After the Washington Post reported on the numerous steps Mike Huckabee is taking towards mounting a presidential run, Fox News announced that it was “evaluating his current status” as a contributor and planning to meet with him when he returned from an overseas trip. But Huckabee has returned from the trip and is back on-air at the network, hosting GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson's lobbyist to promote Adelson's “top” issue.
While Huckabee continues to use Fox News to bolster his political ambitions, the network has not offered a public update on his employment.
In a November 12 profile of Huckabee, Washington Post reporters Tom Hamburger and Robert Costa laid out the various ways Huckabee and his associates are gearing up for a potential presidential run. According to the Post, Huckabee and his team have been courting donors and GOP insiders, scheduling campaign planning meetings, and looking for a campaign headquarters.
Costa and Hamburger highlighted the “finesse” needed by Huckabee and his team to avoid losing his Fox News show, which Huckabee and his allies have repeatedly cited as important in keeping him visible to voters. According to “Republicans familiar with Huckabee's efforts,” the Fox host designed his new political group “to allow him to retain his Fox News contract, since the group is not overtly political.”
After the Post story was published, Media Matters called for Huckabee's suspension, citing the fact that the network had recently cut ties with Ben Carson -- another contributor who was publicly considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination -- and pointing out that Huckabee by any reasonable standard had provided just as much (if not more) evidence that he planned to enter the race.
Fox News executive vice president of programming Bill Shine subsequently told CNN that the network was “taking a serious look at Governor Huckabee's recent activity in the political arena and are evaluating his current status ... We plan on meeting with him when he returns from his trip overseas.”
Several veteran journalists and news ethicists told Media Matters that the network should suspend Huckabee, or at least keep him off the air until he comes to a final decision about a run.
Fox News seems largely unconcerned with Huckabee's ethical mess. Since returning from his overseas trip, Huckabee has continued his regular Fox appearances, along with positioning himself for 2016.
The tangled web of Huckabee's media platform and his 2016 aspirations was on display during the most recent episode of Huckabee.
On his November 22 program, Huckabee hosted former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who is now a lobbyist for casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands corporation and a national co-chair for The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), which Adelson formed and bankrolls. The Washington Post recently described a ban on Internet gambling as “the item on top of Adelson's wish list.”
RealClearPolitics reported in October that Adelson is perhaps “the most coveted man in Republican presidential politics” because of his large donations to Republican causes. Adelson is reportedly “weighing which Republican contender to patronize in 2016, and there is reason to believe he will consider Huckabee. The two men are friends and speak occasionally by phone.”
If Huckabee wants to gain favors with Adelson, he certainly helped his cause during the Lincoln segment. Huckabee aired an anti-Internet gambling ad from CSIG, encouraged people to visit the group's website (which Fox displayed on-screen), and said anyone who doesn't support their efforts “should be thrown out” of Congress. Lincoln defended brick and mortar casinos as responsible institutions that contribute to the economy. Huckabee and Fox News did not mention Lincoln and CSIG's connections to Adelson during the segment.
The inherent conflict of interest in employing a potential presidential candidate was also on display in other recent appearances by Huckabee.
Huckabee appeared as the “One Lucky Guy” on the November 21 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered. During the show, he weighed in on the potential presidential candidacy of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, telling viewers that while he respects her for voicing her opinions, “her convictions don't sync with most of America.” He added that her “views are so far to the left that it would be a disaster for the Democratic Party on the George McGovern scale if in fact she got the nomination.”
According to a review of Media Matters' internal video database, in recent days Huckabee has also appeared on Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto and Fox & Friends Saturday to attack President Obama for his recent immigration action.
Huckabee continues to be well-aware of the balancing act needed to keep his lucrative (and politically beneficial) Fox News gig.
Appearing on Fox News Radio on November 21, Huckabee told host John Gibson that “it's too early” to make a decision on a run, adding that he has to be “very, very careful with sort of the obligations that I have doing the show, doing the radio commentaries, to make sure that I stay on the right side of that threshold and not cross it and do something that would compromise, you know, the network, compromise me.” Gibson replied, saying that “once you're a candidate, an actual declared candidate, then, you know, then you become a guest on Fox and not a host.”
“That's right,” Huckabee replied.