Fox News senior vice president Neil Cavuto told likely presidential candidate Ben Carson that “I think you're running. I think you're running for office now. You're just laying the groundwork as we speak.” If Cavuto believes what he says, by Fox's own lax standards, Carson's employment with Fox News should be suspended.
Carson said in September that the “likelihood is strong” that he'll run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The Fox News contributor said he setup the political group USA First PAC to help with infrastructure for a potential campaign.
Fox News hired Carson in 2013 after he drew attention for his National Prayer Breakfast speech attacking President Obama. The conservative network has since turned Carson into a likely presidential candidate.
After the network cut ties with former employees Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in 2011 due to their then-fledgling presidential ambitions, Fox's executive vice president for legal affairs Dianne Brandi told Howard Kurtz that the network didn't suspend the contract of contributor Sarah Palin because she “hasn't done anything herself to show us she has any intention of running right now.”
But on the October 1 edition of his Fox Business program, Cavuto suggested Carson has crossed that line -- saying he thinks Carson is “running for office now.”
CAVUTO: Your name keeps popping up as presidential timber, and one poll actually you're well into double digits, over 20 percent here. And it's raising maybe a growing interest in you as a prospective candidate. Are you?
CARSON: Prospective. That's a correct word, yes. Prospective.
CAVUTO: Well, when you look at numbers like that. You know, a few years ago, doctor, outside of those in the medical community where you were widely respected and still are, most folks didn't know you. I mean, you're right up there with top presidential timber names. What do you think of that?
CARSON: I think people are starting to recognize that maybe the qualification for leadership is not many years in political office. Many years in political office, if that were a qualification, I think there are a number of people that we could put on the table, and you'd say are you kidding me? I wouldn't want them. You know? What we really need is wisdom, the ability to amalgamate a lot of information from a lot of experts and make wise decisions, and most importantly, we need to recognize that this is a country in which the government is supposed to conform to the will of the people --
CAVUTO: You're running.
CARSON: -- and not vice versa.
CAVUTO: I think you're running, I think you're running for office now. You're just laying the groundwork as we speak.
CARSON: Well, you could be right.
The Los Angeles Times reported the decision to suspend Gingrich and Santorum was made “because both have demonstrated that they are seriously considering running for president.” Santorum “indicated that he plans to participate in Republican primary debates” and Gingrich was set to announce a federal exploratory committee.
The New York Times reported at the time that “executives at competing networks have watched Fox's handling of the could-be candidates with some astonishment. One such executive on Tuesday called it unethical to have a presidential candidate on a network payroll. If a candidate is thinking about running, as Mr. Huckabee and Ms. Palin have said they are, they should be treated as de facto candidates, this executive said. He requested anonymity for fear of retribution by Fox.”
Kurtz, now a Fox News host, wrote that the “longer prospective candidates stay in the Fox camp, the longer they can utilize the platform of the country's top-rated cable news channel, and pad their bank accounts to boot.”