The Fox News Candidates Enter The Presidential Race

Mike Huckabee And Ben Carson Used Fox News As A Political Springboard

Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson are expected to announce presidential runs this week. Both used their previous jobs at Fox News as a staging ground for their current political ambitions.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee joined Fox News in 2008 after an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination in that year's presidential election, launching the weekly Saturday night show Huckabee that ran for more than six years.

As Huckabee took several steps towards running -- including hiring staff, courting potential donors, and repeatedly hinting at a run -- he kept his Fox News show.

Huckabee openly acknowledged the balancing act required to stoke interest in his potential run while not crossing the line and losing his valuable Fox News perch. He told Fox News Radio host John Gibson last November that he needed to be “very, very careful with sort of the obligations that I have doing the show, doing the radio commentaries, to make sure that I stay on the right side of that threshold and not cross it and do something that would compromise, you know, the network, compromise me.” 

After The Washington Post laid out the many concrete ways Huckabee was seriously prepping for a presidential run last November, Fox News announced it was “evaluating his current status” as a contributor. He ended up sticking around at the network until January, making several appearances in the intervening weeks that confirmed his glaring conflict of interest.

For example, Huckabee devoted significant time on a November program to promoting the “top” issue (banning internet gambling) of casino magnate and deep-pocketed Republican donor Sheldon Adelson.

In January, during a segment Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz likened to “an infomercial,” Huckabee announced he was doing the “honorable thing” and ending his show.

Several outlets have highlighted how Huckabee's Fox News platform has helped him with primary voters.

The Des Moines Register reported during one of Huckabee's Iowa visits in March that one of his “biggest advantages going into 2016 is name recognition, the kind candidates spend millions to attain. The kind you get from winning the 2008 caucuses, becoming a best-selling author and getting a Fox News show called 'Huckabee' beamed into countless Iowa homes for years since.” Register reporter Josh Hafner added that as Huckabee worked the room at a local event, “no fewer than four audience members told him they would miss his Fox show.”

Chip Saltsman, Huckabee's 2008 national campaign manager, was quoted by Bloomberg Politics last year explaining that during the 2016 Republican primaries, Huckabee “wouldn't start out as an asterisk ... People know him. They have heard him on the radio and seen him on TV. That is not a bad place to start.”

RealClearPolitics reporter Scott Conroy observed last October during another of Huckabee's trips to Iowa that his Fox News gig afforded him “the kind of media exposure that any of the more frequently talked about GOP contenders can only dream of.” Conroy pointed to several activists and volunteers in the state professing their love of his show, including one woman reportedly telling Huckabee, “I watch you about three times every weekend!”

Huckabee himself acknowledged the importance of his former Fox News show to his 2016 ambitions, reportedly saying, “When I came up here eight years ago, nobody knew who I was ... I had to spell my name. They didn't recognize me, and that was true all over the country. And now I come back, and I've been in these people's homes every week.”

CBS News reporter Nancy Cordes said on the May 3 edition of CBS Evening News that Huckabee has “actually done pretty well in early polls, partly because he had his own show for several years on Fox and is so well-known to GOP voters.”

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who said he plans to run for president and will formally announce his candidacy today, can also thank Fox for helping boost his 2016 run. Carson was largely unknown in political circles until he gave a 2013 speech at the National Prayer Breakfast attacking President Obama. Shortly after the speech, Fox News went into overdrive pushing Carson to get into politics.

The day after his speech, Carson was hosted by Sean Hannity on his Fox News program, during which Hannity told him, “I would vote for you in a heartbeat.” Carson was eventually hired by Fox News, where he spent 13 months repeatedly being introduced to viewers as a potential presidential contender and given the opportunity to practice potential stump speech material.

He left the network last November after the announcement of an hour-long campaign-style documentary that aired in 22 states.

As CNN pointed out, Fox News' own report on Carson's departure included a quote from GOP strategist Tyler Harber claiming, “The man's running. He's been running for two years.” Of course, that would include the entire time he was getting paid by Fox News for the opportunity to raise his profile among its audience and the conservative movement.

John Bolton, who has suggested he might run for president in 2016, remains on the Fox News payroll.