In recent weeks, Dick Morris has appeared on Fox News and touted the campaigns of Republican Senate candidates Josh Mandel and Richard Mourdock. Left unmentioned by Fox News and Morris during those appearances is that both campaigns have paid Morris to promote their candidates.
On October 12, 2011, the campaign of Ohio Republican Josh Mandel paid Morris' firm Triangulation Strategies a $10,000 “speaking fee.” The Mandel campaign reportedly “confirmed that the campaign paid the fee to Morris, saying Morris spoke at a fundraiser for Mandel in Ohio.”
Morris discussed Mandel during a March 22 segment on Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. The Fox News contributor said that Mandel “is 4 points ahead of Sherrod Brown, the Democratic senator” and suggested Mandel would win his election if the election were held that day.
Similarly, during the March 31 edition of Huckabee, Morris said “the most amazing” race against a Democratic incumbent is “in Ohio, where Sherrod Brown, the incumbent Democratic senator, is trailing Josh Mandel, the state treasurer, by 44-40. Now usually you know the undecided goes against the incumbent, so, I mean, you're looking at a 20 point defeat in Ohio for Brown.”
A note about Morris' poll claim: By his own admission, Morris was citing a February 8 Rasmussen poll, which he claims shows Brown is trailing Mandel 44-40. However, Morris actually reversed the results: Rasmussen's poll conducted on February 8 found “Brown earning 44% support to Mandel's 40%.” RealClearPolitics's index of Brown-Mandel polls show no polls with Mandel “4 points ahead of Sherrod Brown.”
The campaign of Richard Mourdock, who is running in a Republican primary against Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, has sent two emails through Morris' list that have been “paid for” by the campaign. Morris wrote an email to his list on July 8, 2011, asking for donations to the Mourdock campaign; the email states it was “Paid for by Hoosiers for Richard Mourdock, Inc.” Morris penned an April 24 email -- “Paid for by Hoosiers for Richard Mourdock, Inc.” -- to his list seeking donations to the Mourdock campaign:
Morris also headlined a September 2011 Mourdock fundraiser.
During the April 19 edition of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Morris stated: “By the way, and if you want to see what's going on in this country in terms of the election, there are currently eight Democratic Senate seats where Republicans now have the lead. And by the way, within the Republican Party, you have in Indiana Mourdock is now ahead of Lugar, the conservative. I hope in Utah on Sunday, people vote for a primary against Hatch. All over the place, the moderate RINO types are losing out to the strong conservatives.”
In his email soliciting donations for Mourdock, Morris wrote that the “most recent poll by McLaughlin & Associates shows Mourdock leading by 1 point.” Morris didn't mention that McLaughlin poll was paid for by the Mourdock campaign. (Regardless of Morris' trickery, the primary race is considered competitive.)
Fox News and Morris did not respond to a request for comment.
Fox News' policy of allowing Morris to analyze and tout campaigns that pay him continues a familiar pattern. In recent years, Morris has been repeatedly allowed to promote and encourage donations to advocacy groups that paid him. During the previous election cycle, Morris touted pro-Republican causes to which he had a financial connection. And during the Republican presidential primary, Morris frequently appeared on Fox News to discuss the race without disclosing that several candidates had paid him for use of his email list.
Morris eventually disclosed on Hannity that he had taken money from several GOP primary candidates, but only after AP reporter David Bauder contacted him and Fox executive vice president of programming Bill Shine to ask whether it was appropriate for Morris to accept money from campaigns he was discussing on Fox.
Morris' touting of Mourdock and Mandel without disclosing his payments from those candidates comes only a month after the commentator was reprimanded by Fox News management following Media Matters' report of a similar ethical lapse. Morris had been paid to speak to a local Florida Republican Party committee, which also auctioned off a Morris-led tour of Fox News studios for the party's benefit. Suggesting that the reprimand wasn't very serious, Morris appeared on Fox News shortly afterward.
Following Morris' March reprimand, several media ethicists told Media Matters that Fox's punishment was inadequate. David Zurawick, television critic for the Baltimore Sun, told Media Matters, "Is there anybody in the media you can think of who has less of an ethical compass? You have to ask yourself, why do they let him get away with this? He is really a sleazy operative."