As evidence grows that former Republican Senator Scott Brown is going to run for Senate in New Hampshire, he continues to cash a paycheck from Fox News, where he's currently employed as a contributor. Brown is just the latest in an ever-expanding roster of conservative Fox employees who have used a job at the network to set up a run for political office.
Fox hired Brown in February after his failed re-election bid for the Massachusetts Senate seat he won after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. The network had been perhaps his biggest champion during his successful 2010 senate run, allowing Brown to plug his fundraising website on-air while hosts and contributors fawned over him.
Since taking the Fox job, Brown has repeatedly dropped hints that he might consider challenging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in 2014. According to National Journal, while Republican leaders in the state previously dismissed Brown's supposed interest in running as a "fallen political star desperate for attention," they have "begun taking Brown seriously." Though he is scheduled to give a speech at the New Hampshire GOP's holiday fundraiser later this month, Brown continues to play coy about whether he has made up his mind about a run.
At Politico, media reporter Dylan Byers explains that the best indication of whether Brown is serious about running is whether Fox News severs his contract, as they did in 2011 when former employees Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were in the early stages of mounting presidential bids. (More recently, Fox terminated former contributor Liz Cheney's contract when she formally announced her run for the Senate in Wyoming.)
Until such time as Fox ends his contract, Brown will operate in an ethically dubious grey area. It benefits him to delay a formal declaration of any kind so that he can continue to utilize his Fox platform, while both Brown and the network reap rewards from the related "will he or won't he" attention. As Byers explains, "you can rest assured that he'll use the Fox News platform to prove his conservative bonafides to Granite State voters." And in recent weeks, Brown has done just that.
Fox News has reportedly paid a former PR executive at the company "approximately $8 million in hush money" after firing him this summer.
Brian Lewis, a former executive vice president at Fox News, was fired in July amid reports that he had been giving information about the company to Gabriel Sherman, a New York magazine contributing editor working on a (likely unflattering) biography of Fox News chief Roger Ailes.
Citing an unnamed network executive "with knowledge of the negotiations," Gawker reports today that Lewis was paid roughly $8 million by the network as part of a settlement.
As Gawker lays out, when Lewis was abruptly fired, Fox cited "vague 'financial irregularities" as the reason for the move, prompting Lewis' lawyer to attack the network for "telling lies." In an August statement to Gawker, Lewis' lawyer essentially threatened that his client might reveal harmful information about Ailes and the network.
According to the anonymous Fox executive quoted by Gawker -- who suggested that the settlement number would have been much higher if Lewis had significantly damaging information about Ailes -- the claims of "financial impropriety" leading to Lewis' firing were "complete bullshit."
As suspected, the network was reportedly livid about Sherman's forthcoming book, The Loudest Voice in the Room: How Roger Ailes and Fox News Remade American Politics, which has driven a wedge in the network's public relation's team.
Tomorrow night, CNN will feature the odd spectacle of its employee S.E. Cupp interviewing Glenn Beck, her boss at The Blaze, where she also serves as a contributor.
According to an article on The Blaze promoting the interview, "It is likely the two will discuss Beck's latest book, 'Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America,' the creation of TheBlaze and current events."
Considering Cupp's relationship with Beck, it's unlikely he's due for a primetime grilling on CNN. In the event she wants the interview to be more than an exercise in self-promotion, Media Matters came up with a handful of questions for Cupp to ask Beck:
According to a tweet from Cupp, her CNN interview with Beck has been rescheduled due to the ice storm in Texas.
Newsweek contributing editor Jeff Stein is raising questions about whether 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan's husband -- a former employee of a firm that planted "pro-U.S. stories in the Iraqi media in 2005" -- was involved in the show's now-retracted Benghazi report.
CBS has been the target of a firestorm of criticism since the October 27 airing of a 60 Minutes segment on the 2012 terror attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The network eventually retracted their story after it became clear that the supposed Benghazi "eyewitness" featured in the segment had lied about his actions the night of the attacks. (A subsequent review of the segment by McClatchy News identified several other glaring weaknesses in the CBS report.)
