Last night, Fox News aired the final part of its three-day special on oil drilling in Alaska, in which host Greta Van Susteren got the “inside story” from former governor Sarah Palin and her husband Todd. The special, shot on location, featured airplane flights over the tundra, boat rides in Valdez harbor, and interviews with the Palins on their dock. As Media Matters noted, the special “basically boil[ed] down to a three-day infomercial of Palin touting her positions on ANWR and her record of ‘play[ing] hardball’ with oil companies as governor.”
Indeed, while the special included numerous interviews with pro-drilling advocates — including the Palins and a vice president of Shell Oil — “The Case Against Drilling in ANWR” was reserved for last night, confined to an interview with Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA).
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Beyond the questionable seriousness of Van Susteren’s report, there is a deeper ethical concern. Van Susteren’s husband John Coale is one of “the figures charged with guiding Palin’s political image in Washington,” but Van Susteren never revealed this connection during the special. Coale has described himself as simply a “friend” of Palin, but has acknowledged that he helped her start her leadership PAC. “Others familiar with Palin’s political team insist that Coale has far more power than he is letting on — essentially helping to run Sarah PAC,” the Washington Post first reported.
Van Susteren admitted on her blog that her husband “has given Governor Palin advice and helped her,” but she said her husband is not a “paid adviser.” Still, according to a Nexis search performed by ThinkProgress, starting on the day that Sarah PAC was unveiled, Van Susteren has never disclosed her husband’s behind-the-scenes role on air.
The oil special is merely the latest in a long string of Van Susteren puff pieces about Palin. During the presidential campaign, Van Susteren had perhaps the best access to Palin of any journalist, hosting a one-hour “documentary” on “Governor Sarah Palin — An American Woman.” She also scored an exclusive interview with Todd Palin, in which she grilled him “on everything from the story behind the name ‘First Dude’ to how he feels about the name ‘First Dude.’”
After the election, Palin chose Van Susteren for her first national television interview. Since then, Van Susteren has consistently covered Palin, keeping an eye out for any potential slights to the governor and gushing over her popularity. For example, when Palin’s memoir came out, Van Susteren was a strong promoter of the book, devoting plenty of air time to the “buzz” surrounding its publication.