Fox News host Mike Huckabee denied responsibility for shady email pitches sent to subscribers to his email list, telling Media Matters that he is "simply a conduit to send messages" and "can't always vouch for the veracity" of the promoted products.
Huckabee is part of the conservative movement's attempts to cash in on their followers by renting out their email lists to suspect sources. Fox News contributor Scott Brown was recently forced to disown a quack doctor after he sent a sponsored email touting the doctor's dubious Alzheimer's disease cures. Huckabee also sent emails promoting the doctor.
During a press conference held at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) outside Washington, Media Matters asked Huckabee about shady sponsored emails he's sent with his name on it, such as the Alzheimer's disease emails.
Huckabee shrugged off responsibility for the emails, saying "You are supposed to read the disclosure and the disclaimer that is a part of the messages. We are simply the conduit to send messages, these are sponsored and I can't always vouch for the veracity."
Huckabee's sketchy sponsored emails extend beyond questionable medical cures. He recently sent a sponsored email touting the stock recommendation of a financial analyst who was fired from Fox News for ethical violations.
The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Phil Gramm and Mike Solon pushing "pro-growth tax reform" and criticizing "regulatory burden" and "antibusiness bias." The Journal did not disclose that the authors are partners of an anti-regulation lobbying firm, and that Solon is frequent business lobbyist.
Gramm is a former Republican Senator, and Solon worked as a Gramm Senate staffer for over a decade. They run Gramm Partners, a D.C. lobbying firm. The firm's website states that it works "on the issues that matter most to financial companies" and has "a track record of delivering major accomplishments -- and stopping bad deals in their tracks." The two also run US Policy Metrics, "an economic and public policy research firm serving asset managers, hedge funds and the investor community."
According to 2013 data (the most recent available), Solon has lobbied for a variety of clients including the "lobby giant" Akin Gump, Fidelity, American Express, Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, Exxon Mobil, and US Chamber of Commerce. In addition to heading a lobbying firm, Gramm gained notoriety during the 2008 campaign because he co-chaired Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign and was also a "lobbyist for a Swiss bank at the center of the housing credit crisis." Gramm does not appear to have registered as a lobbyist since 2007. Gramm Partners' lobbyist registration form states it is lobbying on behalf of Akin Gump on issues that include budget and taxes.
The Journal's identification of Gramm and Solon simply states: "Mr. Gramm, a former chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, is senior partner of US Policy Metrics and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Solon was a policy adviser to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and is a partner at US Policy Metrics."
Gramm and Solon's op-ed complains that Democrats won't lower tax rates and have a "misplaced perception of the importance of the inequality debate." They added: "A pro-growth tax reform will not undo this administration's doubling of the federal debt held by the public, its tax increases, increased regulatory burden or antibusiness bias. But it would be a major movement in the right direction."
Media Matters has documented how the Journal has repeatedly failed to disclose relevant ties about writers in its editorial page.
Nine Fox News hosts and contributors are headlining 2014 fundraisers for Republican organizations across the country. The network employees are participating in Lincoln Day Dinners, annual fundraisers usually held near the beginning of the year that provide significant support for local party groups.
The Fox fundraisers include hosts Mike Huckabee, Oliver North, and Andrea Tantaros; and contributors John Bolton, Deneen Borelli, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and Allen West.
The Republican events can bring in big money for local Republicans. A Huckabee event in 2011 "grossed over $100,000" for Texas' Harris County GOP, while Ben Carson and Laura Ingraham have spoken at Palm Beach GOP's (FL) Lincoln Day events, which reportedly "typically takes in around $100,000" each year. Event tickets often reach into the $100s, and can increase with private reception opportunities, photos, and book signings. The events also often sell sponsorships ranging in the thousands.
Lincoln Dinners can also mean big money for the speakers. In prior years, Oregon's Lane County Republican Party paid Tucker Carlson $23,500 to keynote its 2011 dinner and John Bolton $28,330 to keynote its 2012 dinner, according to Oregon Secretary of State data and confirmed by Media Matters with a party official. Laura Ingraham was paid $12,500 for speaking in Palm Beach in 2013, according to local records. Then-Fox contributor Dick Morris received $10,000 to speak at a 2012 Lake County (FL) dinner. (Data for 2014 events isn't currently available through local campaign finance records, and even accessing older records can be difficult since some local governments do a poor job putting data online.)
The Lincoln Day speeches aren't much different from what's heard on Fox. In Sarasota, FL, Allen West reportedly "said that Democrats have repeatedly failed the black community." In Naples, FL, John Bolton took to "[c]alling the Obama administration's foreign policy weak, ineffective or nonexistent." In Sangamon County, IL, Ben Carson suggested the country has gone "from a free society to a communist or socialist society" because of the Affordable Care Act.
