Karl Rove continues Fox News “analysis” of election campaign — without disclosing Trump campaign ties

Rove publicly talks up Trump’s chances — while privately warning Trump about losing to Joe Biden

Fox News contributor Karl Rove, a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, has continued to make appearances on Fox’s “news”-side shows to offer up political analysis of the campaign between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden — without disclosing that he has been advising the Trump campaign.

During an appearance Tuesday on Bill Hemmer Reports, Rove also promoted his upcoming opinion column in The Wall Street Journal — also a Murdoch media property — about what he sees as the pitfalls of Biden’s public reemergence from the coronavirus lockdowns.

“He's been doing some media,” anchor Bill Hemmer said. ”When does he do a press conference, do you think?”

“Not for a while, given what those appearances are,” Rove said of Biden’s recent interviews. “I'm going to actually write about this in my Wall Street Journal column this week. So I'm not — I'm going to tease you a little bit, by saying I've been reading a lot of those. And if I were inside the Biden high command, I'd be very nervous about what I'm seeing in those transcripts.

Video file

Citation From the May 26, 2020, edition of Fox News’ Bill Hemmer Reports

In the Journal column itself, published online Wednesday evening, Rove tore into recent gaffes from Biden, predicting trouble when the Democratic nominee would ultimately have to face Trump directly.

Unless Mr. Biden can provide sharper, more coherent answers, he’s better off in the basement. Muddled responses raise questions about his fitness for office and lead to mistakes that advisers feel compelled to overcorrect. For example, Mr. Biden has promised to select a woman as a running mate, and there’s talk that “you ain’t black” means he must now pick a black woman. His team must also be worried about the debates with President Trump, who knows his way around a stage. Just ask the 2016 GOP field.

Then again, maybe Karl Rove isn’t the best person to give advice about awkward media moments and election analysis. (And he might not be quite as confident in private about Trump’s chances against Biden as he lets on in public.)

The Journal listed Rove’s biography at the end of the piece: “Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is author of ‘The Triumph of William McKinley’ (Simon & Schuster, 2015).” No information was given, either by the journal or Rove himself, about his role advising the Trump campaign.

NBC News and The New York Times reported on May 15 that Rove had recently visited the White House to meet with President Donald Trump. NBC reported that Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows took part in the meeting and that “Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has consulted Rove since the 2018 midterm elections.”

Business Insider reported additional details about Rove’s work with the Trump campaign, such as his focus on battleground states and down-ballot races, though he is not getting paid for the advice. Rove insisted, however, that he is not “informally advising” the campaign: “I think even that's too far. Occasionally Brad is kind enough to call me and to say, ‘What do you think about this?’ And I'm happy to give him my unvarnished advice and he can do with it what he will.”

Rove also made an appearance Wednesday on America’s Newsroom, during which co-anchor Sandra Smith asked him about a Politico article reporting that “several Trump advisers, campaign veterans and prominent Republicans” are worried about Trump’s poll numbers and “efforts to define and damage” Biden.

But again, there was no mention on the Fox show that Rove himself has been one of those “Trump advisers, campaign veterans and prominent Republicans.” (In fact, The New York Times had previously reported that during Rove’s visit to the White House earlier this month, he had “warned Mr. Trump that he had fallen behind in the task of damaging Mr. Biden, people familiar with the meeting said.”)

Instead, Rove publicly predicted that Trump will pull ahead later in the campaign season on key issues — and he also talked up the sort of unofficial coordination that takes place between campaign committees and big-money super PACs.

Video file

Citation From the May 27, 2020, edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom

SANDRA SMITH (CO-ANCHOR): Here's a Politico headline this morning: “‘Why are you not burying him?’:Trump allies fret over rising Biden threat.” And I read that headline as I now pull up the latest Fox News polling on the question “Who do you trust to do a better job on … ” -- the president still leading Joe Biden on handling of the economy, but Biden leads now by a wide margin on China — a 6% lead there — coronavirus handling, and health care, Karl.

KARL ROVE (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): I'd be very careful about reading a lot into the polls right now. For example, on the China issue, I think once that issue is debated and argued through the course of the campaign, that's going to be a winning issue for the president, as it has been in previous polls, and I suspect it will be again.

The key question is going to be, what happens in the weeks and months after the two conventions, when people's attention turns more firmly away from coronavirus, and more on the campaign? And look, the president and his challenger have — are going to be looking at many of the same states.

Anybody who thinks they know how this is going to turn out today is kidding themselves. Biden had a bigger lead at the end of March than he has today. The president does have a financial advantage. The question is whether his super PAC is going to be spending money now while his campaign has very clearly signaled they think they have the resources for September and Labor Day on. The question is, is everybody going to be sort of working in tandem as they need to, by reading each other's body language, or not?

Rove’s mention of the “body language” between campaigns and super PACs — as such cooperation is technically illegal, but routinely practiced — is also notable when it comes to another infamous episode: the smearing of Democratic nominee John Kerry’s war record in 2004 by a group known as “Swift Boat Veterans For Truth.”

The New York Times reported in August 2004 about the Swift Boat group:

A series of interviews and a review of documents show a web of connections to the Bush family, high-profile Texas political figures and President Bush's chief political aide, Karl Rove.

Records show that the group received the bulk of its initial financing from two men with ties to the president and his family -- one a longtime political associate of Mr. Rove's, the other a trustee of the foundation for Mr. Bush's father's presidential library. A Texas publicist who once helped prepare Mr. Bush's father for his debate when he was running for vice president provided them with strategic advice.

Given both Rove’s history and his current behavior, his seeming criticisms of Democrats for allegedly hiding from the media and not being transparent in the campaign don’t exactly carry much credibility.