Fox News' flagship morning show has emerged as Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's most effusive protector in the wake of his controversial suggestions that mass shooting victims shared some of the blame for their deaths, and that a Muslim should not be president. Fox & Friends' defense of Carson should come as no surprise considering the network's history of promoting the candidate's presidential ambitions.
Ben Carson has been a longtime fixture on Fox News, which essentially turned him into a presidential candidate, but the network's job as a mouthpiece for the GOP has taken on a new meaning in the wake of the candidate's repeated controversial comments.
After Carson told Fox & Friends hosts on October 6 that if confronted by a gunman, he would “not just stand there and let him shoot me,” in response to the October 1 mass shooting that killed 10 at Umpqua Community College, the hosts were quick to use their platform in the following days to shield him from criticism. When the comments garnered outrage for suggesting that the victims of the shooting did not do enough to protect themselves, Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck accused Carson's so-called “heartless” critics of irresponsibly “mischaracterize[ing]” the comments. Co-host Brian Kilmeade clarified for Carson that the comments were not intended as a judgment of the Oregon shooting victims, explaining that “he was just answering [a] question,” and even featuring a guest to praise Carson's spirit.
This is not the first time that Fox & Friends has helped Carson spin his inflammatory rhetoric. Carson sparked widespread backlash -- even among fellow conservatives -- when he said he “absolutely would not agree with” a Muslim being elected president of the United States. Fox & Friends quickly tried to rehabilitate the statement, reasoning that a Muslim president would be synonymous with violent Islamists and the fundamentalist system of “Sharia law.” Kilmeade framed the comments as part of an age-old debate, claiming that the Founding Fathers “were debating whether a Muslim should be a president back in the creation of our country,” and co-host Steve Doocy suggested that Carson was actually talking about Muslims who adhere to Sharia law, not all Muslims. Fox & Friends also attempted to paint backlash against Carson as a "gotcha moment," and argued it was irrelevant to the current political debate: “it's a total non sequitur. There is no Muslim running for president.”
Fox & Friends' public relations work for Carson follows reports that “Fox chairman Roger Ailes has been impressed by Carson, a former Fox pundit, ... is promoting his candidacy inside the network,” and “has told producers to push Carson and put him on whenever he wants to go on.” And notably, Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company, apologized October 8 after praising Carson while calling for “a real black president” in response to a New York magazine column that posed the question, “Did Barack Obama do enough for his own community?”