Since President Obama's second inauguration, Sen. Rand Paul has appeared 119 times on Fox News' evening and primetime programming and Fox News Sunday, far outpacing the other declared and likely Republican presidential candidates not employed by the network. On the other end of the spectrum, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has appeared on the programs studied only three times.
Among the potential candidates that were on Fox News' payroll for all or part of the duration of this study, Fox News contributor John Bolton has made 171 appearances, more often than Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson -- who were both dropped by the network over their presidential aspirations -- combined.
When Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced last month that he is seeking the Republican 2016 presidential nomination, his first TV interview, unsurprisingly, was a full hour on Sean Hannity's show. The same night, Rand Paul (and perennial fake presidential candidate Donald Trump) appeared on Megyn Kelly's show to react to Cruz's announcement and discuss their own presidential aspirations.
Paul followed Cruz's lead by appearing in an "exclusive" interview on Hannity's Fox program Tuesday, hours after announcing the start of his own campaign.
While the first presidential primary is about nine months away, Cruz's and Paul's competing appearances provide a glimpse into what is becoming an election tradition. For the past two years, a slew of Republican would-be presidential candidates have been involved in The Fox Primary, making regular appearances to curry favor with the network's influential hosts and reach out directly to the channel's decidedly conservative audience.
In a February piece for The Hill, Fox News contributor and former congressman John LeBoutillier argued that "the key to winning the 2016 GOP presidential nomination is winning the 'Fox Primary.'" Touting the importance of coverage from Fox News for Republican contenders trying to court primary voters, LeBoutillier claimed, "The Fox primary is crucial to any GOP candidate." According to LeBoutillier, "The competition just to get on these shows will be intense."
The Fox Primary is nothing new. In the run-up to the 2012 election, Republican contenders also jockeyed for Fox News airtime. New York Times reporter Alessandra Stanley pointed out at the time that "Fox News practically owns and operates" the Iowa primary: "its viewers are seeing the world through the eyes of a Tea Party activist in Davenport, or a small business leader in Ames -- my own private Iowa."
Though the presidential campaign is just kicking into gear, eighteen declared and potential Republican candidates have already made a combined 804 appearances on Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The Kelly File, Hannity, and Fox News Sunday.
Many of the would-be candidates have regularly been introduced to viewers as potential 2016 contenders and have been given a prominent platform to sell themselves and criticize likely Republican primary opponents and potential Democratic nomination frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
Greta Van Susteren's show featured by far the most appearances from the stable of potential and declared candidates (313), though the number is inflated due to Fox News contributor John Bolton's 143 appearances on the show. The potential 2016 contenders have made a combined 152 appearances on Hannity's show.
During a February appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Hannity vowed, "On both my radio and television program on the Fox News Channel I promise you this: As somebody who has not made up his mind, I am going to give access to every single solitary candidate as often as I can, as often as they'll come. By the end of the process, I will ask them every question I can possibly think of."
In the past twenty-six months, Paul has appeared twice as often as any other candidate on Hannity's show. Most of the would-be candidates have appeared at least several times with Hannity, with the notable exceptions of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee, neither of whom have been on his program in the past twenty-six months:
Individual data and analysis for each of the candidates are below.
From the April 8 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From the April 7 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Megyn Kelly has become one of the most vocal defenders of Indiana's controversial "religious freedom" law on Fox News, dismissing concerns that the law might be used to discriminate against LGBT people. But in 2014, she decried an almost identical "religious freedom" law in Arizona, calling it "potentially dangerous."
In February of 2014, one state was embroiled in a debate over a "religious freedom" law that had earned national attention. LGBT groups, the business community, and even sports organizations had spoken out against the law, warning that it could be used to discriminate against LGBT customers.
That state was Arizona, which had passed SB 1062, a measure that gave individuals and business owners a legal defense for refusing to serve LGBT customers if doing so violated their religious beliefs.
At the time, even Fox's Megyn Kelly seemed uncomfortable with the measure, which was passed with the explicit purpose of allowing business to refuse to serve same-sex weddings. During the February 25 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly invited Fox senior political analyst Brit Hume on to her show to discuss the "controversial" law, which she called "an overreaction" and "potentially dangerous," warning that it could be used to deny medical service to LGBT people:
HUME: This bill, according to its critics, would go much farther than that. It would basically allow businesses generally to refuse to sell or to provide services to a gay couple, anyone who is gay, if they could -
KELLY: Even medical services.
HUME: Even medical services, perhaps, to someone on the basis of the fact that they are homosexual and their religion forbids homosexuality and therefore they're sincere about it... It seems to me that's an order of magnitude greater than the legal right to deny services to a gay wedding.
KELLY: I look at this bill and I wonder whether this is a reaction, an overreaction, to people who feel under attack on this score. And in the end, they may have struck back in a way that's deeply offensive to many and potentially dangerous to folks who are gay and lesbians and need medical services and other services being denied potentially.
Fox News has been at the forefront of defending Indiana's controversial "religious freedom" law, falsely portraying the measure as harmless and whitewashing the anti-LGBT extremism that motivated the legislation.
On March 26, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed his state's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) into law. The law -- which has been criticized by religious leaders, the business community, legal scholars, and even the Republican mayor of Indianapolis -- provides a legal defense for individuals and business owners who cite their religious beliefs while discriminating against LGBT people.
The law triggered a furious national backlash, with major companies, celebrities, and government leaders condemning the measure for potentially encouraging discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers. Pence and top Indiana Republicans eventually pledged to "clarify" the law by adding language that explicitly prohibits RFRA from being used as a defense for discrimination in court.