Dinner promotions have touted the speakers' affiliation with Fox News -- a regular practice with Republican events. The chair of the Sangamon County GOP told a local newspaper that they picked Carson because, "He's a conservative and (is) currently visible on TV, which makes him a celebrity draw."
Media Matters previously documented how over 30 Fox News hosts and contributors campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
The following is a list of nine Fox Newsers, and the Republican Party apparatuses they're helping so far in 2014:
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent has offered a disingenuous and tepid apology after being condemned across partisan lines for his description of President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel." The apology only came after Nugent attacked his critics on Twitter and elsewhere, at one point comparing CNN to a top Nazi propagandist.
But while Nugent has taken some measure of responsibility for his "subhuman mongrel" remark, the comment is just a drop in the bucket compared to his long history of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, animus towards immigrants, and propensity to use violence-tinged language.
Nugent's racist characterization of the president received widespread attention and created problems for the campaign of Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott after Abbott tapped Nugent to participate in campaign events.
Appearing on The Ben Ferguson Show, Nugent apologized, though "not necessarily to the president" for his "subhuman mongrel" comment, then attacked the president as a lying, law-breaking racist who engages in Nazi tactics.
Fox News is allowing Sean Hannity to promote the Tea Party Patriots on its airwaves even though the group is financially connected to the conservative host.
Huffington Post's Michael Calderone reported today that Hannity, who also hosts a Premiere Radio Networks program, has been fundraising for Tea Party Patriots (TPP) in emails, and "has also promoted the group's efforts on his Fox News program."
TVNewser reported that in response to Calderone's report, "Fox News tells us Hannity's involvement with the Tea Party group is for his radio show, and has nothing to do with his FNC show or role with the network."
But Fox's response that TPP has "nothing to do" with Fox is disingenuous and a dodge of ethical standards. A Media Matters review found that Hannity has repeatedly done promotional tie-ins for TPP on radio and then promoted or hosted the group on his Fox News program.
For instance, Hannity did radio promos for TPP on July 31 and August 12. He then hosted TPP president Jenny Beth Martin on his Fox program Hannity on August 20, and September 9. Martin was also part of a "special audience edition" of Hannity on August 16. Fox even allowed Hannity to promote TPP's website HannityForSanity.com on August 1.
Calderone reported that "Hannity made a passing reference to the Tea Party Patriots on his Fox News show" on February 19 in which Hannity said "The Tea Party Patriots are partners on my radio show." Calderone added that "was the only time on Fox News that Hannity has described Tea Party Patriots as a 'partner' of his radio program," according to Nexis.
Subscribers to CNN host Newt Gingrich's email list are receiving supposed insider information about cancer "cures," the Illuminati, "Obama's 'Secret Mistress,'" a "weird" Social Security "trick," and Fort Knox being "empty."
Gingrich Productions, the company run by the Crossfire co-host, has been sending sponsored emails from shady sources filled with dubious claims. CNN has been helping Gingrich build his list by not only employing him, but also by promoting Gingrich Productions and its website.
While Gingrich's team has previously claimed that they work hard to "vet" the organizations they rent the email list to, they have repeatedly violated their own apparently low standards.
For example, Gingrich Productions has sent at least 15 sponsored emails for Stansberry & Associates since June 2013. Stansberry is a disgraced financial firm that was fined $1.5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for engaging in "deliberate fraud" and profiting from "false statements." The firm sells financial products by pushing conspiracies about the Obama administration. Founder Porter Stansberry recently said it's "fucking bullshit" that people get upset at him for using slurs like "nigger" and "fag" when he's "not the least bit bigoted."
Gingrich's team previously claimed to distance the former speaker from Stansberry after questions surfaced about a sponsored email suggesting Obama would win a third term. ABC News reported in November 2012 that "according to Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond, Stansberry & Associates should have been on the blacklist. 'We do not rent to the entity in question,' Hammond said, speaking by phone Thursday. 'In fact, we go to lengths to vet where we rent.'"
Gingrich is part of a movement where, as MSNBC's Chris Hayes noted, "much of conservatism is a con and the base are the marks." Fox News contributor Scott Brown was recently forced to distance himself from Newsmax after he sent a sponsored email for the group touting the findings of quack Dr. Russell Blaylock. The New Republic's Ben Adler wrote in a piece about Gingrich and fellow hucksters Herman Cain and Mike Huckabee that they "are pioneering a new, more direct method for post-campaign buckraking. All it requires is some digitally savvy accomplices--and a total immunity to shame."
Gingrich's list is primarily managed by TMA Direct. A data card on TMA's site indicates that the list contains over 400,000 emails and costs $8,000 per order. The company is headed by Mike Murray, who is also the founder and president of Gingrich's American Legacy PAC. Perhaps it's no surprise then that American Legacy has advertised on Gingrich Productions' list, and disbursed thousands of dollars to TMA.
