Politico's Jonathan Martin made an interesting observation yesterday while filling in on Ben Smith's Politico blog. In commenting on an article about Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul, Martin highlighted Paul's reluctance to speak to reporters and detail his, at times controversial, policy positions. He noted that both Paul and Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle have had a shaky relationship with the media because of a heightened focus on their far-right views. From the post:
Each has demonstrated that they're a risk to themselves when it comes to doing media. Yet when they run from the press - in Angle's case, literally -- the storyline that they're incapable of answering questions than dominates the race, causing them to eventually give in and face reporters. Yet when they do, the cycle repeats itself as they can barely suppress their far-right views.
What Martin notes here is true. We've certainly seen examples of both Angle and Paul shunning reporters for fear of the criticism that their views will generate. In fact, we've even learned that Rand Paul cancelled an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press at the suggestion of Fox News contributor Karl Rove. However, there is one outlet that Republican candidates like Angle and Paul readily embrace: Fox News.
Fox has become a safe haven for conservative candidates looking for softball questions and opportunities to make nationwide fundraising appeals. Sharron Angle has even explained that her affinity for Fox News appearances results in part from the network's permission of fundraising appeals. From a July 14 interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (emphasis added):
David Brody: Not to harp on the point but when you're on Fox News or talking to more conservative outlets but maybe not going on "Meet the Press" or a "This Week", those type of news shows, then the perception and the narrative starts to be like you are avoiding those mainstream media outlets.
Sharron Angle: Well, in that audience will they let me say I need $25 dollars from a million people go to Sharron Angle.com send money? Will they let me say that? Will I get a bump on my website and you can watch whenever I go on to a show like that we get an immediate bump. You can see the little spinners. People say 'Oh, I heard that. I am going and I'm going to help Sharron out because they realize this is a national effort and that I need people from all around the nation. They may not be able to vote for me but they can certainly help."
Additionally, after a particularly rough interview on an NBC affiliate in Las Vegas, Angle sought out the familiar comfort of an appearance on Fox News where host Stuart Varney lobbed softball questions and excluded any substantive follow-ups.
Likewise, Rand Paul has taken full advantage of Fox's glowing coverage (including on-air endorsements by contributors Dick Morris and Sarah Palin), by making at least 21 appearances on Fox News, Fox Business and FoxNews.com between May of 2009 and May of 2010. During these appearances, Paul faced hard-hitting questions such as "Can that Tea Party rage or populist sentiment last until November?" and "We have been getting into this raging debate as to whether Republicans veer more to the right ... or be pragmatic. Where do you stand?"
Although Angle and Paul struggle with articulating their policy positions while not, as Martin says, "hand[ing] the opposition yet more oppo," they can, have, and will continue to seek refuge in the substance-free interviews provided by Fox News.