Throughout the controversy, a number of Fox News personalities whitewashed the law's discriminatory purpose and misleadingly compared Indiana's RFRA to other "religious freedom" laws -- a comparison that even a Fox News anchor acknowledged was inaccurate.
Megyn Kelly continued her misinformation campaign in defense of Indiana's "religious freedom" law, claiming that the measure won't further discrimination against LGBT people because discrimination is already allowed in Indiana, due to a lack of statewide protections against anti-gay discrimination. In fact, the "religious freedom" law threatens to trump municipal non-discrimination policies that cover sexual orientation, such as the one in Indianapolis.
On the March 31 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, Kelly hosted yet another misleading segment on Indiana's widely-criticized "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," a law that provides a legal defense for individuals and businesses who cite their religious beliefs against private plaintiffs or the government when refusing to serve LGBT people.
Kelly invited Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC), to defend the law for the second night in a row. During the segment, Kelly argued that RFRA couldn't lead to discrimination because LGBT persons in Indiana are not guaranteed equal treatment under the law:
KELLY: Even though Governor Pence, for some reason, will not get specific about whether this law would specifically, in any case, allow a florist, for example, objecting to a gay wedding to decline to participate in the gay wedding - let's just assume for the purposes of this hypothetical that discrimination against gays was illegal in Indiana - which it's not, by the way -
KELLY: But if it were, do you believe that this law would then protect the religious objector?
KELLY: I want the viewers to understand this, that this law does not allow discrimination against gays.
KELLY: That is already legal in the state of Indiana!
KELLY: Until the state of Indiana - it is, Tony!
PERKINS: But how often does it happen?
KELLY: Until the state recognizes gays and lesbians as a protected class and passes an anti-discrimination law against them, they can be fired for any reason, they can not be served for any reason.
From the March 31 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Media outlets have argued that Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) mirrors RFRAs passed in other states as well as the federal RFRA signed into law in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton. In fact, Indiana's RFRA is broader than other versions of the law, and experts say it could allow private businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers on the basis of religion.
Fox's Megyn Kelly misleadingly compared Indiana's controversial anti-gay "religious freedom" law to laws in other states and claimed that the measure wouldn't allow for anti-LGBT discrimination.
On the March 30 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly invited Tony Perkins - president of the anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC) - and Truman National Security Project partner Mark Hannah to discuss Indiana's recently adopted "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA). The law, which has triggered a national backlash, provides a legal defense for individuals and business owners who cite their religious beliefs while discriminating against LGBT people.
During the interview, Kelly suggested that Indiana's RFRA was similar to federal law and RFRAs in other states and denied that the measure could be used to justify anti-LGBT discrimination:
Right-wing media outlets -- led by Fox's Megyn Kelly -- helped the GOP execute a whisper campaign falsely accusing Hillary Clinton of committing perjury when she left the State Department and demanding to see a separation document to prove their charge. After the Associated Press accepted the premise that a separation document should be produced, the State Department made clear that neither Clinton nor her predecessors, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, were required to sign that document.
Megyn Kelly is using her platform and branding as an independent voice and legal expert on Fox News to make up laws and fabricate felony charges over Hillary Clinton's email use, accusing the former secretary of state of destroying evidence.
The State Department on Tuesday confirmed that it had no record of Clinton or her immediate predecessors, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, having signed a separation form (OF-109) upon leaving office, and that they were not required to sign that form.
Citing absolutely no independent legal authority, Kelly argued that "protocols" required Clinton to sign the document, only to quickly dismiss the fact that there is no evidence that Powell or Rice signed the form. She baselessly insinuated that Clinton destroyed documents to conceal perjury, claiming that the separation form "suddenly disappeared," and argued that Clinton was "committing a felony" by keeping email on a private server, which Kelly claimed amounted to concealing federal records.
Clinton has turned over 55,000 pages of emails as part of a State Department initiative to update its recordkeeping. State Department officials have made clear that Clinton's use of a non-government email account during her tenure was well known throughout the department, undercutting Kelly's argument that Clinton was concealing anything, and the overwhelming majority of her work-related email was captured in real time.
Kelly's fallacious legal opinion has been flatly rejected by actual legal experts who have said that Clinton's use of a private email while serving as secretary of state was perfectly legal, and by the undisputed fact that Clinton was under no deadline to turn over her private emails to the State Department.
Neil Koslowe, an expert on the Federal Records Act, told The National Law Journal, "There's not any blanket prohibition on any federal employee from using a personal email account to conduct government business." Fox News legal analysts Jonna Spilbor and Arthur Aidala agreed that Clinton did not violate any laws. Jason Baron, the former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration and a critic of Clinton's use of private email, acknowledged that Clinton did not violate any laws.
Even conservative columnist and Fox News regular Byron York acknowledged that the absence of separation forms from Powell and Rice "is exculpatory for Clinton."
Kelly has been obsessed with the question of whether Clinton signed a separation form, discussing it every night on her show since March 11. Her specious accusations and wild conspiracy theories, delivered with the veneer of legal authority, underscore her unique positioning at Fox News.
Since moving into the Fox news primetime lineup, she has been treated to a steady stream of glowing profiles that help Fox market Kelly as "break in the clouds, an interlude of lucidity," between hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, obvious purveyors of misinformation.
But for every one of the "Megyn moments" that show Kelly breaking from the perceived Fox orthodoxy to speak truth to power, there are even more, often subtle examples of her using her platform to advance the core Fox mission.
In the March 13 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Media outlets are demanding that Hillary Clinton be subject to an independent review of her personal email account to disprove their own baseless suggestions that she engaged in illicit activity or failed to properly disclose all work-related correspondence. The demand ignores that every State Department employee, regardless of whether they use government or personal accounts, decides for themselves whether or not to preserve their emails.
From the March 10 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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