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  • In patently unethical move, CNN hires John Kasich even as he considers presidential bid

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    CNN has hired former Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich as a contributor even though he is considering running for president in 2020. Kasich’s hire is the latest example of a cable news outlet unethically allowing potential office seekers to use its national platform to boost their future election chances while simultaneously drawing a paycheck. Kasich will undoubtedly use his CNN platform to draw a contrast between himself and President Donald Trump, as he did during the 2016 GOP primary. But his “carefully cultivated appearance” as a moderate is anything but accurate.

    On January 15, CNBC reported that Kasich will work at CNN as a senior political contributor. Kasich’s chief political strategist, John Weaver, told CNBC that CNN “is a strong platform for the governor to continue to offer his positive vision to the country and engage on the vital issues facing America.” As CNBC’s report notes, the hire also comes as Kasich “is planning to go on a West Coast swing this week to meet with donors and business leaders, including traveling to Los Angeles and parts of Silicon Valley.” He is reportedly considering running for president as either an independent or a Republican.

    Kasich previously parlayed a cable news gig into political office. After leaving Congress in 2001, he worked at Fox News between 2001 and 2009 as a host and contributor (while also working for Lehman Brothers from 2001-2008). He then successfully ran for governor of Ohio in 2010, with Fox News acting as one of his biggest cheerleaders. The phenomenon repeated itself when Fox News gave Kasich friendly coverage leading up to his announcement of a 2016 presidential run. 

    When Kasich announced his candidacy on July 21, 2015, he immediately received a return on his investment with Fox; during that day’s broadcast of The Five, then-host Kimberly Guilfoyle said that Kasich “does have a tremendous amount of experience and private sector in government and as governor,” while mentioning his previous employment with Fox. Fox’s Dana Perino added that “I said for a while that I think the folks are going to like him because they have for a long time,” while Geraldo Rivera proclaimed, “Kasich could do it.”

    In August 2015, then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly acknowledged that he was advising Kasich. (Kasich was previously a frequent guest host on The O’Reilly Factor, which was cancelled in 2017 following public reports about O’Reilly subjecting some of his staff members and guests to years of sexual harassment. Kasich has denied knowing about sexual harassment at Fox while he was an employee.)

    Kasich has spoken candidly about the value of a cable news job in aiding political aspirations. In the lead-up to his 2016 presidential run, Kasich reportedly "endeared himself to the conservatives by mentioning his past TV work," telling a group of conservatives: "I used to be at Fox News. I was a big star at one time." In 2015, David Kushma of Toledo, OH, paper The Blade noted that Kasich's "tenure at Fox News, where he honed his heartland persona, helped make him media-savvy.” And a 2002 Columbus Dispatch profile noted that Kasich "wants to be in the White House," but in the meantime was "concerned about doing a good job with Fox, developing as 'a media person' and connecting with viewers."

    Kasich’s hire by CNN is reminiscent of the revolving door between political candidacy and cable news punditry most often associated with Fox News. Media reporter Howard Kurtz noted on CNN.com in 2013 that “Fox News is the model” for the practice, citing the hire of “potential 2012 contenders like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, with the latter two jumping from Rupert Murdoch's team into the presidential primaries,” and noting, “There is no question that the high-profile platform gave them a boost.” (Kurtz left CNN and joined Fox News as a media critic later that year.)

    During the 2016 primaries -- in which, in addition to Kasich, Huckabee, Santorum, and Ben Carson also ended up running for president -- CNN’s Reliable Sources show discussed the phenomenon of the “Fox News primary” in which GOP candidates courted network executives and made appearances on the network central features of their campaigns. (Although he was never a paid employee, Trump infamously boosted his profile through years of regular appearances on Fox News.)

    As he considers running for president, Kasich will now have a national platform to workshop his potential appeal to voters and distinguish himself from the current Republican president. Yet Kasich has a number of ultra-conservative positions and views, such as his extreme anti-choice positions, deep-seated animus toward labor unions, opposition to same-sex marriage, and refusal to take climate change seriously.