Under intense pressure from numerous media observers -- including Media Matters founder and chairman David Brock -- CBS eventually announced that it is conducting a "journalistic review" of the story.
Citing the fact that "nobody at 60 Minutes has been fired or even publicly disciplined for its odd, inflammatory and dead-wrong" Benghazi report, Newsweek's Jeff Stein points to Logan's husband, Joseph Burkett, as "the most interesting figure in this mystery."
After Rush Limbaugh compared recently enacted filibuster reform to a vote "allow[ing] women to be raped," a spokesman defended the host by saying, "Limbaugh has spent 25 years illustrating absurdity by using extrapolated analogies." Indeed, Limbaugh has a long history of making outrageous, offensive comparisons and invoking rape when discussing politics.
With George Zimmerman back in the news -- this time for facing charges stemming from allegedly pointing a shotgun at his girlfriend -- CNN and its sister network HLN are once again inviting a virulently racist convicted criminal on-air to defend Zimmerman.
In August, Mother Jones reported that Frank Taaffe, who had essentially served as Zimmerman's "de facto spokesman" during his trial for killing Trayvon Martin, was "a racist with a criminal past." Among Taaffe's lowlights: hosting a "white-power podcast"; posting racist tweets, including declaring that "the only time a black life is validated is when a white person kills them"; and having been repeatedly arrested (but not convicted) on stalking and domestic violence charges and once serving jail time for trespassing.
A Media Matters review at the time found that Taaffe's media presence was massive, having appeared on or been quoted by most major news networks, including making more than 60 (often combative) primetime appearances on HLN. As Mother Jones explained, Taaffe used his prominent media platform "to cast Martin as a drug-addled Hoodlum and Zimmerman as a community-minded do-gooder" and argue about technical details of the case in which he had no expertise.
But now that Zimmerman is back in the news, so is Taaffe. Mother Jones noted that Taaffe has appeared on both CNN and HLN this week to defend Zimmerman and argue with Nancy Grace about his friend supposedly "being oppressed by the press":
Most recently, Taaffe appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight and argued that Zimmerman was suffering from post-traumatic stress. Morgan asked Taaffe what Zimmerman--who faces charges of aggravated assault with a weapon, domestic violence battery, and criminal mischief--was doing in a house full of guns. "Boys will have their toys," Taaffe replied. He also called Zimmerman's girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, and his ex-wife, Shellie (who has alleged that Zimmerman threatened her and her father with a gun, too) "opportunistic."
Taaffe also appeared on HLN's Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew On Call. "George is being oppressed by the press," he told an incredulous Grace, who asked: "So according to you, what is it? A conspiracy between the...the ATF officer, the girlfriend in 2006, the wife in September 2013, and me, I guess?"
"No," Taaffe said. "He's allying himself with these women that he shouldn't be with."
According to a search of the Nexis database, Taaffe also made a handful of appearances on HLN in September after Zimmerman's estranged wife "called 911 to say Zimmerman punched his father-in-law in the nose and threatened to shoot him and his wife." (Zimmerman was released without charges.)
In response to unprecedented Republican obstructionism, Senate Democrats have voted to change Senate rules regarding the filibustering of most presidential nominees. Media Matters looks back at the numerous conservatives who, during the Bush administration, decried filibustering and supported the tactic Democrats have now enacted.
Following 60 Minutes' tepid, incomplete apology for their retracted October 27 report on Benghazi, a broad array of media observers are criticizing the network's response to the controversy.
After stonewalling critics of their report, CBS finally retracted the segment on November 7, long after it had become clear that there were serious questions about the credibility of the supposed "eyewitness" at the center of their story.
In a November 8 interview on CBS This Morning, 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan told viewers that "we were wrong" to air the segment and indicated that the network planned to "correct the record" on the November 10 edition of 60 Minutes.
