Former White House communications director Anita Dunn noted late last year, “The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.” Indeed, as the 2010 midterm elections approach, the Fox messaging machine is ramping up its support for the GOP.
Last week, Media Matters reported that Fox News pundit Dick Morris had been paid $10,000 by the Pennsylvania GOP to speak at its 2010 Lincoln Day Dinner, posing an ethical challenge for the so-called “fair and balanced” news network. This past weekend, Morris — who has said he plans to appear with at least 40 GOP candidates — rolled into a Republican rally in Dover,
Delaware Ohio organized by Americans for Prosperity. Leveraging the celebrity that has resulted from his frequent appearances on Fox, Morris urged the crowd to vote Republican:
Featured speaker Dick Morris, a Fox News commentator and a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, told those in attendance, “This really, really is the most important election of our time.” … “I work for Fox News, but sometimes I feel I work for Radio Free Europe,” Morris said. […]
Fox News economic policy analyst Phil Kerpen, acting as master of ceremonies, told the crowd how the national debt has increased, detailed what he called the failed stimulus bill, as well as the cost of the cap and trade energy tax, and criticized the health care expected under Obama.
Morris was campaigning for Ohio Republican candidates this weekend, telling the crowd, “I’m seeing an enormous Republican tide going on.” In September, Morris will attend a rally for Republican congressional candidate David McKinley in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
Much of Morris’ electioneering has been backed by Americans for Prosperity. Here’s how the cozy interrelationship works between Fox News, Morris, AFP, and Republican candidates. After appearing in Virginia last month at an AFP-sponsored rally on behalf of Republican candidates, the AFP website reported that Morris used his Fox News platform to promote the event:
After the events, Morris appeared at 9PM on Fox News’ Hannity show from Charlottesville, where he mentioned the day’s events and the amount of energy the crowds across VA-5 showed. Morris commented on the show that AFP-VA turned out nearly “2% of the city for this [Charlottesville] event”, that he had “never seen crowds like this”, and that “you can’t believe the enthusiasm out there” in stopping the outrageous spending policies in Washington.
Other Fox News paid on-air staff are also engaging in overt electioneering activities, most notably Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich. But it’s not just Fox News contributors who are rallying for Republicans. Host Sean Hannity — who earlier this year was forced to cancel an appearance at a Cincinnati tea party rally out of ethical concerns — held a “freedom concert” this weekend in Orlando that raised money for children of war veterans. But Hannity’s charity concert was also a platform for Republican gubernatorial candidates Rick Scott and Bill McCollum. Scott took the stage and delivered partisan remarks, blasting Obama for supporting the construction of a new Islamic center in lower Manhattan. Hannity has also endorsed Republican candidates.
Fox News host Glenn Beck is also holding a purported “non-political” rally on August 28 in Washington D.C. The event is sponsored by the NRA, headlined by Sarah Palin and Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz, and is backed by Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots. Politico’s Ken Vogel writes that the event “blur[s] the line between [Beck's] entertainment empire and a burgeoning political role.” That’s not the only line that’s being blurred.