IRS, and then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's Sunday show comments about Benghazi. Huckabee contrasted the remarks with Obama's September 16 statement it was unlikely someone with Ebola would reach America but "we've taken new measures so that we're prepared here at home."
Huckabee concluded his Fox commentary by claiming he's "feeling a little sick myself. But it's not Ebola. I'm just sick of a government that I'm paying for telling me not to worry and just trust them. I wish I could, but if they repeatedly lie to me I just don't believe them anymore."
Huckabee made similar remarks during his Huckabee Report radio commentary this morning. He said that "if people don't trust our leaders, the people aren't to blame. We were told we could keep our doctors and insurance and pay $2,500 less. That Benghazi was caused by a YouTube video ... trust is something you gotta earn and once squandered, it's hard to get back."
The October 6 Cumulus Media Networks segment:
Fox News has been obsessed with Benghazi, as the network aired over 1,000 weekday evening segments in the first 20 months after the attacks. The Fox obsession has caused its personalities to repeatedly link Benghazi to unrelated matters like the NFL's domestic violence problems, a White House security breach, and missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, among others.
The conservative media have also rushed to politicize the presence of the Ebola virus in the United States with attacks on Obama.
UPDATE: Another Fox host has pointed to Benghazi as a reason to be distrustful of the government's handling of Ebola. During the October 6 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Carlson wondered if we can "trust the government to keep us all safe from Ebola" when its "track record" includes Benghazi:
CARLSON: Time now for my take. So, should we trust the government to keep us all safe from Ebola? With the government's recent track record not being so hot, well, we learned we couldn't trust the IRS, after the targeting of conservative groups. The Secret Service, after an armed man made his way into the White House. The VA, after reports men and women who served this country died waiting to get health care. We couldn't trust the promise that Obamacare that we could keep our doctors that we wanted. And do we trust that we know all the answers yet about Benghazi? What more and more people seem to be asking about Ebola now isn't that they're necessarily scared about actually getting the disease, but that they're scared the government agencies responsible with helping us if we do get sick might not be up to the task. So if Ebola becomes a bigger issue the question still remains, will we be safe?
The annual Values Voter Summit will take place from September 26 through September 28 in Washington, DC. The convention is sponsored by hate groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, and regularly features extreme rhetoric and hate from politicians and conservative media members. In 2013, Ben Carson said that Obamacare is "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery." Here is some of what you can expect at the 2014 event:
Media figures speaking at the event are scheduled to include: Lt. General William Boykin, Fox News contributor Oliver North, Rick Santorum, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, David Limbaugh, Fox News host Mike Huckabee, Fox News contributor and Redstate.com Editor-in-chief Erick Erickson, Fox News contributor Sandy Rios, Mat Staver, Mark Levin, Star Parker, Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes, Brigitte Gabriel, and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
Update: Fox News has reportedly cut ties with contributor Ben Carson following the announcement that he will be airing a biographical 40-minute ad this weekend in the first salvo of his 2016 campaign for president. According to the Washington Post's Erik Wemple, a Fox spokeswoman said that "Carson understood the network's reasons for terminating his contributor status and that the two parted amicably."
This announcement came over a month after Fox News senior vice president Neil Cavuto told Carson on-air, "I think you're running for office now."
Fox News contributor Ben Carson now claims that he will likely run for president in 2016, capping off a more than year-long campaign by the network to promote his political ambitions. Carson's potential run continues the seemingly never-ending series of Republicans who have used Fox as a jumping off point for runs for office.
During a September 22 appearance on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Carson told Hewitt that the "likelihood is strong" he will throw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination in 2016, "unless the American people indicate in November that they like big government intervention in every part of their lives."
While Carson has repeatedly discussed the idea of running in recent months -- often in response to questions about the multi-million dollar "Draft Ben Carson" movement -- his comments to Hewitt seem like the strongest indication that he will seek the nomination. (Hewitt concluded based on the interview that it was "Pretty clear he will be running for president.")
Carson's assertion that he will likely run once again raises questions about Fox News' ongoing unethical arrangement with contributors that are planning bids for office. The network has repeatedly given its contributors a megaphone (and a paycheck) while they openly discuss future political plans, only severing their contracts once the employee-candidates file official paperwork.
