Fox News celebrated the Senate primary win of former Fox News contributor Scott Brown by offering him over four minutes of free air time to attack his Democratic opponent and promote his campaign without disclosing his previous affiliation with the network.
Brown clinched the Republican nomination for New Hampshire's Senate seat on September 9 and will now face Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen in the general election. He previously served as a senator for Massachusetts before losing to Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2012, and he was hired by Fox News in 2013.
On the September 10 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade told Brown "I wasn't surprised that you won" and lobbed a series of softball questions at him that underlined how Brown had beaten expectations and pushed a message that "resonated" with voters. Kilmeade also vouched for Brown's work ethic, saying "I know when it comes to the endurance, no one is going to outwork you." At the end of the segment, Fox gave Brown a platform to plug his campaign website:
BROWN: People can go to ScottBrown.com. Let's go make Harry Reid the minority leader. Need your help. Thank you.
During Brown's last run for the Senate, the network gave his campaign fawning coverage and repeatedly offered him a platform to promote his views and directed viewers to his website for information on "how to help with donating and volunteering." Fox News contributors pleaded with viewers go online to "help elect" him and pushed arguments like "your 401(k) could do well" if Brown won. Fox hosts even played with a Scott Brown action figure during one segment.
Brown then spent over a year building his profile as a paid Fox contributor, during which time he attacked Shaheen and Senate Democrats over health care and burnished his New Hampshire bona fides after moving there. While Brown was employed at the network, Fox hosts repeatedly asked Brown if he planned to run again and even called it a "terrific" idea. Brown has said that working at Fox "really charged me up to" run for office again.
The network continued to help Brown during his New Hampshire primary. In August, the network aired an anti-Obamacare documentary tailor-made to boost Brown's campaign. Former Sen. Bob Smith, one of Brown's Republican primary opponents, criticized Fox's pro-Brown coverage as "shoddy" and "not fair and balanced."
Other former Fox News employees have benefited from favorable treatment during their runs for office. For instance, Rick Santorum said during his presidential campaign that his former job with Fox had "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."
A Fox News report failed to disclose that an anti-Obamacare doctor featured objecting to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is running for state representative as a Republican in New Hampshire.
Continuing Fox's campaign to boost anti-Obama candidates in New Hampshire, including former Fox contributor Scott Brown, an August 8 Special Report segment highlighted the story of Dr. Joe Hannon, who was purportedly driven out of practice due to the ACA. During an interview with Fox, Dr. Hannon claimed, "The health care act was the final nail in the coffin. It wasn't the main reason or the only reason, but it made the decision a lot easier for me."
From the August 8 edition of Fox News' Fox News Reporting: Live Free or Die: Obamacare in New Hampshire:
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An upcoming Fox News special report promises to expose Obamacare problems in New Hampshire, where the network's former contributor Scott Brown is running for U.S. Senate. The special will feature an interview with Brown, who has declared that "Obamacare isn't working" and called the law a "monstrosity."
Airing the night of August 8, "Live Free or Die: Obamacare in New Hampshire" promises to chronicle the effect of the Affordable Care Act on New Hampshire residents, such as a doctor who retired rather than deal with health care reform and a "lesbian [who] opts out of Obamacare, questioning why she should pay for reproductive care she doesn't want or need."
Why the focus on New Hampshire? According to the network, in part because the state is "where this year's election will be key to determining which party controls the Senate." This appears to be the first time Fox has run a special focused on a single state since at least 2012.
Brown himself will participate in the special and promoted it earlier today, tweeting:
Fox is intimately involved with the New Hampshire Senate race, as its former contributor is seeking to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Brown began teasing his candidacy while still receiving a paycheck from Fox, and recently credited his role on the network with inspiring his campaign for Senate.
From the start, Brown has focused his campaign on his opposition to Obamacare. His website states that the "people of New Hampshire take pride in individual liberty and freedom. Obamacare demolishes both." He went on an "Obamacare isn't Working" tour and has repeatedly criticized his opponent for voting in favor of the law, which he deemed a "monstrosity" in need of repeal.
From the April 4 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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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."
UPDATE 2 (3/14/14): Brown's Fox News contract was "officially terminated" on March 14 as a result of his run for office, according to executive vice president Bill Shine.
UPDATE: The Associated Press is now reporting that according to "several" New Hampshire Republicans, Brown "is expected to launch an exploratory committee to enter the race as soon as Friday." Fox News previously suspended the contracts of then-contributors Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum when they took steps toward forming exploratory committees.
Media Matters president Bradley Beychok issued the following statement in response to the AP report:
"Fox News should immediately suspend Scott Brown's contract. The network set this standard. To use their own words: taking steps to form an exploratory committee is a 'clear conflict.' So, what is Roger Ailes waiting for?"
The Associated Press is reporting that Fox News contributor Scott Brown's camp "has quietly begun offering paid positions to Republican operatives for a prospective New Hampshire campaign." Fox News, which previously said it would suspend a contributor's contract if they show a "serious intention" to run for office, should suspend Brown's contract until he finally decides.
