Last Saturday, July 23, Fox News host Mike Huckabee issued a verbal assault against the “smug, sniffy, self-appointed saints of journalism” during his opening monologue, following a report from The Daily Caller about Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's health. He lambasted “gumshoe, wanna-be investigative reporter” Brian Ross, chief investigative correspondent for ABC, for following up on that story with Bachmann on the campaign trail.
Huckabee's dismissal of the profession of journalism continued unabated. The host mocked Ross because he, in Huckabee's words, “leapt onto the stage to confront Congresswoman Bachmann to demand that she answer his questions.” He later added, “Look, reporters have a right to ask questions, but they don't have a right to demand an answer -- and certainly not to physically invade a candidate's personal space or to refuse to accept 'no' for an answer.”
According to this prominent Fox News host, a journalist shouldn't press politicians to answer questions because he risks being an “inconsiderate jerk.” Such an attitude has pervaded the network's ongoing coverage of the Republican presidential candidates. When Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked Bachmann during a June 17 interview whether she'd refrain from criticizing other Republicans on the field, she dodged answering the question repeatedly, and Doocy let her off the hook:
DOOCY: Tim Pawlenty said last night on the Sean Hannity program that he thought it was probably a mistake that at the debate he didn't go after Mitt Romney.
Going forward, have you adopted Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of fellow Republicans?
BACHMANN: Well, what I want to do is speak the truth when I'm talking in debates about what the issues are in front of us. And I think, you know, all of our records will be coming out more and more, and we'll just be talking about the truth, I think, about our own records.
DOOCY: Would it be safe to say that if there's going to be any attacking from Michele Bachmann, it'll be at the president of the United States and his record?
BACHMANN: I think that's what you saw on Monday night, and I think that's what you'll be seeing going forward because he's the one that we need to make sure -- right now our number one goal is to make sure that Barack Obama is a one-term president. That's the goal.
DOOCY: And real quickly, I just saw you got a book deal. What's it going to be about?
Republican candidates on Fox don't need to worry whether their hosts will ask follow up questions to long-winded, open-ended answers, either. Fox & Friends' June 15 interview with Newt Gingrich illustrates the point, where co-hosts Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade failed to follow up with questions about any of the specifics he laid out. In fact, they openly praised his response:
DOOCY: So we've got some real troubles in this country, Newt, right now with jobs and the economy. If president, how would you turn things around?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I would go to a tax-cut program of zero capital-gains tax which would bring in hundreds of billions of dollars. The 12 and a half percent corporate rate which would bring back a trillion dollars of money that's currently held overseas. A hundred percent expensing so businesses could buy new equipment and write it off in one year to make our workers the most productive in the world.
And abolish the death tax permanently. In addition, I'd repeal the Sarbanes-Oxley bill and the Dodd-Frank bill to get regulations off the back of small business, small banks, home builders, home buyers.
And finally, I would have an American energy policy that emphasized creating jobs in the United States with American energy. You take those things together, you start getting back to a full employment economy.
CARLSON: Sounds like that's a plan.
KILMEADE: There's no doubt about it. You have the answers to just about every question or a theory out there that makes every -- the debate stronger.
And during a Fox & Friends July 6 interview, Carlson not only asked a non-substantive question to candidate Thad McCotter, but she failed to pursue McCotter's dodge for a definitive answer and instead reinterpreted his reply to fit whatever she decided he meant to say:
CARLSON: Alright, let's say that you get the nomination, and you only have two choices to pick for vice president: They happen to be Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota, or the former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. Who'd be your choice?
MCCOTTER: Well, I'm not going to presume the nomination, and I'm also smart enough not to jump into the middle of that.
CARLSON: Okay, so you like them both, I guess.
So who's winning the Fox Primary? Each week at Media Matters, we watch the interviews, crunch the numbers, and tell you what Fox is up to in the presidential campaign.
Last Week's Results
Total time: 1 hours and 37 minutes*; Total appearances: 18*
Most Total Airtime on Fox: John Bolton (24 minutes)*
Most Total Appearances: John Bolton (6 appearances)*
Fox Show with the Most Total Candidate Airtime: On the Record with Greta Van Susteren (32 minutes)*
Fox Show with the Most Candidate Appearances: On the Record with Greta Van Susteren (6 appearances)*
Longest Candidate Interview: Huckabee (9 minutes with Michele Bachmann)
Softball Question(s) of the Week: During her July 20 interview with Jim DeMint* (who is not a presidential candidate), host Greta Van Susteren asked the senator a series of questions that began with her own assessment of the economy before speculating over the personal motivations of Democrats:
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, see, I -- if I were the president, I'd be worried about that February '09 stimulus bill and the fact that we still haven't pulled out of our employment situation as being sort of a signal that we're on the wrong track.
DEMINT: He doesn't understand that the private sector creates our economy. The stimulus was government spending. And now he wants to take more taxes out of the private economy in a recession. He doesn't know how American, free-enterprise capitalism works.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, why do the other Democrats go along with him?
DEMINT: Well, again, I don't know. It's politics. But they're playing politics with the tax increase that would do more to hurt jobs than to create them.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think they want to raise taxes?
DEMINT: Because they believe in a centralized government and collectivism and they've demonstrated --
VAN SUSTEREN: Different ideology?
DEMINT: That is a different ideology. But a balanced budget over time, Greta, would have to change their agenda. The campaigns could no longer be about promising more from government -- more government programs. They couldn't create more government dependency, which creates more dependable votes.
We've got a polarization in Washington, but outside of Washington -- I write about it in The Great Awakening -- is America is uniting around fiscal issues. You've got Libertarians and liberals and Democrats and independents coming to Tea Parties because they're concerned about our spending and our debt. That's what they did last November.
If Republicans cave here, Greta, you're going to see the deterioration of the Republican Party. If the president is willing to go past August the 2nd -- and I don't want to because he's pulling the strings -- he can make it look like chaos, even if it's not. Republicans are going to have to give the president our best proposal, and if he doesn't like it, he needs to give us one.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you. And congratulations on the book, The Great American Awakening. Thank you, sir.
DEMINT: Thanks, Greta.
(A table of the July 18 - 24 data is available here.)
The Numbers Since June 1
Total time: 21 hours and 12 minutes*; Total appearances: 167*
Most Total Airtime on Fox since June 1: Herman Cain (3 hours and 8 minutes)
Most Total Appearances since June 1: John Bolton (31 appearances)
Fox Show with the Most Total Candidate Airtime Since June 1: Hannity (3 hours and 28 minutes)*
Fox Show with the Most Candidate Appearances since June 1: Fox and Friends (24 appearances)
Longest Candidate Interview since June 1: Stossel (40 minutes with Gary Johnson)
(A table of all the data since June 1 is available here.)
Updated: Declared And Potential Presidential Candidates
Buddy Roemer. Former Governor of Louisiana. Roemer announced his candidacy on July 21, 2011.
Previous Fox Primary Reports
Media Matters searched the Nexis database for appearances on Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and Fox News Sunday for the 16 declared and potential presidential candidates in question: Michele Bachmann, John Bolton, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Thad McCotter, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Tim Pawlenty, Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Donald Trump.
For programs where a transcript was unavailable, Media Matters reviewed the raw video.
Changes to the reports
Media Matters added McCotter to the data beginning on June 20 and Roemer beginning on July 21.
*Correction: We have dropped all DeMint data from the report. During Laura Ingraham's June 14 show, DeMint told the conservative talk radio host that he is “not considering” a run for president in 2012. Media Matters regrets the error.