But 60 Minutes devoted a mere 90 seconds to its correction and declined to adequately explain how the segment had made it to the air in the first place.
Following the correction, Media Matters founder David Brock called Logan's apology "wholly inadequate" and reiterated his call for the network to appoint an independent commission to investigate the botched report:
This evening's 60 Minutes response was wholly inadequate and entirely self-serving. The network must come clean by appointing an independent commission to determine exactly how and why it fell prey so easily to an obvious hoax.
Numerous commentators and media observers are also harshly criticizing CBS' report, with several pointing out that it leaves important questions unanswered. (Greg Mitchell is also rounding up some of the criticism at The Nation, noting that "leading critics" are demanding the network launch a formal investigation of the story.)
CBS News has pulled its dubious 60 Minutes report on the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi following the revelation that Dylan Davies, the segment's featured "witness," has given contradictory stories about that night's events. But Fox News, which aggressively promoted the CBS segment and used it to claim that their own Benghazi reporting had been validated, has so far ignored the story's implosion in its on-air reporting.
Fox was eager to seize on the CBS report shortly after it aired. On October 28, the morning after the 60 Minutes segment, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy told viewers, "It's great that mainstream media, finally catching up. CBS did this story on Benghazi and I see criticism from the left where they go, 'You guys are covering a phony scandal.' 60 Minutes doesn't cover phony scandals."
That evening, Special Report host Bret Baier said that the 60 Minutes report "reaffirmed what we knew and had reported on." The Real Story host Gretchen Carlson and The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld also used the CBS report to prop up their network's own Benghazi reporting.
All told, Fox spent more than 47 minutes -- spread across 13 segments on 11 separate shows -- covering the CBS report on October 28. And it didn't stop there.
After serious questions were raised about Davies' credibility, the network rallied to his defense, with Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade suggesting the administration had leaked damaging information to the press in order to "discredit a seemingly very credible witness."
Davies had even suggested that Fox News had been involved in a campaign to smear him when Fox correspondent Adam Housley reported on-air that the network stopped talking to Davies after he asked them for money. Nonetheless, Fox personalities still sought to defend his credibility. (Washington Post reporter Eric Wemple points out that during Housley's explanation that Davies had asked for money, Housley said that the network had previously used him as a source for online reports; Wemple rightly asks whether the network plans to review those reports now that Davies' credibility is shot.)
Last night, after the New York Times confirmed that Davies had provided conflicting stories about his actions the night of the terror attacks, CBS pulled the segment from its website and YouTube. This morning, CBS reporter Lara Logan apologized to CBS viewers, saying, "We were wrong. We made a mistake." Logan added that 60 Minutes planned to "correct the record on our broadcast on Sunday night."
But now that CBS has pulled the report, Fox has gone silent. As of 1:45pm, the network still has not told its viewers that the 60 Minutes report has been retracted. (While it hasn't covered the latest developments on-air, FoxNews.com has posted the CBS apology and retraction.)
UPDATE: By the end of Fox News' regular programming schedule at 11 PM EST on November 8, the network had acknowledged the fact that CBS pulled its 60 Minutes report in only one 26-second segment. On Special Report, host Bret Baier stated, "CBS is backing off a report on 60 Minutes -- we told you about last week -- that relied on a source whose credibility has crumbled."
On October 27, CBS' flagship news program 60 Minutes aired a segment on the 2012 terror attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The report was quickly seized on by conservative media outlets and Republican lawmakers for supposedly having validated their 14 month-long quest to turn Benghazi into a Watergate-level political scandal for the Obama administration.
12 days later, 60 Minutes pulled the report, apologized to viewers, and corrected the record on-air. A month after the initial report ran, CBS News announced that following an internal review, the correspondent and producer who helmed the segment would be taking an indefinite leave of absence from the program.
Here's what happened.