A Brief History Of Dick Morris And Fox's Ethical Morass

During a recent fundraiser for Florida's Lake County Republican Party, Dick Morris auctioned off the chance to take a guided tour of Fox News' New York studios. According to a party official, Morris was “contracted” for the event through his firm Triangulation Strategies. TVNewser reported that Fox News “reprimanded” Morris for auctioning off the tour, which has now been cancelled.

It's currently unclear what Morris' reprimand entails. (UPDATE 3/21: Suggesting that Fox's “reprimand” isn't very serious, Morris appeared on Fox & Friends on Wednesday morning. During the segment, Fox News hosts helped plug Morris' website.) The action comes after years of Fox News allowing Morris to use the network as his personal playground to promote candidates and groups with whom he's financially connected.

Media Matters looks back at the many instances in which Fox News took no apparent public action against Morris' ethically dubious behavior.

Promoting Advocacy Groups

Between October 27, 2008, and November 17, 2008, Morris mentioned GOPTrust.com, the website of the National Republican Trust PAC, during at least 13 Fox News appearances. Morris asked Fox viewers to “give funds to GOPTrust.com” but did not disclose that the organization paid him $24,000 from the beginning of October 2008 to November 24, 2008, mostly for “Email Communication.”

In appearances on Fox News in 2011 and 2012, Morris promoted National School Choice Week without disclosing that the Gleason Family Foundation -- a major funder of School Choice Week -- has paid out at least $180,000 in “marketing” fees to Morris' Triangulation Strategies.

2009-2010 Campaign Cycle

During the previous election cycle, Morris repeatedly appeared on Fox News to tout pro-Republican causes to which he had a financial connection.

In October 2010, Morris touted the congressional campaign of Beth Anne Rankin (R-AR) to Fox News viewers in three separate appearances, starting on October 18. Just days prior, Morris appeared at several political rallies for Rankin, for which he was paid $10,000. Morris did not disclose the payment on Fox News.

From July 2010 to September 2010, Morris was paid over $25,000 by Americans for New Leadership, an independent expenditure political committee organized to defeat Sen. Harry Reid, for “fundraising email expense.” During this time, Morris appeared on Fox News to promote the group's efforts and suggest viewers donate to its cause. Morris did not disclose that he was receiving money from the group.

In February 2010, the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania paid Morris $10,000 for speaking at its 2010 Lincoln Day Dinner. Following the payment, Morris repeatedly appeared on Fox News to discuss Pennsylvania politics, and shill for Pennsylvania Republicans and causes -- without disclosing his payment.

According to a Media Matters review of FEC filings, Morris and Triangulation Strategies received at least $229,174 in direct payments from political campaigns and groups during the 2009-2010 election cycle.

2012 GOP Primary

Starting last summer, Morris sent a series of emails to his mailing list touting softball interviews he had conducted with then-presidential candidates Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann. All of the emails promoting these interviews were “paid for” by the Cain and Bachmann campaigns and included direct links to the fundraising websites for the candidates.

In November, the same day that Morris released a video on his website and column in The Hill touting the electability of Newt Gingrich, Gingrich's campaign paid Morris for the use of his email list. (Santorum and Ron Paul have also rented Morris' email list over the course of the primary.)

Morris frequently appeared on Fox News to discuss the presidential race without disclosing that several candidates had paid him for use of his email list. Only after Associated Press writer David Bauder contacted Morris and Fox executive vice president Bill Shine with questions about the payments did Morris disclose to Fox News viewers that he had taken money from several of the campaigns. Shine, who reprimanded Morris for auctioning the tour of Fox News, reportedly declined to speak to Bauder about Morris.

Morris' ethical morass during the 2012 primary extends beyond financial arrangement with the candidates. His treatment of Mitt Romney during the primary has confirmed that Morris is willing to be completely dishonest to Fox News viewers in order to promote GOP candidates.

Morris has repeatedly talked up Mitt Romney during Fox News appearances (and in his online videos), including telling O'Reilly Factor viewers that he “like[s]” Mitt Romney. Morris' praise was a total reversal from his previous criticisms of the candidate. Why the flip-flop? Morris admitted on a conservative radio program in June that he would stop “dumping” on Romney because he might become the Republican nominee.