In an interview with The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes addressed Keith Olbermann's recent suspension from MSNBC.
As we noted at the time, Fox mostly avoided touching the story (since any report criticizing Olbermann would have made them seem like huge hypocrites). Kurtz reported that "Ailes had sent word to the troops that it wasn't much of a story." Kurtz also quotes Ailes as saying, "It isn't like we don't know the guy supports left-wingers."
Ailes proceeded to explain what Fox's supposed standards are when it comes to political donations:
Ailes says he bars his hard-news journalists from making political contributions, but merely discourages the practice for commentators and talk-show hosts. It can "disrupt the appearance of integrity. You have a responsibility not to make your colleagues look like a horse's ass."
He draws the line at donating to a candidate while also putting that person on the air, as Olbermann did in the case of Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva. But Hannity did the same thing in giving $5,000 to Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and also interviewing her on his program.
Ailes doesn't defend the move, saying only: "I don't think there's any doubt about what Sean Hannity is." Last April, an obviously annoyed Ailes ordered Hannity to cancel a show at a Cincinnati Tea Party event for which the organizers were charging admission.
So, to recap: Ailes discourages opinion hosts and commentators from making political contributions because it might "disrupt the appearance of integrity" and claims that Olbermann's suspension "wasn't much of a story." However, he added that Olbermann's donating to a candidate while also interviewing them on-air was over the line. When Kurtz pointed out that Fox's own Sean Hannity had done the exact same thing, Ailes basically shrugged.
Essentially, Ailes pretended to have standards, was told that one of his primetime hosts had violated those standards, so he discarded them.
It's no wonder that Fox employees completely ignore Ailes' supposed discouraging of making political contributions. As we've documented extensively, when it comes to hosts and personalities endorsing, fundraising, or campaigning for political candidates, Fox is unrivaled. During the 2010 election cycle, more than 30 Fox Newsers supported Republican candidates or organizations in more than 600 instances.
And Hannity's interview with Bachmann is not the only time Fox's staff has crossed Ailes' line about interviewing candidates. In the past year, Fox's Mike Huckabee hosted multiple candidates on his Fox News program that his political action committee had donated to.
Surely Huckabee must be worried about being shrugged at by his boss over this.