    While Kasich used media appearances during the 2016 campaign to present himself as reasonable and friendly, that hasn’t always been the case. During a 2009 guest-hosting appearance on Fox, Kasich sounded indistinguishable from Trump, ranting about “illegals” and heaping praise on then-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was later convicted of a crime for refusing to stop violating the civil rights of Latinos.

  • Paul Manafort’s Russian collusion smoking gun of little interest to Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    New reports that President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared polling data during the 2016 presidential campaign with an individual connected to Russian intelligence have received little attention on Fox News. Previously, the question of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia has been an endless topic of discussion on the network, with Fox serving as a hub for “no collusion” defenders of Trump.

    On January 8, a major story broke on the collusion issue with reports surfacing that improperly redacted court documents filed by Manafort’s legal team indicate that Manafort shared 2016 polling data with Konstantin V. Kilimnik, an individual widely believed to have ties to Russian intelligence.

    Manafort’s lawyers are not disputing whether their client shared the information. But they are wrangling with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team over whether Manafort’s failure to tell the special counsel’s office about his actions should lead to the suspension of Manafort’s plea agreement for conspiracy and obstruction of justice convictions.

    This bombshell development has been the subject of just three brief news packages from Fox News correspondent Catherine Herridge as of 12 p.m. EST, according to a search of iQ Media. The only other mentions of the story have been two headlines during the January 9 broadcasts of Fox & Friends First and America's Newsroom, and a 32-second report from Fox News host Sandra Smith on America’s Newsroom. Notably, Smith’s report was a brazen attempt to get ahead of the story and move the goalposts, in which she found room to add “there is no indication that ... then-candidate Trump was aware of any interaction.”

    Trump’s favorite news show Fox & Friends didn’t cover the Manafort story during its January 9 broadcast. That show has bent over backward to dismiss investigations into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, and it has previously ignored reports that suggested collusion did occur.

    Collusion has been an endless topic of discussion on Fox News, with the network’s commentary on the issue vacillating between the claims that there was no collusion and that if collusion did occur, it is not improper or a crime. According to a Media Matters review of 487 segments on Hannity about the first year of Mueller’s investigation, 191 segments included commentators suggesting that there had been no collusion between Trump or his associates and Russia, and 25 segments involved commentators suggesting that collusion is not a crime.

  • Fox host Brian Kilmeade said he wouldn't donate to campaigns, but he's apparently happy to keynote a GOP fundraiser

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News host Brian Kilmeade is headlining a fundraiser for Republicans just months after he claimed he had “no interest in giving to any campaign.”

    Kilmeade is a co-host of Fox & Friends, which has become one of the most influential programs in the country because of the feedback loop between the morning show and President Donald Trump.

    Kilmeade donated $601.71 to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. When news of the donation surfaced last October, Kilmeade told The Hill that he "bought ornaments two years ago before Christmas for people that like Donald Trump" and "had no idea that this would be considered a donation.” He also defended himself by claiming to be above financially helping politicians, stating: "Even if I wasn't in this business, I would never be giving contributions out to people. Especially after an election … I have no interest in giving to any campaign about anything."

    But Kilmeade apparently has no problem being the face of a GOP fundraiser that requires a political contribution to attend and stands to financially help Republican campaigns.

    The Williamson County Republican Party in Tennessee recently announced that Kilmeade will be the keynote speaker of its annual Reagan Day Dinner, which is the party’s "largest fundraiser." An invitation to the February 16 event, which will also feature Rep.-elect Mark Green (R-TN), says that ticket prices start at $150 per person and a “VIP reception” with Kilmeade costs $200.

    The Williamson County GOP states that the organization exists "to facilitate events and dialogue among Republicans across Middle Tennessee" and helps "elect Republicans in Williamson County and throughout the state of Tennessee."

    As Media Matters has repeatedly documented, Fox News hosts and contributors have done fundraising events for Republican parties and candidates (and sometimes get paid to do them). Pete Hegseth, who co-hosts the weekend edition of Fox & Friends, also regularly does Republican fundraisers. In 2018, Hegseth was paid to keynote a fundraiser for a Republican committee in Michigan with then-Senate candidate John James and then repeatedly interviewed James on his program (Hegseth didn’t disclose the financial connection on Fox News).