The AP report added that "Several people involved in the discussions believe that Brown has decided to run, but there remains a healthy dose of skepticism given the former Republican senator's recent track record." CNN similarly reported on March 9 that "a number of GOP sources in New Hampshire report receiving calls in recent days from Brown or his top allies, and there's word from GOP operatives that there are conversations about building a Senate campaign staff"; CNN also wrote that activists said they won't believe Brown is running until he "makes a public statement or files candidacy papers." Fox News host Greta Van Susteren tweeted last month she was told it is "certain" that Brown is going to run.
Fox News hired Brown in 2013 after previously boosting his Massachusetts Senate campaign with fawning coverage (during one segment, Fox hosts played with a Scott Brown action figure). Fox re-signed him to a contract last month.
Brown's status as both a potential candidate and Fox News political analyst has led to embarrassing segments for the news channel.
One recent appearance was devoted to a discussion of how Brown looked shirtless. In another, Brown attacked potential opponent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Senate Democrats over health care. He also touted his New Hampshire bona fides by boasting about how he's been a resident there for "a couple of months." Brown's last Fox appearance was on the March 7 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, where he said "the first order of business is to take over the Senate in '14 and retain the House in '14." He has also published FoxNews.com columns that sound like stump speeches -- headlines include, "GOP can once again lead as the party of fiscal responsibility" and "Time to hold Democrats in Congress responsible for the mess they created."
Fox News host Howard Kurtz noted the benefits of Republicans delaying their intention to announce campaign runs, writing: "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."
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.
In his first appearance after signing a new contract with Fox News, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown again suggested that he may run for Senate later this year, raising more questions about the journalistic ethics of Fox keeping him on the payroll.
In a February 20 appearance on Fox & Friends, Brown discussed several Senate races currently underway. Co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck then asked him, "When are we going to see your name on one of these races in the future? Coming up? For Senate?" Brown replied, "I'm obviously taking things into consideration, I'm going to make some decisions and we'll see what happens."
For the past year, Brown has used his role at Fox News to keep himself in the spotlight in this fashion while he ponders a run for the Senate in New Hampshire. Brown has repeatedly stoked such speculation, relocating to New Hampshire, speaking at GOP events in the state, and teasing a new website with a campaign-ready slogan. Brown also made two appearances in Iowa last year and has a third planned for April, driving speculation that he may run for president in 2016.
Fox News has reportedly said Brown's contract would be terminated if he "authorized an exploratory committee to be formed for a run." According to Politico media reporter Dylan Byers, until that step is taken, Brown will continue to "use the Fox News platform to prove his conservative bonafides to Granite State voters." On February 19, Fox announced that they had signed Brown to a new contract, allowing him to retain that platform.
Fox has been a big booster for Brown, both during his successful 2010 Senate run and as he considers a 2016 race. During his February 20 appearance, Fox aired video of Brown singing with the band Cheap Trick at a recent concert and asked the former senator to comment.
Update: After bizarre series of events, Brown has reportedly renewed his contract with the network. Though a Fox spokeswoman told the Boston Globe Brown was "currently out of contract," Brown responded this morning by telling the Washington Post that report was actually inaccurate. The Post now has a statement from Fox executive Bill Shine saying their previous agreement merely expired last week and the end of Brown's contract was "purely administrative."
Brown is now free to resume using the network to help bolster his political future (Brown has also invited speculation that he'll run for president in 2016). According to the Post, he will appear on Fox & Friends tomorrow.
After using the platform for the past year to help revive his political career, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is "currently out of contract" with Fox News.
A Fox spokesperson told the Boston Globe yesterday that Brown is no longer under contract, but declined to say whether the move was due to Brown exiting in order to run for Senate in New Hampshire or if his contract had merely expired.
The Globe reports that in December, the network said that Brown's contract would be terminated if he "authorized an exploratory committee to be formed for a run." Fox News has previously been happy to keep employees that were publicly considering political runs under contract indefinitely, like perennial will-they-or-won't-they quasi-candidates Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin. Though Brown has repeatedly stoked speculation that he might challenge Democrat Jeanne Shaheen for her Senate seat -- including relocating to New Hampshire, speaking at GOP events in the state, and teasing a new website with a campaign-ready slogan -- he has yet to take any formal steps towards mounting a run, so his exit from Fox comes as something of a surprise.
During his last Fox appearance, Brown joined Lou Dobbs on his Fox Business show on February 10, spending several minutes railing against the current state of Congress and the government. Near the end of the conversation, Dobbs awkwardly transitioned to ask, "what's new in New Hampshire?" Brown responded that he and his family "love it. It's obviously a wonderful state." He added, "We'll see, I have a lot of decisions to make, and you've just nailed it in terms of what the issues are, and it's very frustrating. And I think you need good people down there, we'll just see who it is." Dobbs closed the segment by telling Brown, "the country is watching, and I know New Hampshire is."
Brown's last two columns for FoxNews.com read a lot like stump speeches. In a column published on February 12, he announced, "we get to replace the members of Congress in 2014 that have been enabling the president's unpopular agenda." His February 14 column -- headlined "GOP can once again lead as the part of fiscal responsibility" -- highlighted that "21 Democratic-held Senate seats are up for grabs" in November and touted how "Republicans of all political stripes share a commitment to fiscal responsibility and less government spending."