It's created a situation where it encourages the network's stable of future candidates to delay a formal announcement while continuing to benefit from Fox News' prominent platform, which can amount to millions of dollars of what is essentially free advertising. This ethically shady setup has previously been criticized by current Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz, who wrote for the Daily Beast in 2011, "The longer candidates stay in the Fox camp, the longer they can utilize the platform of the country's top-rated cable news channel--and pad their bank accounts to boot."
And while Carson considers a run, Fox News is happy to help stoke the speculation. Fox News and other conservative media are responsible in large part for helping catapult Carson from a career as a renowned neurosurgeon into his current incarnation as a political bombthrower -- with a penchant for spouting nonsense -- following a 2013 speech he gave attacking President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Shortly after that speech, he quickly became a media star, with Fox News figures quickly latching onto the idea he should run for president. The day after he delivered his speech, Sean Hannity hosted Carson on his Fox News show, asked him if he would ever run for president, then announced, "I would vote for you in a heartbeat." The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed titled "Ben Carson for President." A week later, one of Fox's news programs dedicated a segment to one of the day's "top stories," which was the "buzz" that Carson should run for office.
Following several more months of network personalities fawning over Carson, Fox News inevitably announced that it had hired him in October 2013. Since then, Fox News and Carson have continued to work together to build his political brand and promote the idea that he is a viable presidential contender.
Right-wing media furthered Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's ad hominem attacks against State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki while claiming that the Obama administration is unwilling to act against the Islamic State.
On the September 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly criticized Psaki's response in a press briefing to a question posed by Fox reporter James Rosen, belittling Psaki's ability to successfully do her job based on her appearance. O'Reilly said: "With all due respect, and you don't have to comment on this, that woman looks way out of her depth over there. Just the way she delivers -- it just doesn't look like she has the gravitas for that job."
Psaki's colleague Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the State Department, spoke out against O'Reilly's criticism and right-wing media rushed to his defense and seized on Harf's response to attack the Obama administration for supposedly being hesitant to act against the Islamic State.
Radio host and ABC and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham insisted "O'Reilly is saying what all the rest of us are thinking about this Jen Psaki woman." Ingraham echoed O'Reilly's attacks, saying "she doesn't exactly carry herself with the, you know, the type of gravitas, well-spoken presentation that one would expect," but took them further. Ingraham called into question Psaki's qualifications for her State Department career based on her appearance, saying "she looks like she should be on MTV or something." Ingraham also argued that the State Department views O'Reilly as its new enemy rather than the Islamic State:
The hosts of Fox & Friends roundly endorsed a Texas school district that allows teachers to carry guns, even though security experts reject the idea of armed teachers and civilians with concealed guns have not stopped past mass shooting incidents.
During segments on August 27 and September 2, Fox & Friends hyped plans by the Argyle Independent School District (ISD) to arm teachers this school year. Media reporting on the school district's plans have focused on a sign outside of an Argyle school that reads, "ATTENTION: Please Be Aware That The Staff At Argyle ISD Are Armed And May Use Whatever Force Is Necessary To Protect Our Students."
Co-host Brian Kilmeade told viewers, "Don't mess with this school in Texas, they're armed, they're ready, and letting everyone know about it," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck described the sign as a "great warning there that is meant to protect the kids." While advancing the common but false right-wing media claim that mass shooters target places where guns are not allowed, Kilmeade later added, "If you want to drop your kid off and know that they are going to be protected, you know at least in that school they are going to be protected."
Fox & Friends proceeded to host Greg Coker, who provides weapons training for schools, to tout armed teachers. What Fox neglected to include in the segment, however, is that Coker actually has a business relationship with Argyle ISD and was responsible for arming their teachers through his "Not On My Watch" program.
According to a document posted on the Argyle ISD website, Coker charges $1,500 per teacher for a 30-hour training course that involves firing 900 rounds of ammunition. (The National Rifle Association, which endorsed armed teachers following the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, recommends that teachers receive between 60 and 80 hours of training before carrying a gun in school.)
Charles and David Koch, brothers and the oil barons who are already shaping the 2014 midterm elections according to recently leaked audio recordings, are often portrayed as environmentally responsible advocates of the free-market that are unfairly targeted by Democrats. However, their political influence, which benefits the fossil fuel industry and their own bottom line, is unparalleled.