Surely by coincidence, three of the people most often listed as likely candidates for the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination - Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich - have been spending some time in Iowa lately. Huckabee was in the state this past weekend, Palin is visiting Des Moines to promote her book this week (on News Corp's dime), and Gingrich swung by the state last week.
As we've noted, all three have benefited from their platform as Fox News employees, using their employment at the network to position themselves for possible presidential runs.
And a fourth Fox candidate, Rick Santorum, was interviewed by National Review Online last month about his increased presence in Iowa, during which he told the magazine that his role on Fox has "been big," and "helped folks remember who I am...it's a great platform, being able to talk about the current issues of the day."
In recent weeks, as likely 2012 candidates have begun to slowly transform into actual candidates, Fox finds itself in yet another ethical mess. While the network has claimed it will immediately end the contract of any employee that officially declares their candidacy, it's quite clear based on the actions of Santorum, Huckabee, Palin, and Gingrich, that they are at least dipping their toes in the 2012 pool - a reality acknowledged by Fox itself, which has admitted that Palin "certainly sounds like" she is running.
Now Mike Huckabee is joking to the Des Moines Register about wanting fellow Fox employee Sarah Palin's endorsement if he decides to run. If Fox had any concerns about ethics, they would immediately suspend the contracts of their employees that are exploring presidential runs.
But they don't, so they won't.
Between January 1 and October 31 of this year, five potential Republican presidential candidates -- Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, John Bolton, and Rick Santorum -- who also serve as Fox News contributors or hosts have appeared on the network for a combined total of nearly 66 hours. Media Matters for America estimates this time to be worth at least $40 million in advertising costs.
Today, Mike Huckabee voiced support for certain Defense Department cuts proposed by the co-chairmen of the White House National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform on Fox & Friends, while Sarah Palin urged Republicans to oppose defense cuts.
Palin wrote "An Open Letter to Republican Freshmen Members of Congress" on her Facebook page today:
You need to say no to cutting the necessities in our defense budget when we are engaged in two wars and face so many threats - from Islamic extremists to a nuclear Iran to a rising China. As Ronald Reagan said, "We will always be prepared, so we may always be free."
Fox News' America's Election HQ, Foxnews.com, and Fox Nation highlighted Palin's letter.
By contrast, on Fox & Friends today, Huckabee argued in favor of the defense cuts proposed by the White House commission:
DAVE BRIGGS: I was surprised, though, that the right wasn't as outspoken about some of the defense cuts that we need to make. A hundred billion dollars slashed out of that beast of a defense budget. It's unpatriotic to come out and talk about the defense budget, but their Pentagon is accepting airplanes that they don't even need.
HUCKABEE: They don't need and that they don't want. And what happens is, we're still designing a lot of military hardware for a war that we don't plan to fight. And, Robert Gates the Defense Department secretary, who I think has done an excellent job, and he has been one of those willing to grind sacred cows into hamburger and serve it rare, has really helped to identify ways in which we can keep ourselves strong, not cutting the military strength and not hurting veterans. There are two things Americans don't want to do, number one, get weak and, number two, hurt the veterans who kept us free. But those priorities don't have to be bloated with a lot of stuff that really is not about keeping us safe and protecting and caring for veterans. So yes, there are areas of the defense budget that need to be looked at honestly.
This isn't the first time that Palin has been at odds with another GOP official and Fox News contributor. We've noted the charges lobbed between Palin and Fox News contributor Karl Rove and their allies as a prelude to the 2012 Republican presidential primary.
From the November 5 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
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From the November 3 edition of Fox News Channel's Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Continuing in the long tradition of prominent conservatives admitting that Fox News is just the house organ of the GOP, this morning former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum told Fox host Neil Cavuto that Republicans are better-equipped to "fight" because they now "have Fox News" to "get a message out."
While Santorum's admission is noteworthy in its own right, it takes on added significance due to fact that Santorum -- along with at least four of his fellow Fox employees -- is mentioned among potential candidates for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
Clearly, one of the most important roles for Fox going forward will be to "fight" and "get the message out" for the eventual GOP presidential nominee. However, it remains to be seen how the network is going to handle its various employees using their network as a platform to position themselves for a presidential run.
And make no mistake, Santorum has been open about using his Fox platform to bolster a potential presidential run. In an interview with National Review Online last month about his surely not-coincidental increased presence in Iowa, Santorum told NRO's Katelynd Mahoney that his role on Fox has "been big," and "helped folks remember who I am... It's a great platform, being able to talk about the current issues of the day."
As we documented, from the beginning of the year through September 18, the various Fox candidates spoke through Fox News in at least 269 appearances on the network. In September, Sarah Palin advised then-candidate Christine O'Donnell to "speak to the American people. Speak through Fox News."
