Fox News host Howard Kurtz invited Republican pollster Frank Luntz onto his show to praise Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) without disclosing Luntz's past financial ties to Rubio.
During the February 28 edition of MediaBuzz, Kurtz spoke to Luntz about his focus groups with Republican primary voters and the media's coverage of the Republican presidential primary.
Kurtz said there had been a notion that Rubio was “a media darling,” but that “everybody in the media beat up on him and some practically said he was finished” after coming in fifth place in the New Hampshire GOP primary. Luntz in response said Rubio was “a great communicator,” and that people thought “because he always sounds good, because he always sounds reasonable, therefore the media's in bed with him. That's not the case.” Luntz also said that Rubio had “won the last two out of three debates,” according to focus groups conducted by Luntz:
HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): So people are convinced that Fox or some other channel or some other network is for or against Rubio or Trump or Cruz. As if there's -- everyone is getting marching orders.
FRANK LUNTZ: I give you credit for putting that -- I'm shocked. That would never be on CNN. That would never be on MSNBC.
KURTZ: If it were about that network.
LUNTZ: If it were about their own network. So good for you for putting that on. Yes. And I get it all the time. If I go to the Trump blogs, then Fox is in the pockets of Rubio. If you go to Cruz blogs, it's in the pockets of Trump. If you go to the Rubio blogs, it's in the pockets of everybody else. People see what they want to see and they disregard the rest. We are all seeing things through rose colored glasses and it becomes almost impossible to be fair, which is why these debates are so important. Because it's the one time when you can actually hold the candidates accountable.
KURTZ: But just briefly on Rubio. The notion he's a media darling, after he had that performance where he was sort of hammered for being robotic and then finished fifth in New Hampshire, everybody in the media beat up on him and some practically said he was finished. So it's not like the entire business is pumping up this guy.
LUNTZ: He's a great communicator. And that's - they're conflating good communication with support from the media. They think that because he always sounds good, because he always sounds reasonable, therefore the media's in bed with him and that's not the case. But Rubio has won the last two out of three debates.
KURTZ: In your view or the view of the public?
LUNTZ: In the view of the focus groups and yet it hasn't moved numbers.
A January 2012 Wall Street Journal article reported that Rubio hired Luntz to assist in writing his book 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future when he was in the Florida House of Representatives, which Kurtz failed to disclose.
Fox News has repeatedly failed to disclose Luntz's ties to Rubio while allowing him to praise the presidential candidate. Host Neil Cavuto let Luntz in January claim that Rubio “is the most optimistic, the most focused on the American dream of any of the candidates” and “what the public needs right now.” The Kelly File later that month had Luntz host a focus group after a GOP debate in which he advised them to “watch how well [Rubio] did on immigration.” And in early February host Megyn Kelly again invited Luntz on to discuss Rubio, where Luntz claimed “Rubio is in perfect position” to do well in upcoming primaries.