"Report Details How Fox News Fueled Newt Inc. and Pushed His “Drill Here, Drill Now” Agenda"
by Eric Hananoki, cross-posted from Media Matters
This is an excerpt from a larger report by Media Matters detailing Fox News’ promotion of Newt Gingrich’s political and business groups. This piece deals mostly with energy issues. You can find the rest of the report at Media Matters.
In November 1998, following midterm losses and a Republican revolt, Newt Gingrich announced he would step down as House speaker and resign from Congress. Thirteen years after his downfall, Gingrich is now a contender for the Republican nomination for president.
During his years away from office and campaigning, Gingrich stayed in the public spotlight as a frequent contributor and occasional host on Fox News. Between October 1999, when he was hired, and March 2, 2011, when his contract was suspended, Gingrich appeared on Fox News over 600 times.
As a Fox News commentator, Gingrich regularly made incendiary and false remarks that helped ingratiate himself to the conservative base. But Gingrich’s time at Fox News went beyond conservative punditry and attacks against progressives.
Fox News was a powerful ally when it came to boosting Gingrich’s political and business groups. As The Atlanta Journal Constitution noted, Gingrich “built a network of for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations that seamlessly promote his vision of American government and politics. … Well before Gingrich announced his candidacy, those groups were providing him with money and public exposure.”
Fox News heavily promoted American Solutions for Winning the Future, which served as Gingrich’s non-profit political organization before he ran for president. Fox News boosted the work and profile of the Center for Health Transformation, Gingrich’s for-profit health care consulting company, and The Americano, Gingrich’s Hispanic outreach organization. Fox News also served as a constant and reliable promotional vehicle for Gingrich Productions, a for-profit conservative multimedia company run by Newt and wife Callista.
During his employment, Gingrich made over 600 appearances on Fox News, according to a search of the Nexis database. Gingrich also briefly served as a guest host for The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes; and hosted several Fox News specials. While a complete list of his specials do not appear to be available online or in Nexis, they include:
- “Dangerous Places” (2001)
- “Bioterror: Ready or Not” (2003)
- “Oil: America Over a Barrel” (2004)
- “Pope John Paul II: Pope of the People” (2005)
- “American Gangs — Ties to Terror?” (2005)
- “The Bird Flu: Fact and Fiction” (2006)
- “Why Does College Cost So Much?” (2006)
- “One Nation Under God: Religion and History in Washington, D.C.” (2007)
American Solutions for Winning the Future was officially launched by Gingrich on September 27, 2007. As The New York Times noted, the non-profit organization was formed “to finance and promote his speaking and traveling schedule” and “Gingrich used the group as a way to promote his ideas of government reform.” After he became a presidential candidate, Gingrich left the group and it eventually went bankrupt and shut down.
Fox News played a significant role in promoting the group and its initiatives. In one case, Gingrich, with Fox News’ help, promoted a pro-drilling petition in fifteen separate appearances. Fox News also regularly allowed Gingrich to advocate for the interests of energy companies even though American Solutions collected significant amounts of contributions from energy companies.
Pro-Drilling Petition. A further example of how Fox News helped Gingrich with an American Solutions campaign can be found with Gingrich’s “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” petition campaign, which urged “Congress to immediately start drilling for oil domestically to lower gas prices.” The factually-challenged petition campaign was promoted during fifteen separate Gingrich appearances on Fox News. Gingrich himself told Sean Hannity, “you have been helping us” and “you, of course, have been a very key part of this on both radio and television.” Here’s a timeline of Fox News and Gingrich’s promotions:
May 28, 2008. When told by Sean Hannity that he got an American Solutions bumper sticker saying, “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less,” Gingrich told viewers there’s “a petition drive at American Solutions.” During the segment, Hannity held up Gingrich’s bumper sticker.
- June 9, 2008. Gingrich told Greta Van Susteren: “We have a project at American Solutions called Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less. It’s a petition. And in two-and- a-half weeks, we’ve gotten over 450,000 signers from all over the country, including thousands of Democrats, some self-identified Democrats who signed this thing.”