Last month, Fox contributor and fellow potential presidential candidate Mike Huckabee hosted former Fox News employee John Kasich to plug the latter's then-candidacy for Ohio governor. During the interview Huckabee stressed to viewers the "importance" of Ohio in the "national political landscape," and noted that Obama "knows if he loses the governor's office in Ohio - which is ground zero - he's in deep trouble for 2012."
Fox News doesn't appear to be concerned that its employees are using network resources to position themselves for possible presidential runs. And it remains to be seen how the network will deal with its employees transitioning from theoretical candidates to actual candidates.
From an October 31 Politico article titled "Next for GOP leaders: Stopping Palin":
Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin.
Interviews with advisers to the main 2012 presidential contenders and with other veteran Republican operatives make clear they see themselves on a common, if uncoordinated, mission of halting the momentum and credibility Palin gained with conservative activists by plunging so aggressively into this year's midterm campaigns.
There is rising expectation among GOP elites that Palin will probably run for president in 2012 and could win the Republican nomination, a prospect many of them regard as a disaster in waiting.
Top Republicans, from presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty to highly influential advisers such as Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, are said to be concerned she will run, and could win, according to the officials.
Rove, one of the few establishment types to raise flags publicly about a Palin bid, this week told Britain's Daily Telegraph that her upcoming reality show on cable TV could diminish her presidential standing. "I am not certain how this fits in the American calculus of 'that helps me see you in the Oval Office,'" Rove said.
Steele sounded a different note in a POLITICO interview: "I don't think that Sarah's too much worried about what Karl Rove's speculations are."
"If she runs, she runs right at the establishment," said a top adviser to a rival campaign. As witnessed in recent weeks, she would have powerful backup -- at least at the outset of a campaign -- among conservative media figures, especially Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.
Palin wouldn't be the only anti-establishment candidate. Mike Huckabee, who had the highest favorability ratings among the possible GOP candidates in a POLITICO/George Washington University poll in October, is a strong possibility and, according to a recent New York Times story by Peter Baker, is the White House favorite to win the nomination, for whatever that is worth. Huckabee and Palin have hit Rove for tweaking the tea party activists, and it's safe to assume voters will hear a lot more tweaking in the months to come. Newt Gingrich, who has raised more money than any other GOP hopeful, will compete for this space, too, and recently told a confidant he needs to show more self-discipline if he really wants to run and win.
In politics, hyperbolic language is the rule, not the exception.
Since Obama has taken office, conservative media figures have taken things to a ridiculous level. Civil war! Revolution! Death panels! Shariah law! Streets on fire!
The constant drumbeat of over-the-top rhetoric is exhausting, and it can be difficult to pinpoint comments deserving of closer attention. However, prominent conservative media figures -- including two who double as putative candidates for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination -- have taken to invoking Armageddon. And I don't mean "Armageddon" in the metaphorical "the world is going to end if we pass health care" sense -- they are invoking actual Biblical Armageddon.
Yesterday, during a conversation with the conservative publication Newsmax, Sarah Palin engaged in the favorite conservative pastime of pushing for war with Middle Eastern countries and warned that allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons "is not just Israel's problem or America's problem, it is the world's problem. It could lead to an Armageddon. It could lead to that World War III that could decimate so much of this planet."
Clearly, Palin's invocation of "Armageddon" did not bother Fox News -- quite the opposite, in fact. They promoted her interview with Newsmax on Fox Nation, using her comment as the headline:
If you are unfamiliar with Iran and Israel's role in the (always) impending Armageddon, Pastor John Hagee can help explain. Back in June, Glenn Beck hosted Hagee on his Fox News show and labeled him one of the "brave preachers" that "need to start standing up." During that show, Beck plugged Hagee's "excellent" new book, Can America Survive? 10 Prophetic Signs That We Are The Terminal Generation, saying that he "just started to read last night."
New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino threatened a New York Post editor during what the Post called an "angry confrontation." Fox personalities have since praised Paladino for the altercation, calling him "refreshingly honest" and "iconoclastic," while criticizing the editor for being "unprofessional."
Last night, Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino and New York Post state editor Fredric Dicker got into what the Post called an "angry confrontation" -- a confrontation that concluded with the candidate threatening the reporter:
It started when Dicker asked Paladino if he had any proof of his shocking allegation that Democratic rival Andrew Cuomo cheated on his former wife during their marriage.
"What evidence do you have for something most people would consider a smear?" Dicker asked.
Instead of responding to Dicker's question, Paladino accused him of sending a "goon" to stake out his former mistress at the home where she lives with their love child.
Sunday's Post featured a front-page story about Paladino's wife, Cathy, and his ex-lover, Suzanne Brady. It included an exclusive interview with Cathy Paladino.
"You send another goon to my daughter's house and I'll take you out, buddy!" Paladino told Dicker.
When Dicker asked how he planned to do that, Paladino replied, "Watch!"
"Are you threatening me?" Dicker asked.
When the candidate's aides jumped in to separate the men, Paladino, referring to Dicker, told them, "F- -k him."