Gingrich offers a testimonial for TMA on its website, stating: "Mike Murray and the TMA Direct team are irreplaceable strategic partners in our online and offline marketing. They bring insight and expertise that enables us to expand our communication reach and meet our business goals."
Fox News contributor Scott Brown was forced to end his financial relationship with Newsmax after he sent a sponsored email to his list touting dubious Alzheimer's disease cures from huckster Dr. Russell Blaylock. Brown is one of several conservative media outlets and personalities -- including his Fox News colleague Mike Huckabee and conservative magazine National Review -- that have helped sell out their followers to Blaylock in recent years.
Brown sent an email today to his list stating: "Dear Patriot, I thought you might be interested in the offer below from our sponsor Newsmax Health. Thank you, Senator Scott Brown." Brown's email (subject line: "5 Signs You'll Get Alzheimer's Disease") contained a pitch claiming that Blaylock found "Simple strategies and natural therapies to prevent, treat, and reverse memory loss, Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, and other neurodegenerative disorders."
Blaylock has pushed numerous dubious claims on a wide range of medical subjects. He is a repeat guest on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show, where videos of his appearances feature such headlines as "Dr. Russell Blaylock Exposes Obama's Nazi Healthcare System," "Obamacare is Mandated Social Engineering," and "Fluoride's Deadly Secret."
In recent years, several prominent conservative outlets and personalities have sent emails to their followers touting Blaylock and his dubious medicine:
Fox News contributor Scott Brown is renting out his email list to an outlet that touts shady products like Alzheimer's disease cures and Social Security tricks.
Brown joins several of his Republican colleagues in attempting to cash in on their followers through dubious or shady practices. Mike Huckabee, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich have all been renting out their email lists to suspect sources. As Salon's Alex Pareene noted, "the conservative movement is an elaborate moneymaking venture. For professional movement conservatives, their audiences and followers are easy marks."
Brown sent an email this morning with the subject line "5 Signs You'll Get Alzheimer's Disease" to his ScottBrown.com email list. Brown wrote in the email: "Dear Patriot, I thought you might be interested in the offer below from our sponsor Newsmax Health. Thank you, Senator Scott Brown."
Brown's email contains a pitch touting the "findings" of Dr. Russell Blaylock, and "Simple strategies and natural therapies to prevent, treat, and reverse memory loss, Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, and other neurodegenerative disorders."
Blaylock, a repeat guest on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show, has made numerous dubious medical claims through Newsmax and other far-right media outlets:
Brown has also sent an email pitching dubious financial offers.
Fox News contributor Ben Carson has joined CNN host Newt Gingrich's American Legacy PAC to fundraise for efforts opposing the Affordable Care Act. Despite purporting to support conservative campaigns, Gingrich's PAC has given less than 3 percent of total contributions to candidates in 2013, according to records filed today.
Carson announced in a January 27 email through American Legacy that "my friends at American Legacy PAC are launching an important new project called Save our Healthcare - and I will be serving as Chairman. .... It is our goal to recruit every American that believes we can do better than Obamacare, and make sure that our message is received loud and clear by every elected official and candidate in 2014."
Carson's email contains a donation button and also promotes a petition at the PAC's website. Signing the "petition" means giving the PAC your email address for future updates. The site then redirects to a donation page promising to send "a new generation of leaders to Washington" with "your help":
Last year, NPR media reporter David Folkenflik revealed in his book on Rupert Murdoch that the Fox News PR department created an elaborate series of fake commenter accounts to write "pro-Fox rants" in the comments sections of articles other outlets published about the network.
According to a new biography of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, the network's online subterfuge went even further.
In The Loudest Voice in the Room, New York magazine journalist Gabriel Sherman reports that Roger Ailes was behind the creation of a blog called "The Cable Game" (TCG), which was used to attack Fox rivals like CNN and critics like Media Matters founder David Brock. According to Sherman, Ailes tapped Fox News contributor Jim Pinkerton -- who worked with Ailes on the 1988 George H.W. Bush presidential campaign and was later chosen to co-author Ailes' now-abandoned autobiography -- to help write the posts.
A Media Matters review of TCG -- which became defunct more than a year ago but is still partially available through the Internet Archive -- finds laughably over-the-top praise of Ailes and other Fox personalities alongside vicious, often petty attacks on Fox rivals and perceived enemies. The blog's criticism frequently echoed Fox's own public attacks.
TCG regularly featured inside baseball content about the media that went far beyond what the casual media observer would know, much less care about. The blog cited sources inside Fox News, which it used to rebut criticism of the network. TCG was written under the pseudonym "The Cable Gamer," and posts claimed the author was a woman.
The site was promoted on Fox News in at least four separate instances: three times by Pinkerton and once by Bill O'Reilly. Pinkerton gratuitously promoted the site on Fox News Watch on July 16, 2005 -- a major promotion for an anonymous blog that had launched less than two weeks prior (July 8, 2005, with a post that asked, "is anyone cooler than Brit Hume?").