- June 12, 2008. Gingrich told Bill O’Reilly: “We have a Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less petition drive at American Solutions that’s already gotten 650,000 signatures, including a lot of Democrats.”
- June 15, 2008. Gingrich told Hannity, “As you know, you have been helping us so much on our ‘Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less’ campaign that has got over 800 thousand signatures now.” [via Nexis]
- June 18, 2008. Hannity asked Gingrich, “We’ve been doing this on the radio. We’ve been doing it here on ‘Hannity & Colmes.’ American Solutions. Your bumper sticker, drill here, drill now, save money. Did you hit a million yet?” Gingrich replied: “We’re at 930,000 this evening. Americans who signed up at AmericanSolutions.com, for Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less. And I think we will hit 1 million either tomorrow or the day after. And you, of course, have been a very key part of this on both radio and television.” Hannity responded, “I — the Republican Party needs to embrace this.” [via Nexis]
- June 19, 2008. Gingrich told Fox & Friends that American Solutions will have its 1,000,000th signer to his petition.
- June 26, 2008. Hannity told Gingrich, “I’ve got to give you credit, you started with American Solutions, ‘Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less.’ We were on this now way before it became as big an issue as it is now.” Gingrich later told Hannity, “I would just say, to anybody who doesn’t want $7 a gallon gasoline, go to American Solutions and sign our petition for Drill Here, Drill Now, and Pay Less … because we’re over a million signatures, and we need to get the Congress to understand this is real.” [via Nexis]
- July 3, 2008. Your World, with guest host Nicole Petallides, built a segment off of the petition. Petallides began by stating, “We’re going over to Newt Gingrich, urging all Americans today to make this Fourth of July day the drill-nothing Congress will not forget. He is declaring tomorrow energy independence day and is urging anyone who wants to see lower prices at the pump to sign his online petition, forcing lawmakers to drill now.” [via Nexis]
- July 14, 2008. On America’s Election Headquarters, Gingrich told host Heather Nauert: “When American families are paying $4 and $5 a gallon, the time has come to, as our petition says, ‘Drill Here, Drill Now, and Pay Less.’ We have over a 1,300,000 signers at AmericanSolutions.com of that petition.” [via Nexis]
- July 16, 2008. Gingrich promoted his petition on Hannity, stating that “over 1,350,000 people have now signed our petition to drill here, drill now, and pay less at American Solutions.” [via Nexis]
- July 25, 2008. Gingrich told Your World guest host Connell McShane, “At AmericanSolutions.com, we have a petition called drill here, drill now, save money — or pay less, rather — drill here, drill now, pay less. And that petition has over 1,300,000 signers.” [via Nexis]
- July 31, 2008. Gingrich said on Hannity & Colmes, “you know, we have petition drive called Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less at America Solutions.” Later, Hannity told Gingrich, “a lot of my radio listeners and viewers of Hannity & Colmes have signed up to Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay less.” [via Nexis]
- August 6, 2008. Gingrich promoted his petition on Fox & Friends, stating he has more than 1,400,000 signers.
- August 13, 2008. Gingrich said on Hannity & Colmes: “I’ve seen Democrats around the country coming out saying now they’re for drilling. So maybe what we’re doing at American Solutions with Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less, with that petition that has almost 1.5 million signatures. Maybe it’s having an effect, Alan. And I think that’s good for the country.” [via Nexis]
- August 17, 2008. After Hannity brought up Gingrich’s petition, Gingrich replied: “What I am intrigued with is with the people who signed our petition at the American Solutions. You begin to see real pressure on Democrats.” [via Nexis]
Fox Allowed Gingrich To Push Interests Of Donors. American Solutions raised significant amounts of money from energy interests. Still, Gingrich was allowed to repeatedly appear on Fox News to push his pro-drilling petition and discuss issues related to energy companies.
Eric Hananoki is a researcher with Media Matters for America. This piece was originally published at Media Matters.