Fox News: Where Romney Advisers Are Undisclosed, Impartial Analysts

Fox News has repeatedly hosted advisers to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney without disclosing that they are helping his campaign. Media Matters examined recent appearances by advisers John Bolton, Jay Sekulow, and Walid Phares, who have all appeared on Fox News and criticized the Obama administration.

Bolton and Phares are Fox News contributors, while Sekulow is a frequent Fox News guest.

Bolton, a Romney foreign policy adviser, said on Fox News that Obama's foreign policy is “confused and incoherent and incompetent” and defended Romney's foreign policy experience. Sekulow, a Romney legal adviser, has repeatedly appeared on Fox to attack the Obama administration on a variety of legal issues. And Phares, a member of Romney's foreign policy and national security advisory team, has criticized the Obama administration's handling of Syria and Afghanistan on Fox.

Fox News routinely violates journalistic ethics. Last week, Media Matters noted that Fox News has aggressively promoted Karl Rove's Super PAC American Crossroads, often without disclosing Rove's connection to either American Crossroads or Fox News.

John Bolton

On January 11, Bolton appeared on Fox News and endorsed Romney. The campaign sent out a press release the following day and quoted Romney's response to Bolton: “I look forward to consulting with him as we campaign to restore America's standing abroad and ensure that this century is an American Century.” Bolton appeared at a January endorsement event in South Carolina with Romney.

Bolton signed a March 27 “open letter” in which he and others were listed as “Romney Foreign Policy Advisers.” The letter questioned “whether a new period of even greater weakness and inconstancy would lie ahead if you [President Obama] are reelected.”

Bolton participated in a February 6 get out the vote rally for Romney in Edina, Minnesota and an April 1 meet and greet event in Baltimore, Maryland.

A spokesperson for Bolton, Christine Samuelian, told Media Matters in an email that Bolton “is not paid by the campaign and gives foreign policy advice to lots of people.”

Media Matters reviewed a week of Bolton's recent Fox News appearances* -- April 26 through May 3, seven appearances -- and found that Bolton was not identified as a Romney adviser. Bolton was identified as a Fox News contributor and a former UN ambassador.

During these appearances, Bolton routinely criticized the Obama administration and defended Romney. For example:

  • On the April 26 edition of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Bolton called Obama's foreign policy “confused and incoherent and incompetent.” Bolton also made the case for Romney, stating:
    BOLTON: Well, I think Romney is in the long stream of Republican presidents and candidates who believe in the doctrine of peace through strength, that a strong America is less likely to face challenges and difficulties than a weak America.

    Obama has a very different view. He's obviously comfortable with American decline. He doesn't see international problems and threats as being nearly as serious as they are in the terrorism area, the proliferation area and others. And he's presiding over a hollowing out of the American military, which I think will have significant down sides for us in the years to come.

    Bolton later added that Romney has “had extensive international experience both in his business career, as governor of Massachusetts, and in something that's not well heralded, I think, his success with the Salt Lake City Olympics.”

  • On the May 1 edition of America's Newsroom, Bolton discussed a campaign ad that described the mission that killed Osama bin Laden and criticized Mitt Romney. Bolton called Obama's criticism “un-presidential” and “beneath the dignity of the office.”
  • On the May 1 edition of America Live, Bolton defended Romney from criticism by the Obama campaign. When asked about Obama's criticism of Romney's 2007 remarks about going into Pakistan to apprehend or kill Bin Laden, Bolton said that the “full context of Governor Romney's statement made it clear there was no lack of enthusiasm for going after Obama [sic]. And indeed, I think the Obama campaign ad that discusses that really is kind of out of line.”

Jay Sekulow

On January 15, the Romney campaign issued a release announcing the endorsements of Jay Sekulow and Jordan Sekulow (Jay's son). Romney stated: “I look forward to working with them to ensure that we can bring conservative change to Washington.”

During a January 17 interview on TRN's America's Morning News, co-host John McCaslin identified Sekulow as a “legal adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign.” Sekulow identified himself as “an adviser” during the interview.

In the lead-up to the Ohio primary on March 6, the Romney campaign released a radio ad with Sekulow.

On April 6, Politico's Jonathan Martin identified Sekulow as a Romney adviser and reported that Sekulow is serving as a liaison “between the former Massachusetts governor and movement conservatives.” Martin added that Sekulow helped coordinate a meeting “with about 10 prominent Republican leaders.”

Sekulow reportedly previously served as an adviser to Romney's political action committee and his 2008 presidential campaign. He is also chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice.

ACLJ spokesman Gene Kapp told Media Matters in an email that “Sekulow is an active supporter, endorser, and friend of Mitt Romney and has been for many years. He has endorsed Romney in his individual capacity as a private citizen, not as chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. His support is voluntary and unpaid.”

Sekulow regularly appears on Fox News to discuss various legal issues. Sekulow is usually introduced as a representative of the American Center for Law and Justice. During these appearances, he often criticizes the Obama administration, though his connection to the Romney campaign goes undisclosed. For example:

  • On the February 13 edition of Hannity, Sekulow attacked the Obama administration for the contraception mandate, which he claimed was a violation of the First Amendment. After Fox contributor Tamara Holder suggested Romney was OK with a similar mandate in Massachusetts, Sekulow defended Romney's record and clarified that Romney, along with the other Republican candidates, “has been very clear” that he opposes Obama's position on the mandate. While defending Romney, Sekulow announced that he was “speaking here as a citizen.”
  • On the April 18 edition of America Live, Sekulow appeared opposite Democratic consultant Julian Epstein to discuss news that Republican senators had joined a lawsuit against the Obama administration over recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. During the segment, Sekulow effectively endorsed the merits of the lawsuit and repeatedly suggested that President Obama's appointments were unconstitutional.
  • On the April 25 edition of America Live, Sekulow appeared opposite Epstein to comment on the controversial Arizona immigration law. Near the end of the segment, anchor Megyn Kelly asked about what the political ramifications would be if the Supreme Court upholds the law. Sekulow responded by attacking the Obama administration: “If this lawsuit was initiated because of politics, that says something about the current administration. That is awful, if that's the reason that this was brought in the first place - which I suspect it was.”

Walid Phares

According to his biography, Walid Phares “joined Fox News in January 2007 and serves as Middle East and terrorism expert.”

An October 6, 2011, Romney campaign press release listed Phares as a special adviser on Romney's foreign policy and national security advisory team. Phares signed a March 27 “open letter” to President Obama in which he and others were listed as “Romney Foreign Policy Advisers.”

Phares' most recent appearance on a Fox property was on the April 19 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, where he was critical of the Obama administration's handling of Syria. Phares was identified as a Fox News Middle Eastern affairs analyst and an author but not as a Romney adviser.

Phares last appeared on Fox News during the February 26 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, during which Phares criticized the Obama administration's apology for a Quran burning by American personnel at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Phares' Romney connection was not disclosed during that appearance.

A request for comment to Phares was not returned.

* Media Matters searched the Nexis database,, and Media Matters' internal archives for appearances.