In May, O'Reilly Factor host Bill O'Reilly told Fox News political analyst Dick Morris that because he was “so far out on the limb” predicting a Romney win in the presidential election, if Obama were to be re-elected Morris would be “through” and “selling refrigerators in Topeka.” Seven months later, following Obama's comfortable re-election, Morris isn't selling appliances in Kansas (that we know of), but he's the laughingstock of the political pundit class and has temporarily been benched at Fox News.
Like most other years of Morris' media career, 2012 was marked by terribly inaccurate election predictions, habitual dishonesty, and questionable ethical conflicts. Unlike most other years, however, Morris appears to actually be facing consequences and backlash for his role as America's Worst Political Pundit.
After Morris made more than fifteen appearances on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, and On the Record in October and early November, he's been absent from the network's primetime lineup since November 12 following reports that producers now have to get special permission to book him (or Karl Rove) on their shows. He has also been publicly criticized by numerous media ethicists from prominent newspapers and universities, countless political writers and reporters in the U.S. (and abroad), donors to his shady super PAC, and his colleagues at The Hill newspaper.
Appearing on Fox & Friends the day before the election to discuss his prediction of a “landslide” Romney victory, Morris said of the various people predicting an Obama win, “either I'm gonna have to go through a big reckoning, or they are. And you know what? They are.”
It was another prediction that wouldn't shake out.
“Here Comes The Landslide”
For months, Morris used all of his various media platforms -- his frequent Fox News appearances, weekly Hill column, daily “Lunch Alert” videos, and a steady stream of fundraising emails for his shady super PAC -- to assure his audience that Mitt Romney was well on his way to a “landslide” victory over Barack Obama.
Even though it was clear that Morris' lofty predictions were based on little more than wishful thinking and shoddy “skewed polls” analysis, Fox News still trotted him out regularly before the election because he was pushing the myth they wanted to sell to their viewers.
In various Fox appearances throughout the year, Morris exuded confidence in his prognostications, going so far as to tell a skeptical Sean Hannity that there was “no chance that Obama will get re-elected.... zilch, none, zip, nada.”
Morris' now-infamous final electoral projection, which contradicted most available polling data, predicted Romney taking 325 electoral votes with wins in Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Romney lost all of those states.
And that's just the general election. Morris fared no better during the Republican primaries. In August 2011, he told Sean Hannity that Michele Bachmann would “probably” win January's Iowa caucuses. Just a month before the caucuses, Morris said Bachmann would end up with a “strong second place finish.” Instead, Bachmann came in sixth, winning support from only 5 percent of Iowans. She ended her presidential campaign the next morning.
Morris also repeatedly defended former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain amid allegations of sexual harassment during his business career. During a November 30, 2011, appearance on Fox & Friends, Morris told the hosts, “I don't think he's going any place very quickly.” Cain suspended his presidential campaign less than a week later.
Morris' failed predictions about the presidential election got the most attention, but he was equally inept at calling state-level races. Morris repeatedly predicted that Republicans would not only take over control of the Senate, but do so by a comfortable margin. “We are also, by the way, going to win ten seats in the Senate,” he told Sean Hannity in February. The GOP ended up losing two seats. At various points, Morris predicted that Republicans Connie Mack (Florida), Pete Hoekstra (Michigan), Duane Sand (North Dakota), Josh Mandel (Ohio), Tom Smith (Pennsylvania), and George Allen (Virginia) would win election to the Senate. They all lost.
“A Sleazy Operative”
On top of his extravagantly wrong electoral projections, Morris spent much of 2012 cultivating a vast array of ethical conflicts.
As Media Matters documented, Super PAC for America, where Morris serves as chief strategist, paid conservative news outlet Newsmax Media roughly $1.7 million in October and November, according to FEC data. A portion of that money surely went to renting Morris' own email list, which is managed by Newsmax. According to a Media Matters review, Morris sent at least 21 emails to his list featuring fundraising pitches “paid for by Super PAC for America.”
Super PAC for America paid more money to Newsmax Media than it spent on all other independent expenditures combined.
The emails from Morris and Super PAC for America regularly hyped Morris' outlandish predictions of Romney's supposedly impending victory, as well as promises that the money Super PAC for America had invested in political ads was “paying off.” A representative fundraising pitch from Morris declared that his group's “powerful” ads had “made a huge difference in key swing states like Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Virginia.” After Romney lost all of those states, Morris explained in a post-election column that political ads are actually no longer effective because people fast forward through them.
In March, Morris was “reprimanded” by Fox News for auctioning off a tour of Fox News at a Republican fundraiser, prompting harsh criticism from Zurawik and other media experts. (Morris apparently also treated a group of GOP donors to a tour of Fox News and a taping of Hannity in late 2011.) Baltimore Sun television and media critic David Zurawik labeled Morris a “sleazy operative” over this arrangement, and asked: “Is there anybody in the media you can think of who has less of an ethical compass?”
2012 also saw Morris continue his long-running tradition of using his media platforms to discuss (without disclosure) political races in which he has a financial interest.
In the run-up to the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, Morris routinely went on Fox News to praise Republican incumbent Scott Walker. According to Morris, Walker's actions limiting union rights in the state were “pivotal,” and Fox viewers should “do everything they can to support Scott Walker.” Unmentioned by Morris was the fact that the Walker campaign had rented Morris' email list at least three times and “paid for” a blog post featuring a video of Morris urging people to donate to Walker.
In a February column for The Hill, Morris attacked “RINO Sen. Richard Lugar” during his senatorial primary against Richard Mourdock. The Mourdock campaign had previously rented Morris' email list and featured him as a speaker at a 2011 fundraiser.
On the upside for Morris, 2013 should prove to be a much better year for him than 2012. After all, there are only a handful of off-year elections for him to wrongly predict.