“I love ya”: Huckabee promotes “dear friend” Kasich

While Fox News has countless ethically dubious relationships with GOP candidates - Christine O'Donnell saying she has Hannity in her “back pocket” springs to mind - the network's promotion of Ohio gubernatorial candidate John Kasich stands out as uniquely absurd.

As we've documented, Kasich is the former Fox News host that is currently the GOP candidate for governor in Ohio. In addition to repeatedly using his platform as a Fox host to position himself for a run, Kasich continued to appear regularly - in at least 123 segments* - on-air as a Fox contributor from the time he announced that he was paving the way for a gubernatorial run in March of 2008 until he officially declared his candidacy on June 1, 2009. Since declaring his candidacy, Kasich has continued to reap benefits from his cozy relationship with the network, with several hosts campaigning for him and openly rooting for him.

As we noted earlier, Sean Hannity is currently under fire for allowing Kasich to promote his website and fundraise on Hannity's show on Thursday night. But Kasich's appearance on Hannity wasn't his only appearance on the network in the past few days.

On Saturday, Fox News host Mike Huckabee invited Kasich onto his show to field softballs about his modest upbringing and conservative bona fides. During the intro for the segment, Huckabee noted “in the interest of full disclosure” that he is “a friend of John and his wife Karen.” He added that “as someone who has endorsed him, I am not the least bit objective.” You don't say.

Not only has Huckabee offered verbal support for Kasich, but his PAC has offered financial support, as well. Following in the tradition of his fellow Fox hosts appearing at fundraisers for GOP candidates, Huckabee appeared at a campaign event for Kasich last October. In a press release sent out in January of this year, Kasich was listed among the GOP candidates that HuckPAC supported in 2009. Kasich is also listed in HuckPAC's “candidates” section, where he is described by Huckabee as a “good friend.”

Introducing the Kasich interview, Huckabee stressed the “importance” of Ohio in the “national political landscape” while noting President Obama's recent visits to the state. Huckabee then kicked off the conversation by asking Kasich why Obama is “so focused” on the governor's race in the state, to which Kasich replied that Obama “knows if he loses the governor's office in Ohio - which is ground zero - he's in deep trouble for 2012.”

Huckabee then stressed that “a lot of the attention on Ohio goes because in a presidential election, Ohio is often the tipping point.” Kasich helpfully noted that his opponent, Ted Strickland, has noted that “whoever wins in '10 is going to help the candidate for president in '12.” Watch:

Why is this important? Well, as we've noted in the past, Mike Huckabee -- along with fellow Fox news personalities Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, John Bolton and Rick Santorum - is often cited as a likely 2012 GOP presidential candidate. Essentially, in promoting his “dear friend” for governor, Huckabee was also promoting his own candidacy for president.

Huckabee noted that they have invited Strickland onto the program, but he has not accepted the invitation yet. Gee, I wonder why Strickland would be reluctant to walk into that surely-balanced interview.

And, as if this appearance didn't already have enough ethical issues, let's round it out with one more. As reported by Howard Kurtz in December of 2009, Fox execs “told Huckabee to stop plugging [his] Web site on the air after learning that it linked to his political action committed which the network deemed a conflict of interest.” As we've noted, Huckabee has used his program to promote the website "balancecutsave.com," which redirects visitors to a web page soliciting donations for Huckabee's political action committee. Right before the Kasich infomercial, Huckabee plugged his website, MikeHuckabee.com, which, as it did when Huckabee earned a reprimand from Fox execs, still links to his PAC on its homepage.

So, if you're keeping score: in the span of a few minutes, Fox News host/possible 2012 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee plugged his website, which links to the PAC that he uses to promote GOP candidates around the country. He then hosted one such candidate, his “dear friend” whom he “love[s],” former Fox News host/current GOP gubernatorial candidate in Ohio, John Kasich. During the softball-laden interview, Huckabee managed to promote both Kasich's candidacy in November and Huckabee's potential candidacy in 2012 by explaining that Ohio often represents the “tipping point” in presidential elections.

Just another Saturday night on FoxPAC.

*CLARIFICATION: This post has been updated to clarify that Kasich appeared in at least 123 segments on Fox News. When Kasich guest-hosted The O'Reilly Factor, Media Matters counted each segment.