Regardless of whether he actually runs for Senate in New Hampshire, Brown's relationship with Fox News is symptomatic of the network's central role in Republican politics.
Fox News contributor Scott Brown was forced to end his financial relationship with Newsmax after he sent a sponsored email to his list touting dubious Alzheimer's disease cures from huckster Dr. Russell Blaylock. Brown is one of several conservative media outlets and personalities -- including his Fox News colleague Mike Huckabee and conservative magazine National Review -- that have helped sell out their followers to Blaylock in recent years.
Brown sent an email today to his list stating: "Dear Patriot, I thought you might be interested in the offer below from our sponsor Newsmax Health. Thank you, Senator Scott Brown." Brown's email (subject line: "5 Signs You'll Get Alzheimer's Disease") contained a pitch claiming that Blaylock found "Simple strategies and natural therapies to prevent, treat, and reverse memory loss, Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, and other neurodegenerative disorders."
Blaylock has pushed numerous dubious claims on a wide range of medical subjects. He is a repeat guest on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show, where videos of his appearances feature such headlines as "Dr. Russell Blaylock Exposes Obama's Nazi Healthcare System," "Obamacare is Mandated Social Engineering," and "Fluoride's Deadly Secret."
In recent years, several prominent conservative outlets and personalities have sent emails to their followers touting Blaylock and his dubious medicine:
Fox News contributor Scott Brown is renting out his email list to an outlet that touts shady products like Alzheimer's disease cures and Social Security tricks.
Brown joins several of his Republican colleagues in attempting to cash in on their followers through dubious or shady practices. Mike Huckabee, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich have all been renting out their email lists to suspect sources. As Salon's Alex Pareene noted, "the conservative movement is an elaborate moneymaking venture. For professional movement conservatives, their audiences and followers are easy marks."
Brown sent an email this morning with the subject line "5 Signs You'll Get Alzheimer's Disease" to his ScottBrown.com email list. Brown wrote in the email: "Dear Patriot, I thought you might be interested in the offer below from our sponsor Newsmax Health. Thank you, Senator Scott Brown."
Brown's email contains a pitch touting the "findings" of Dr. Russell Blaylock, and "Simple strategies and natural therapies to prevent, treat, and reverse memory loss, Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, and other neurodegenerative disorders."
Blaylock, a repeat guest on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show, has made numerous dubious medical claims through Newsmax and other far-right media outlets:
Brown has also sent an email pitching dubious financial offers.
From the February 4 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
Scott Brown has some more company among Fox News employees publicly toying with runs for political office while still working for the network.
According to The Washington Post, Fox host Mike Huckabee "might be willing" to take another shot at securing the Republican presidential nomination. Huckabee told the Post that he is considering making a run in 2016 due to the encouragement he is getting "from places where I never got it before," including "business, people some would maybe call the establishment."
In an apparent attempt to drive home his seriousness about a possible run, Huckabee reportedly showed the paper a private poll "which he said was commissioned by supporters who are urging him to run again, which indicated he has the potential to make a strong showing in both Iowa and South Carolina." Huckabee joins John Bolton, who started teasing a potential 2016 run early this year, and Scott Brown, who seems on the verge of running for a Senate seat in New Hampshire, as Fox employees cashing a paycheck while openly considering runs for office.
The revolving door of Republican politicians and Fox News contributors is nothing new.
As evidence grows that former Republican Senator Scott Brown is going to run for Senate in New Hampshire, he continues to cash a paycheck from Fox News, where he's currently employed as a contributor. Brown is just the latest in an ever-expanding roster of conservative Fox employees who have used a job at the network to set up a run for political office.
Fox hired Brown in February after his failed re-election bid for the Massachusetts Senate seat he won after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. The network had been perhaps his biggest champion during his successful 2010 senate run, allowing Brown to plug his fundraising website on-air while hosts and contributors fawned over him.
Since taking the Fox job, Brown has repeatedly dropped hints that he might consider challenging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in 2014. According to National Journal, while Republican leaders in the state previously dismissed Brown's supposed interest in running as a "fallen political star desperate for attention," they have "begun taking Brown seriously." Though he is scheduled to give a speech at the New Hampshire GOP's holiday fundraiser later this month, Brown continues to play coy about whether he has made up his mind about a run.
At Politico, media reporter Dylan Byers explains that the best indication of whether Brown is serious about running is whether Fox News severs his contract, as they did in 2011 when former employees Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were in the early stages of mounting presidential bids. (More recently, Fox terminated former contributor Liz Cheney's contract when she formally announced her run for the Senate in Wyoming.)
Until such time as Fox ends his contract, Brown will operate in an ethically dubious grey area. It benefits him to delay a formal declaration of any kind so that he can continue to utilize his Fox platform, while both Brown and the network reap rewards from the related "will he or won't he" attention. As Byers explains, "you can rest assured that he'll use the Fox News platform to prove his conservative bonafides to Granite State voters." And in recent weeks, Brown has done just that.