“I think I love you”: Fox News lauds, defends, and fundraises for ex-host Kasich

In May 2002, the Columbus Dispatch profiled then-Fox News host John Kasich and his aspirations for higher political office. The Ohio paper wrote that “political analysts say Kasich wisely has found nonelective venues to stay in public view” and quoted a former Kasich pollster noting that he's “leaving himself in a position so that if something happens, he is as well-situated as somebody else.”

Kasich cashed in his Fox News chips after he formally announced his run for Ohio governor in June 2009. In just over a year, Fox News hosts and personalities have fundraised and campaigned for Kasich; offered softball interviews and fundraising opportunities; and openly hoped he'll win.

Sean Hannity is the most prolific Kasich backer. Not only has Hannity repeatedly referred to Kasich as “governor” and “soon-to-be governor,” he also reportedly held a pricey fundraiser for him last October, and encouraged him to run in 2008.

State and national Democrats have made Kasich's close ties with Fox News an issue during the campaign. The Politico reported in March that Kasich's opponent Ted Strickland (D) “has seized on Kasich's relationship with Fox to peg the Republican as spending more time on the national media stage than the local one. And some Ohio political reporters seem to agree.” The state party has also tracked the number of appearances he's made since announcing his exploratory committee.

In September, the Democratic Governors Association “filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission regarding the Fox News Network's apparently illegal in-kind contribution to gubernatorial candidate John Kasich, whose campaign web site was plugged on air for free.” The DGA's complaint referenced an August 18 O'Reilly Factor interview in which Kasich “solicited contributions for his campaign and FOX added the graphics 'John Kasich (R), KasichforOhio.com' under Mr. Kasich's image” (pictured above).

Softball interviews

  • On June 1, 2009, Kasich appeared on Hannity's Fox News program to discuss his announcement that day that he's formally running for governor. Kasich had previously explored the possibility of a run while still employed by Fox News. Hannity touted the national importance of the race for his audience (from Nexis):
    HANNITY: This is important for the Republican Party, because if they don't win Ohio in a presidential election, their chances of winning that White House are minimal. ... It is pivotal for the Republican resurgence.

    Hannity also attacked Ohio Democrats: “Ohio, Democratic Party has had major issues with corruption. How big of an issue is that going to be, because I think nationally the Democrats have an issue with the culture of corruption? Will it be a big issue in Ohio?”

  • Kasich appeared on Hannity's program on July 8, 2009. Hannity said Kasich “helped get us on a balanced budget plan using real congressional budget office numbers.” At the conclusion of the interview, Hannity told Kasich: “You do me a favor. Go get elected governor, although why you would ever want that job, you're out of your mind, but good luck. And I'm supporting you in the effort.”
  • Kasich appeared on July 29, 2009's Hannity, with Hannity referring to Kasich as “Congressman -- well, soon to be governor.” Hannity concluded the interview by telling Kasich: “Governor-to-be, things are looking good out there in Ohio. We'll be following your race very closely. Good to see you, Congressman and soon-to-be governor.”
  • Kasich appeared on August 26, 2009's Hannity, with Hannity calling him “Congressman, Governor-to-be, Governor-elect, if you will -- I'm not -- I'm not jumping the gun here.” Hannity concluded the interview by telling Kasich: “You can help us. Win the state of Ohio. Bring Ohio back to the red column.”
  • On his December 15, 2009 program, Hannity called Kasich “the future governor of the great state of Ohio” and added, “You're up in the polls.”
  • On June 15, Hannity introduced Kasich on Fox by calling him “our good friend ... You're a great American.” Hannity later told Kasich: “You know, you did show leadership when you helped back get the country on a balanced budget, I'll never forget.” Hannity concluded by stating, “It's good to see you governor.”
  • On June 16, Fox & Friends hosted Kasich, and co-host Steve Doocy claimed Ohio has lost 400,000 jobs “under the Obama administration.” However, the 400,000 figure includes job losses that occurred for two years before Obama took office in the midst of a deep recession. Doocy also plugged Kasich's new book.
  • Kasich appeared in a taped segment with Bill O'Reilly on the June 30 edition of The O'Reilly Factor to promote his new book. Guest-host Laura Ingraham introduced the segment by stating, a “familiar 'Factor' face is now running for governor in Ohio. Former Ohio Congressman John Kasich, who used to fill in for Bill on this program is now in a heated race against Democrat incumbent Ted Strickland.”
  • On August 18, O'Reilly said that “President Obama campaigned in Ohio today for the Democratic Governor Ted Strickland, who's running against our old pal John Kasich, who used to sub for me on The Factor.” While interviewing Kasich, O'Reilly said “Strickland is a down the line liberal. And by the way, we invited the governor on and he turned us down. Strickland would never come on a program like this because he simply can't take the questions. He's never been able to do that.” Kasich added that he tried to get O'Reilly to do a campaign event for him, but he declined.

    On the program, Kasich also plugged his website and said, “send your nickels and pennies if you want to help me out, because it is a critical, crucial state, Bill, not just in '10 for Ohio, but '12 for the country.” While Kasich spoke, Fox News put his website address on-screen. The DGA filed a complaint about the segment in September.

Fundraising and campaigning

  • Hannity. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported in October 2009 that Kasich was “bringing conservative pundit Sean Hannity of Fox News to Northeast Ohio for a high-dollar fund-raiser. The Oct. 9 event will be at GOP stalwart and millionaire industrialist Ed Crawford's home in Kirtland Hills.” Tickets reportedly “cost between $500 and $5,000.” Hannity was scheduled to do an April fundraiser but it was reportedly canceled. A September 4, 2008, Plain Dealer article (retrieved from Nexis) reported that Hannity “has been encouraging Kasich to run for governor.” A Dayton Daily News article (from Nexis) that day similarly reported that Hannity “pledged to give $10,000 to Kasich's campaign should he run, as well as have his wife give another $10,000.”
  • Huckabee. Fox News host Mike Huckabee appeared at a campaign event for Kasich in October 2009. His political action committee Huck PAC has also offered support for Kasich.
  • Santorum. Fox News contributor Rick Santorum's political action committee has donated $1,000 to Kasich.
  • Gingrich. Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich campaigned and attended a fundraiser for Kasich in July.
  • News Corp. As Politico noted, Kasich received “two $10,000 contributions in late May from Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch and his wife.” Jack Abernathy, chief executive of Fox Television, contributed $3,000 Kasich on May 24, according to Ohio campaign finance records. He previously served as executive vice president of Fox News. News Corp., the parent company of Fox News, gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which helps elect candidates like Kasich. Indeed, the RGA has produced an ad against Kasich's opponent.

Fox Newsers praise and defend Kasich

Fox Newsers haven't limited their adulation for Kasich just to interviews. For instance:

  • On the May 16 edition of Fox News Sunday, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich said Kasich would win because he's going to fight for dramatic change. Gingrich: “I think what voters are looking for is somebody who communicates a determination to fight for very dramatic change. And I think that tonal thing is very, very important. I think that's why John Kasich will become governor in Ohio.”
  • On the June 23 edition of his radio program, Glenn Beck said to Kasich, “I think I love you.”
  • On September 7, Hannity and Fox News contributor Frank Luntz aired a Republican Governors Association ad against Strickland. Luntz then praised the ad's effectiveness.
  • On September 15, Hannity defended Kasich over his ties to Lehman Brothers.