Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have each attacked President Obama for his recent comments pointing out their influence on the political process. But both Fox News and Limbaugh have indeed influenced Republican politicians' actions in the past.
In a recent interview with The New Republic, Obama said he believes that bipartisan legislation is more likely to pass if a Republican member of Congress isn't “punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest.”
Fox News' Megyn Kelly and Chris Stirewalt discussed Obama's comments on Monday's broadcast of America Live. Kelly claimed Obama was “saying if somebody disagrees with him, if these Republicans disagree with him, it has to be because someone has manipulated them” and said that his comments sounded “dismissive of heartfelt beliefs that Republicans may hold, or their constituents may hold.”
Stirewalt agreed, saying that Obama “imputes to his critics the worst possible motives.” Stirewalt also claimed that Obama feels that “anybody who opposes him on these things is doing so because they're a coward, because they're being controlled by Rush Limbaugh or because of what's being said by the purveyors of opinion on the Fox News Channel.”
Limbaugh also discussed Obama's comments on his radio show Monday and concluded that Obama is “trying to goad me into saying something extreme -- like that would ever happen -- so that he can kick off a new boycott.” He then said listeners had told him they fear that “talk like this from the president has a chilling effect on free speech and the freedom of the press,” and responded by saying sarcastically, “My friends, Obama would never do anything to try to limit Fox, or me and my right to express myself. ... Only dictators like Hugo Chavez do things like that.”
But recent history has demonstrated the power of these two right-wing media outlets.
In October 2010, a New Yorker article by Ryan Lizza revealed that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had previously urged Democratic Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Kerry to advance climate bill negotiations as much as possible before Fox News could find out about the talks. Lizza wrote that “Graham warned Lieberman and Kerry that they needed to get as far as they could in negotiating the bill 'before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process,' one of the people involved in the negotiations said.”
Similarly, in July 2011, media reported that House Speaker John Boehner had briefed Limbaugh on his debt ceiling plan before even showing it to his Republican conference. Boehner also called into Limbaugh's show to seek the radio host's approval on air.
Many Republican figures have also walked back comments they have made after Limbaugh objected to them. In October 2010, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told The Wall Street Journal that Americans “want us to come together [with the administration].” After Limbaugh attacked Issa on air for his comments, Issa came on Limbaugh's show to distance himself from the article. As we noted at the time, other Republican figures have also apologized to Limbaugh:
[Former] RNC chairman Michael Steele apologized for calling Limbaugh an “entertainer,” Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) told Limbaugh he was sorry for comments defending the House Republican leadership against criticism from Limbaugh, and former Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) backed off criticism of Limbaugh's “I hope he fails” comments. Even Sarah Palin changed her mind about condemning Limbaugh's use of the word “retards.”