    Despite ample evidence to the contrary, Fox News has claimed it "does not condone any talent participating in campaign events."

    It’s not clear whether Kilmeade is getting paid for the speaking gig. Either way, Kilmeade would likely financially benefit from the fundraiser: The invitation states that Republicans will "receive a copy of Brian’s new book 'Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans'" with their ticket.

    The Williamson County Republican Party and Fox News did not respond to requests for comment.

    Update (1/3/19): The event flyer has been updated to remove a reference to attendees receiving a copy of Kilmeade's book. The tickets page still indicates that donors will be receiving copies.

  • Fox & Friends ignores new report on scale of Russian disinformation 

    Fox’s morning show attacked the Russia investigation instead of reporting on a new study about Russian efforts to back Trump

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox & Friends ignored news of a new Senate report detailing Russia’s extensive social media operations to sway voter opinion in favor of President Donald Trump.

    The research, conducted for the Senate by Oxford University, is “the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee” related to Russia’s disinformation campaign. The Washington Post reported on a draft of the study over the weekend, writing that “the operation used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump — and worked even harder to support him while in office.” The report obtained by The Washington Post has been provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which plans to release it publicly later this week.

    Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite morning news show, failed to mention the report even once on its December 17 show. Instead, the show’s coverage continued to criticize the Russia investigation, offering claims that there is still “no proof of collusion,” complaints about the cost of the investigation, objections to the treatment of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and criticism of former FBI Director James Comey. This lack of coverage falls in line with Fox & Friendshabit of ignoring news stories related to the Russia investigation that paint the president in a negative light.

    In contrast, CNN’s New Day and MSNBC’s Morning Joe mentioned the report multiple times throughout the morning, with at least one in-depth segment on each show.

  • Jeanine Pirro was paid to speak at GOP event with Kevin McCarthy -- who thanked her on Fox the next day

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Earlier this year, the Kern County Republican Central Committee in California paid Fox News host Jeanine Pirro $25,000 to keynote a fundraiser that also featured House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). The very next day, McCarthy, whose district includes most of the county, appeared on Pirro’s show and thanked her for giving “a great speech.”

    Pirro is a Republican who hosts the weekend show Justice with Judge Jeanine. She appeared at a campaign rally with President Donald Trump last month. Fox News subsequently claimed that it “does not condone any talent participating in campaign events,” which is a blatant lie.

    Fox News personalities regularly appear at events for candidates and political parties and sometimes get paid to do them. Fox News personalities Lou Dobbs, Sebastian Gorka, Greg Gutfeld, and Pete Hegseth have received money to headline fundraising events. Media Matters recently documented more than $200,000 in speaking fees that Pirro has received from 13 Republican organizations in the past two years.

    The help isn’t always just contained to the event. As Media Matters documented last week, the Livingston County Republican Committee in Michigan paid Hegseth to keynote a fundraiser with then-Senate candidate John James. Hegseth then repeatedly interviewed James on his Fox & Friends Weekend program (and didn’t disclose the payment from the committee).

    Pirro has similarly used her Fox News program to push a Republican cause that was related to her speaking fee.

    On March 16, the Kern County GOP hosted a fundraising dinner featuring Pirro. According to Federal Election Commission records, the party paid Pirro a total of $25,000 for speaking at the event (the party sent its payment to Fox News’ New York City headquarters). Kevin McCarthy, whose 23rd Congressional District "covers most of Kern,” also spoke at the event.

    Pirro also tweeted a picture of herself with McCarthy at the fundraiser:

    On the following day, March 17, Pirro hosted McCarthy and told him: “Happy Saint Patrick's Day, and especially in Kern County where I saw you last night. Great Republican county.” McCarthy replied: “Well, you gave a great speech.” At the conclusion of the interview, McCarthy said: “Judge, thank you so much for having me and thanks for coming to California. You are always welcome to come back.” Pirro did not mention the event payment during the interview.

    Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.