In a characteristically tepid statement, Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming for Fox News, told Mediaite that the four-minute anti-Obama attack ad aired twice by Fox & Friends this morning "was created by an associate producer and was not authorized at the senior executive level of the network. This has been addressed with the show's producers."
Similarly, a spokeswoman for Fox News told The New York Times that Fox News president Roger Ailes "was not aware of the video."
In the process of throwing an associate producer under the bus -- a producer that was effusively praised by the Fox & Friends crew this morning for his "great job" producing the ad and the "tremendous amount of research" he put into it -- Fox executives are doing their best to dodge any responsibility for the network's programming. But while Fox's executives are doing their best to duck blame, they are solely responsible for creating an atmosphere at the network where Fox & Friends would think airing their own campaign ad would be acceptable.
The response from Fox brass is mostly notable for what it doesn't say. Does Fox agree that the ad crossed a clear ethical line? Shine says the issue has been "addressed" with the Fox & Friends producers, but does that mean they were reprimanded? Based on Fox & Friends' history, that seems unlikely.
In a 2008 profile of Fox & Friends by LA Times reporter Matea Gold, host Brian Kilmeade boasted that he and his co-hosts "have an ability to do stuff, and then they can always rein you in," adding that he knows he is "not going to get reprimanded."
Fox News has spent the entire Obama administration actively campaigning against the president. It started soon after the election, when Roger Ailes reportedly told Glenn Beck that he saw the network as "the Alamo." Bill Shine -- he of the lame statement to Mediaite above -- conceded to NPR in 2009 that the network is the "voice of opposition on some issues."
The network helped launch the tea party movement, was instrumental in Republicans taking back the House in 2010, and basically served as the unofficial venue for the 2012 Republican presidential primary.
More recently, Fox News (including Fox & Friends) has helped their employee Karl Rove promote the anti-Obama ads released by his GOP super PAC.
Today's incident wasn't even Fox & Friends' first foray into creating their own GOP ads. In January, shortly before the State of the Union, the show aired a montage of clips attacking Obama that, like today's video, is also almost impossible to differentiate from something the RNC might put out.
From the January 24 edition of Fox & Friends:
Now that Romney has clinched the nomination, Fox News cutting their own anti-Obama ads just seems like the next logical step in their crusade against the Obama administration. In a way, you can't blame Fox & Friends for not thinking they were crossing any ethical lines -- based on the network's history, it wasn't clear any existed.
Online, Fox is trying to flush the ad down the memory hole. Whereas it was featured as a "MUST-SEE FOX VIDEO" at the top of Fox News' Fox Nation website as recently as a few hours ago, that post has since been deleted and trying to play the video at FoxNews.com now returns the following error:
It remains to be seen whether Fox & Friends will address the issue on-air tomorrow, and, if they do, whether the program's hosts will admit any fault.