The end of the 2012 election has raised questions about media's impact on results. As candidates and their campaigns celebrate wins or mourn defeats, observers in the media argue that Fox News' political activism has damaged the Republican Party in light of its losses.
Over the past four years, Fox News employees have aggressively campaigned for Republican candidates. A Media Matters report found that leading up to the 2012 presidential election, over 32 Fox hosts and contributors campaigned for GOP candidates in more than 300 instances, nationally and in more than 40 states. Among them was Fox contributor Karl Rove, whose American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS promised to spend $300 million on ads for conservative candidates.
The same report revealed that five Fox figures advised Mitt Romney's campaign, and nine -- including John Bolton and Mike Huckabee -- “played key roles” at Romney events.
During the 2010 election cycle, more than 30 Fox hosts and contributors endorsed, fundraised, or campaigned for Republican candidates. According to a Media Matters report, those candidates often highlighted the support they had received from Fox.
Romney, the largest beneficiary of Fox News campaigning, was often advised by Fox's on-air personalities about what he should do. For instance, Bill O'Reilly said that Romney should “keep pounding” the message that Obama “doesn't like this capitalistic system.” Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson said that Romney could create a “pretty compelling campaign ad” by juxtaposing Obama saying he had three years to fix the economy with him saying he needs another four years.
Fox also aggressively counseled elected Republicans not to cooperate with Democrats. Sean Hannity, for example, told Congressman Paul Ryan in April 2011 not to vote to raise the debt ceiling, and the co-hosts of Fox & Friends urged House Republicans to repeal light bulb efficiency standards.
In light of the Republican Party's 2012 election losses, many in the media have argued that this political activism by Fox has hurt rather than helped the GOP.
The American Prospect's Paul Waldman wrote that Fox and other conservative media are effective at “whipping up stories out of nothing and forcing the mainstream media to pay attention, capable of keeping their troops in line and bucking up their morale, capable of quickly disseminating messages far and wide, creating new stars and enforcing discipline.” But, he added, the success of this misinformation resulted in the “single most damaging moment for Mitt Romney in this election, the 47 percent tape.” Waldman further wrote that Fox and other conservative media may be “the right's Achilles' Heel.”
Salon's Alex Pareene suggested that Fox “knows it's constantly lying to its audience” and that it discovered “constant lying isn't [a] consistently effective electoral strategy.” Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic likewise argued that misinformation from Fox and conservative media cost Romney the election and wrote that “right-leaning outlets like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's show are far more intellectually closed than CNN or public radio. If you're a rank-and-file conservative, you're probably ready to acknowledge that ideologically friendly media didn't accurately inform you about Election 2012.”
And The Telegraph's Dan Hodes, in a column headlined “Fox News is killing the Republican party,” even posited that “Fox News, widely perceived to be one of the Republican party's greatest assets, has actually become a liability to it”:
[W]atching Rove vainly raging against the dying of the light cemented for me a view that's been forming throughout this campaign. Fox News, widely perceived to be one of the Republican party's greatest assets, has actually become a liability to it.
To describe Fox as a polarising broadcaster would be to give understatement a manly bear-hug. For Democrats and the liberal Left it is effectively an extension of the GOP press office, prosecuting a vicious and biased campaign against their candidates and values. For Republicans and the Right it provides a vital balance against the liberal prejudices of the Main Stream Media. But whatever the perceptions, Fox -- to my mind -- proved to be an albatross around the neck of Mitt Romney throughout this campaign.