Fox News has hired former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain as a contributor. The move comes after the network encouraged Cain to run for president, and numerous personalities vigorously defended him against sexual harassment allegations that eventually sunk his candidacy.
Cain's hiring follows a similar path that Fox News took with Scott Brown and Sarah Palin, both of whom were lauded by Fox News as political figures and then signed to contributor contracts when they entered public life (Palin has since parted ways with Fox).
Prior to running for president, Cain was a frequent guest on Fox News and was touted as a possible presidential contender because of his business background. During his April 14, 2010, Tea Party-themed program, Sean Hannity called Herman Cain a “rock star” job creator. Hannity then asked his audience, “How many of you would like him to run for president?” which drew loud applause.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto frequently hosted Cain and prodded him to announce that he was running for president on his program. Cain has called Cavuto, who is also a vice president for Fox News, “one of my closest friends,” and said in September 2010 that Cavuto “has been trying to drag” a presidential announcement “out of me for months now.” It was no surprise, then, that Cain announced he was forming a presidential exploratory committee in an “exclusive first” interview on Cavuto's Fox News program on January 12, 2011.
According to a Media Matters analysis, between June 1, 2011, and January 22, 2012, candidate Cain logged 73 appearances on Fox News and Fox Business, amounting to 11 hours and six minutes of airtime. Cain made the second most Fox appearances of the Republican presidential candidates during that time period, beaten only by former Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich. Cain's Fox News time was especially important since, as media outlets reported, Cain's campaign structure was virtually nonexistent in several early primary states.
When allegations of past sexual harassment during Cain's business career surfaced during the campaign, Fox News personalities rallied to his defense by dismissing the seriousness of the allegations and claiming that Cain was the target of a “smear campaign” because he's a “black conservative,” and the victim of a “gold digger” and “scam artist.” Here are ten examples of Fox News hosts and contributors defending Cain:
- Then-Fox News contributor Dick Morris said of the allegations: “Well, this is ridiculous. ... This woman is in search of money. ... This woman has been unemployed for 13 years, and this is apparently payday. ... I look forward to her spread in Playboy.” Morris also called one of the accusers, Sharon Bialek, a “gold digger” and said her accusations were “outlandish.”
- Fox News host Andrea Tantaros attacked Bialek as a “scam artist” with an “illegitimate child.”
- Fox News host Sean Hannity reported on Bialek's accusations in a segment called, “Anatomy of a Smear Campaign.”
- Sean Hannity interviewed Gloria Allred, the attorney for one of Herman Cain's alleged sexual harassment victims. Hannity repeatedly questioned why the woman didn't immediately leave the vehicle after the alleged crime: “Why would one -- if that happened, and it was so traumatic, and it was so bad, why would she stay in the car with him?”
- Fox News host Greg Gutfeld said: “We're beginning to understand the ubiquitousness of sexual harassment claims and how because they're happening so often and they're everywhere, many of them are inherently meaningless, done to safeguard future reputation-damaging things, and you might not be guilty.”
- Fox host Mike Huckabee dismissed the sexual harassment allegations against Cain by comparing his alleged behavior to someone ordering food at Popeyes.
- Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume claimed that superiors in the workplace are now “at an equal or greater disadvantage” than their employees.
- Fox News host Eric Bolling claimed that the allegations were part of a “systematic taking apart of the right by the left.” He added that his “hunch is, you know, the left-wing nutjobs at Media Matters and all the other lefty blogs” were behind the Cain allegations.
- Fox News contributor Mike Gallagher dismissed the seriousness of the allegations, explaining: “The left hates blacks who are conservative”
- A Fox Nation post described Sharon Bialek as having “a Chicago smell.”
Fox's press release about Cain's hiring states that he “notably proposed the '9-9-9' tax plan to solve the nation's debt problem.” Fox News personalities, especially the hosts of Fox & Friends, presented Cain's plan as a legitimate proposal. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that Cain's proposal is “attractive” to voters because it's “so simple to understand.” Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson, meanwhile, proclaimed that “voters love, love, love” the 9-9-9 plan. In reality, as tax expert Edward Kleinbard and others have noted, Cain's plan would have led to “a huge tax hike for the working poor.”
Though Cain is now officially part of the Fox News family, he had previously incorrectly claimed he was a “Fox News contributor” in an apparent play to conservative voters. Politico noted in May 2011 that Cain “has been going around claiming he was a Fox News contributor for at least a year” and that Fox News denied Cain was a contributor and “asked both The Associated Press and The Washington Post to run corrections and tweak their stories to make it clear that Cain was not a contributor, only a guest.”