How Fox News Turned Ben Carson Into A Likely Presidential Candidate

Network Cuts Ties As Carson Prepares For A 2016 Run

Update: Fox News has reportedly cut ties with contributor Ben Carson following the announcement that he will be airing a biographical 40-minute ad this weekend in the first salvo of his 2016 campaign for president. According to the Washington Post's Erik Wemple, a Fox spokeswoman said that “Carson understood the network's reasons for terminating his contributor status and that the two parted amicably.”

This announcement came over a month after Fox News senior vice president Neil Cavuto told Carson on-air, “I think you're running for office now.”

Original Post:

Fox News contributor Ben Carson now claims that he will likely run for president in 2016, capping off a more than year-long campaign by the network to promote his political ambitions. Carson's potential run continues the seemingly never-ending series of Republicans who have used Fox as a jumping off point for runs for office.

During a September 22 appearance on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Carson told Hewitt that the “likelihood is strong” he will throw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination in 2016, “unless the American people indicate in November that they like big government intervention in every part of their lives.”

While Carson has repeatedly discussed the idea of running in recent months -- often in response to questions about the multi-million dollar “Draft Ben Carson” movement -- his comments to Hewitt seem like the strongest indication that he will seek the nomination. (Hewitt concluded based on the interview that it was “Pretty clear he will be running for president.”)

Carson's assertion that he will likely run once again raises questions about Fox News' ongoing unethical arrangement with contributors that are planning bids for office. The network has repeatedly given its contributors a megaphone (and a paycheck) while they openly discuss future political plans, only severing their contracts once the employee-candidates file official paperwork.

It's created a situation where it encourages the network's stable of future candidates to delay a formal announcement while continuing to benefit from Fox News' prominent platform, which can amount to millions of dollars of what is essentially free advertising. This ethically shady setup has previously been criticized by current Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz, who wrote for the Daily Beast in 2011, “The longer candidates stay in the Fox camp, the longer they can utilize the platform of the country's top-rated cable news channel--and pad their bank accounts to boot.”

And while Carson considers a run, Fox News is happy to help stoke the speculation. Fox News and other conservative media are responsible in large part for helping catapult Carson from a career as a renowned neurosurgeon into his current incarnation as a political bombthrower -- with a penchant for spouting nonsense -- following a 2013 speech he gave attacking President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Shortly after that speech, he quickly became a media star, with Fox News figures quickly latching onto the idea he should run for president. The day after he delivered his speech, Sean Hannity hosted Carson on his Fox News show, asked him if he would ever run for president, then announced, “I would vote for you in a heartbeat.” The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed titled “Ben Carson for President.” A week later, one of Fox's news programs dedicated a segment to one of the day's “top stories,” which was the “buzz” that Carson should run for office.

Following several more months of network personalities fawning over Carson, Fox News inevitably announced that it had hired him in October 2013. Since then, Fox News and Carson have continued to work together to build his political brand and promote the idea that he is a viable presidential contender.

During a characteristic May 19, 2014, appearance on Hannity, sitting in front of a banner asking “Will He Run?” Carson bragged about how he's been greeted with “record crowds” everywhere he goes, as well as people constantly asking him if he would consider running for president. Carson also delivered what sounded a lot like stump speech material, saying, “I think what people really are looking for is common sense and courage and somebody who understands the constitution and the principles of freedom, innovation, social responsibility. And if somebody can come along with those things and really gain a lot of traction, I would be delighted. And if they don't I would certainly give it serious consideration.” 

Bill O'Reilly's lead story on August 26, 2014, was about the “rumors swirling that Dr. Ben Carson may run for president,” with O'Reilly touting Carson winning a presidential straw poll in Iowa. O'Reilly explained to Carson that if he plans to run for president, “you're gonna have to start now raising money,” because he has to build a campaign infrastructure. Asked by O'Reilly if he had started doing so, Carson responded, “yes, we've started the USA First PAC to do exactly that, but also to raise funds to help other candidates.”

Online, it's been more of the same. A article from August 2 pointed to Carson's formation of a political action committee as evidence he was “taking a couple of major steps toward a 2016 presidential bid.” Fox Nation has also posted numerous articles promoting Carson 2016 talk, featuring headlines like "Dr. Ben Carson: The Cure for 2016?" and "Conservative Push For Ben Carson 2016 Run Gains Momentum."

Now that Carson has repeatedly indicated he will “likely” run and has started building campaign infrastructure to do so, Fox News is once again giving a likely political candidate free advertising by not suspending or severing his contract until he makes a formal decision. If the past is any indication, however, this farce will continue for many months, even if it's an open secret Carson will run. See previously: Scott BrownNewt Gingrich, Rick SantorumJohn KasichPete Snyder, and numerous contributors like Sarah Palin who decided against runs but who spent months openly speculating about doing so on network airwaves.

And this being Fox News, Ben Carson of course has 2016 company. Mike Huckabee, a Fox News host who had a network platform while pondering a 2012 presidential run, has also been making the rounds lately pushing the idea that he is considering a 2016 run (Huckabee unsuccessfully ran for president in 2008). Huckabee's political action committee has sent out at least two emails this month promoting a CNN poll that found Huckabee as a top 2016 candidate among Iowa voters. Like with Carson, Fox News has also dutifully promoted the Huckabee 2016 speculation.

Fellow Fox News contributor John Bolton is also reportedly considering a 2016 run.