The fight put Fox News' right-wing employees in a tough position: Would they stand with their News Corp. colleague and say that Paladino was out of line? Or would they stand with the Republican Party's gubernatorial candidate?
For Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Mike Huckabee, party solidarity beat out company loyalty.
Discussing the incident on Hannity, Huckabee commented that Dicker "stepped way over the line," adding: "No matter what Carl Paladino said to him that may have seemingly provoked him, it was his professional duty to remain detached and to remain objective. He failed to do that." He went on to criticize Dicker for having "injected himself into the story" and being "unprofessional" and "confrontational."
Huckabee also said of Paladino, "I've never met Carl Paladino but I'll be honest with you Sean, I'm getting where I really like this guy. I like him because he just, he says all the stuff I always wanted to say but never could get away with."
For his part, Hannity acknowledged that Dicker's original question -- what evidence Paladino had for his claim that Cuomo had cheated on his former wife -- "was a legitimate question." But he went on to say that Paladino has a "legitimate complaint" against the Post, adding, "I'm kind of enjoying that he's got the establishment off-balance, and they don't know how to deal with this guy cause he's so outspoken." Hannity did not say whether the Post reporter had a "legitimate complaint" against Paladino after being threatened by him.
Then again, given News Corp's support for the Republican Governor's Association, one could argue that Paladino is almost as close to being Hannity's and Huckabee's colleague as is Dicker.
From the 2010 Values Voters Summit:
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From the July 28 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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As Media Matters noted earlier this month, Fox News host Mike Huckabee was given "a shot at broadcast television with a talk show on some Fox affiliates."
Unfortunately for the former Arkansas Governor, the show doesn't appear to be doing too well. According to a report from Broadcasting & Cable:
Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's new talk show, which Fox is testing for six weeks this summer on seven stations, averaged a 0.6 rating/2 share in its Monday premiere. That's down 45% from its lead-in average of 1.1/4 and down 33% from its year-ago time period average.
As Huffington Post noted based on the Broadcasting & Cable report:
In some markets, the show drew 88% fewer viewers than its lead-in. The only market where "The Huckabee Show" outperformed its lead-in was Atlanta, B&C reports.
This morning, Fox News reporter Carl Cameron touted a recent survey by Public Policy Polling that found several prominent Republicans essentially tied with President Obama in theoretical 2012 match-ups. While Cameron found time to offer flattering descriptions of each of these "top Republicans," he neglected to mention that 75% of them are current Fox News employees.
Using a tag line Sarah Palin couldn't have scripted better herself, Cameron called her the "culture warrior tea party candidate." Palin was hired by Fox News in January, and since then has regularly appeared on various Fox News programs to not only attack the administration, but promote herself and other Republican candidates.
Cameron described Mike Huckabee as "the President of Iowa, having won its caucuses the last time and a social conservative." Huckabee also has a prominent platform as the host of a forthcoming Fox Television Stations group show, and a Fox News show, which he uses to attack the administration and promote his PAC and various GOP candidates around the country.
Newt Gingrich, whom Cameron described as the "big ideas guy in the GOP," has been a "political contributor" for Fox News since 1999. Like fellow potential 2012 potential candidates/Fox employees Palin and Huckabee, Gingrich uses his Fox News platform to promote himself and attack the administration. In a nice example of being able to do both at the same time, Gingrich recently appeared on Fox News Sunday to promote his latest book and claim that Dems are currently threatening America as much as "Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did."
Fox News president Roger Ailes recently claimed he's "not in politics anymore. I don't do politics, I do the news." Based on the actions of his network, Ailes doesn't see much difference between the two.
Add Greta Van Susteren name to the list of would be political candidates employed by Fox News. Though, in Van Susteren's case, she'd only run if she were guaranteed victory. How daring.
This according to an "Answer This…" interview of Van Susteren by Politico's Patrick Gavin:
What would you attempt to do if you knew that you could not fail?
Run for Governor of Wisconsin.
Van Susteren wouldn't have to look far for high-level campaign help if she did decide to run. John Coale -- her husband -- served as an adviser to Palin after the 2008 presidential campaign. As Media Matters noted just days ago:
As we've detailed, Coale said he started Palin's political action committee, SarahPAC, as well as a legal defense fund for her. SarahPAC, by the way, issued the Palin-centric video that Van Susteren was promoting on her show for the second night in a row during Gingrich's appearance.
While Van Susteren has denied any close ties with Palin, she has also repeatedly failed to disclose her husband's ties -- not while promoting the SarahPAC video last night, and not last November when she "hopped on the bus" with Palin as she was promoting her memoir.
For Fox News, Van Susteren is hardly the first employee to indicate an interest in public office:
Heck, even when they aren't running or indicating their interest in running for public office, it seems like Fox News employees keep themselves busy raising campaign cash and campaigning for Republicans: