I find that when I'm engaging in media criticism, it's helpful to have a basic grasp of the facts. Mediaite founder Dan Abrams apparently disagrees, and his website seems to be happy to curry favor with the boss by covering up his ignorance.
Last night on CNN's Parker/Spitzer, Abrams -- publisher of a media reporting and analysis website -- posited that it's no big deal that five potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are currently working at Fox News. I disagree with Abrams -- as we've documented, Fox has donated at least $40 million in airtime to these potential candidates, while providing them with an extraordinarily friendly platform to promote themselves. But I'm willing to acknowledge that reasonable people can disagree on this.
The problem is that Abrams' explanation for his opinion exposed that he doesn't actually know what he's talking about:
WILL CAIN: Dan, I got the first question for you. It's complicated. So what? What's the big deal that the Republican primaries are going to take place on FOX News?
ABRAMS: Look, I don't know that they're going to take place at FOX News because remember, these people are commentators. These are not hosts of shows. If these people were hosting primetime shows, then I might say, you know what? This is going to be a real vehicle for them to get their positions out there, to advocate.
But as commentators, they are answering questions. And sure, that means they get publicity but they're also not the only ones in the country -- these five -- who have considered political -- or political aspirations and they are commentators on TV.
OK. So Abrams thinks it would be a problem if one of these Fox candidates had their own show, but since none of them do, it's no big deal. The idea that these potential candidates can't “advocate” because they're just commentators seems deeply flawed - anyone who's ever watched Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum on Fox knows that they are not asked challenging questions, and have wide latitude to “get their positions out there.” But more importantly, Abrams' premise - that none of the Fox candidates has their own show - is just flatly inaccurate.
Dan Abrams, meet Mike Huckabee.
You may know him from the time he won 270 delegates in the 2008 Republican presidential primary, second to John McCain. You may remember him from the $1.6 million he raised through his political action committee during the 2010 cycle. It's possible you're aware that he's in the top tier of candidates in early polling for the 2012 Republican nod.
You may -- and if, for example, you run a media news and analysis website, you should -- also be familiar with the show he hosts on Fox News every week. It's helpfully titled Huckabee and is regularly reported on by Mediaite (example: “Mike Huckabee had the top show on cable news Saturday [October 27, 2009] in prime time, in total viewers and the A25-54 demographic” ). And yes, he uses the show as a “real vehicle” to promote his “positions” -- as well as to fundraise for his PAC and to promote candidates he has endorsed.
Sarah Palin has also hosted her own Fox News special, Real American Stories. Abrams should be aware of this -- his website “got an exclusive first look” at it, with Mediaite's Steve Krakauer reporting, “Will we see more Palin Fox News specials? You betcha.” Real American Stories was reportedly intended to be a series that aired “periodically,” but there has been no second episode. While the program's content did not involve Palin promoting her positions, it certainly gave her a forum to promote her own image.
Incidentally, in her write-up of Abrams' Parker/Spitzer appearance, Mediaite's Frances Martel covered up for her boss' ignorance, writing that he only said that "most of the potential candidates in question" are commentators rather than hosts. Good to know that the website is maintaining its high standards.