Is Dick Morris Charging Candidates For Softball Interviews?

In recent months, human infomercial/Fox News political analyst Dick Morris has conducted interviews with presidential candidates Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann. Morris has promoted the interviews in a series of emails to his mailing list, at least nine of which indicate they were “paid for” by the Cain and Bachmann campaigns.

This year, Morris has made a big show about how he isn't going to officially endorse any of the candidates in the Republican presidential primary. During a June appearance on Fox & Friends, Morris explained that, though he has been keeping in touch with some of the candidates, he is not endorsing someone “because I want to be impartial in my commentary.”

Any time Dick Morris is claiming to do something out of an adherence to an ethical code, it should ring alarm bells, and this is no different. While Morris says he is not endorsing because he wants to remain “impartial,” it seems that Morris is avoiding supporting a specific candidate so that he can take money from as many of them as possible.

During last Wednesday's O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly hosted Morris to discuss the presidential field. In one of the frequent plugs for Morris' website on Fox News, O'Reilly joked with Morris, “You interviewed [Herman] Cain for your website. It was a hard-hitting interview. You really grilled him, I bet?” Morris responded that he “did a great job” conducting the interview and that he doesn't make the candidates “sweat, I make them talk.”

Morris “make[s]” them talk by basically asking them to respond to compliments. Here's a sample hard-hitting prompt from one of last week's interviews with Cain:

MORRIS: I have the feeling your candidacy is a little bit like a slingshot. Every time you speak, you draw it back a little bit. You don't gain in the polls, but people say, 'Hey, I really like that guy. I really like that guy. I really like him, but he can't win.' Then when you showed them the straw poll, you let it go and you soared out!

Morris promoted the interview in an October 5 email which included a note that it was “Paid for by Friends of Herman Cain, Inc.” and included a direct link to Cain's fundraising website.

Morris has sent out similar emails pushing various friendly conversations he has conducted with Cain on July 22, July 27, August 3, August 10, September 26, and October 6. Each of the emails was “Paid for by Friends of Herman Cain, Inc.” and included Morris' disclaimer: “I am not planning to back any of the GOP contenders but want to help them all get their message out and then back the nominee in 2012.”

The interviews consist mostly of softball questions from Morris, where Cain is given an opportunity to attack Obama and his primary opponents and respond to any perceived weaknesses of his candidacy in a friendly environment.

Several of the videos end with Morris addressing the camera alone and proclaiming what a great job Cain did during their conversation. For example:

  • “Wow, that was impressive. You know, Obama is not only robbing us of our money, he's trying to rob us of our American spirit, too. And Herman Cain won't let him do that.” [8/3/11]
  • “Wow, what a lucid and articulate presentation of how to go about creating jobs. It shows the difference between a politician and a guy who knows what he's talking about.” [7/27/11]
    • “That sure makes sense to me. To stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons that can attack Israel by using the missile interceptors, as Herman spoke of.” [9/26/11]
  • “I don't know about you, but that was very impressive.” [7/22/11]
  • “You know, that guy ought to run for president! I'm awful glad he is.” [8/10/11]

In one of his conversations with Cain last week, Morris said that he has been trying to convince Perry and Romney to sit down for an interview, but neither had agreed yet.

Though Perry and Romney apparently have reservations, yesterday Morris sent out a message to his mailing list touting an interview with Michele Bachmann, wherein she “lays out what makes her a unique candidate...and person!”

Today, Morris sent another email to his list touting another video with Bachmann. Both emails were “Paid for by Bachmann for President” and included direct links to the Bachmann campaign's fundraising website. (Bachmann had previously rented Morris' list in June to send out a fundraising appeal.)

Similar to his conversations with Cain, Morris mostly just gives Bachmann a platform to pitch her candidacy. A sample question from yesterday's Bachmann video:

MORRIS: In a sense, you have some candidates who are conditioning coaches and nutritionists, who will teach you to live healthy and eat right and exercise and get your body in shape. But you're an oncologist who understands how to uproot all of the damage that Obama has done.

Morris ended today's Bachmann video by announcing (while sitting next to Bachmann), “Well, that's a pretty good, pretty good candidate there.”

In a post to his site yesterday promoting his interviews with Cain and Bachmann, Morris explained that “either would be a great president” and urged his readers to watch the videos in order “to get up to speed on what their candidacies are all about.”