Is Keith Ablow Violating Fox's Policy Against Product Endorsements?

Fox News contributor Keith Ablow is serving as a “spokesperson” and infomercial host for a diet company called GOLO. Fox said in 2009 that the network “prohibits any on-air talent from endorsing products or serving as a product spokesperson.”  

Ablow is “a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team.” Though he purports to offer sound medical advice, Ablow's Fox News appearances often devolve into cheap political smears and “pop-psychology nonsense.” Ablow once blamed the rise of birthers on President Barack Obama supposedly “sever[ing] himself from all core emotion.” He claimed that Vice President Joe Biden may be suffering from dementia. And Ablow was named Media Matters' 2011 Misinformer of the Year on LGBT Issues for regularly launching anti-LGBT attacks that, in the words of an American Psychiatric Association fellow, “have little basis in current clinical practices.” Earlier this year, Ablow decided against running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts as a Republican.

GOLO describes itself as “a complete lifestyle solution that creates safe, sustainable weight loss and is effective in reversing obesity, diabetes and heart disease risk factors.” Its corporate material states that “Ablow has teamed up with GOLO as their spokesperson.”

GOLO's marketing campaign features Ablow and his Fox News credentials. The front of the company's website touts Ablow's endorsement and identifies him as a “FOX NEWS psychiatry expert.” 

Ablow is quoted on the website's page for “Expert Opinions” about the product, and a separate page under “WHAT DOCTORS ARE SAYING” about GOLO.

An April 25 GOLO press release touts Ablow's Fox News affiliation and quotes him stating, “I've never endorsed a product before. But I was impressed by GOLO's sound nutrition and fitness principles that reduce belly fat, stabilize the metabolism and help reverse Insulin Resistance so that people can get back their health and vitality.” A March 6 GOLO press release also featured a testimonial from Ablow and highlighted his Fox News affiliation.

Ablow is the star of a 28-minute infomercial for GOLO. A search for “GOLO” found that Ablow's infomercial has been airing on numerous local television stations across the country in June.

Ablow has written about GOLO on his Twitter account. On February 21, Ablow tweeted: “I am the spokesperson for the best diet in the world: GOLO. Check it out." He tweeted on February 27: “Help make it happen for GOLO: Saving lives one pound at a time. on @indiegogo [a financial crowdsourcing site]"

Ablow is working with another company, LOGIC Technology, to conduct a clinical study of its e-cigarettes “to determine their effects on reducing or eliminating tobacco product usage.” A company press release announcing its partnership with Ablow noted his Fox News affiliation, and quoted its CEO and Ablow:

“We are thrilled to work with distinguished psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow to conduct this study,” said Eli Alelov, CEO of LOGIC Technology. “Minimal statistical data exists about electronic cigarettes and their effectiveness in supporting a switch from traditional cigarettes and we think it is imperative to educate the public on the benefits of this product. We think Dr. Ablow's findings will support the rapidly growing industry and prove what we have been saying for years, that LOGIC is a smarter alternative helping to convert American smokers to better choices.”

“I reached out to LOGIC about this informal, expanded series of clinical case studies because I cannot understand why universities and the government are not aggressively exploring the use of electronic cigarettes to help smokers stop using tobacco,” said Keith Ablow, MD. “I am a supporter of electronic cigarettes in aiding patients to make smarter choices with their smoking habits.”

Fox News drew criticism in 2009 over then-Fox News host (and Ablow book collaborator) Glenn Beck promoting gold both on Fox News and as a paid gold company spokesperson. The Times reported on December 14, 2009:

''[Beck's representatives] sent back word that he is not a paid spokesman,'' Mr. [then-Fox News vice president Joel] Cheatwood said, adding that it would be ''problematic without question'' if Mr. Beck did have a position as a paid spokesman for a product.

Fox News released a statement outlining its official policy about such issues: ''Fox News prohibits any on-air talent from endorsing products or serving as a product spokesperson.''

Fox News stressed that it was not aware that Mr. Beck was listed on the Internet as a paid spokesman. But he definitely was, until very recently. On cached editions of the Goldline Web site over the last week to 10 days, a photograph of Mr. Beck was accompanied by an asterisk which led to a line at the bottom of the site that read: ''paid spokesman.''

Jeff Bercovici -- then with Daily Finance -- reported: “Fox News prohibits its on-air personalities from making paid product endorsements. But it makes an exception for its commentators who are also radio hosts, who are allowed to perform live reads, says Joel Cheatwood, senior vice president for development.” Ablow does not have a radio program.

Politico's Ken Vogel reported that after the Beck criticism, “Fox says it has taken steps that will ensure that its policy of prohibiting product endorsements from anyone on-air is followed.”

Media Matters previously reported that Charles Payne, a contributor and frequent guest host for Fox News and Fox Business, was compensated to endorse the stocks of at least three companies since joining Fox. Payne was paid $40,000 to promote The Brainy Brands Company, "$25,000 by a third party" to promote NXT Nutritionals Holdings, and an undisclosed amount for a “consulting arrangement” to promote Generex Biotechnology Corporate. The share prices of those companies are now essentially worthless.  

MarketWatch reported on June 18 that a Fox spokesman said “no Contributor to FBN, nor his/her firm, and/or family members are allowed to accept financial consideration of any kind whatsoever to issue research, advertisements, or to otherwise promote individual stocks or securities.” As a result of the rule, Fox News fired contributor Tobin Smith, who regularly releases paid stock endorsements.

GOLO, Ablow, and Fox News did not respond to requests for comment.