Last night on The O'Reilly Factor, previewing Sen. Marco Rubio's response to President Obama's State of the Union speech, Fox News political analyst Karl Rove labeled Rubio "the American experience" and declared him "probably one of the best communicators since Ronald Reagan."
Over-the-top praise of Rubio on the network is nothing new. Rubio's increasingly prominent role in the national political conversation is thanks, in part, to the help of Fox News, which has served as his primary cheerleader since his 2010 Senate campaign.
In recent weeks, Rove in particular has showered praise on Rubio and his role in the debate over immigration reform. His comparison of Rubio to Reagan on The O'Reilly Factor wasn't even the first time he had done so on Fox's airwaves this month; he made similar comments during a February 4 appearance on Special Report.
Rove isn't alone in his adoration of the Florida senator. Fox personalities have fawned over Rubio on-air for years, boosted his 2010 Florida Senate run (including helping him fundraise on-air), hosted him for dozens of primetime appearances on the network, and repeatedly touted him as an ideal vice presidential pick for former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
In this report:
When Marco Rubio declared his intention to run for the Florida Senate seat left open by Mel Martinez, he trailed Gov. Charlie Crist -- then still a Republican -- by a huge margin and seemed like a longshot candidate.
Less than a year and a half later, Rubio was elected comfortably. According to Rubio, his meteoric rise in the race is thanks in no small part to Fox News political analyst Karl Rove.
Appearing at a fundraising breakfast for Rove's Crossroads political groups at the 2012 Republican National Convention, Rubio claimed it was "big news" when Rove personally donated money to his Senate campaign because it meant that "someone of his stature would actually take a bet on someone who was such a long shot."
Rove's help for Rubio extended well beyond sending personal checks; the Crossroads groups poured nearly $3 million (by Rove's accounting) into the race. During his fundraising pitch for Crossroads at the RNC, Rubio specifically praised the ads Rove's groups ran in his favor, saying "you would turn on the TV and there were ads that created a clear distinction, and did so in ways that were meaningful."
Rove wasn't the only Fox personality that helped Rubio's Senate run -- the network practically went all-in for him.
In February 2010, Fox's Eric Bolling hosted Rubio to discuss his Senate race. During the interview, Bolling repeatedly plugged a Rubio moneybomb (Rubio was trying to raise $787,000, or $1,000 for each billion in stimulus spending).
Earlier that same day, Fox host Gregg Jarrett also helped alert Fox viewers to Rubio's fundraising efforts. Interviewing former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) Jarrett announced that DeMint had "dropped kind of a money bomb, as they say, on the conservative candidate Marco Rubio." Happily running with the prompt, DeMint responded, "Just since you brought it up, rubiomoneybomb.com is the money bomb that we hope to drop on Marco Rubio today."
While the network's coverage of Rubio was routinely adulatory, its coverage surrounding Rubio's 2010 CPAC speech was particularly over-the-top.
While Rubio spoke, America's Newsroom host Bill Hemmer explained to viewers the speech was "one of the most eagerly anticipated moments of the conference." Correspondent Carl Cameron announced that Rubio had "lit up the conservative movement."
The night of his speech, Hannity described Rubio as a "rising star" and said that he had "knocked it out of the park in his speech."
The next morning on Fox & Friends, a segment about Rubio's speech was accompanied with onscreen text announcing that "A Political Star Is Born":
During his Senate run, Rubio was also formally endorsed -- in addition to being praised on-air -- by several Fox personalities, including former contributors Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Rick Santorum. In addition to endorsing Rubio, Fox host Mike Huckabee gave material support to his campaign in the form of a $5,000 donation from his political group, Huck PAC.
After Rubio took office, the network continued its adoring coverage. Once Rubio made clear he had no plans to run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, network personalities started promoting him as an ideal vice presidential pick for the eventual nominee.
Getting the ball rolling in a November 2011 appearance on Sean Hannity's radio show, Karl Rove told Hannity that Rubio is a "bright talent who could play a powerful role as vice president of the United States." He continued, "The vice president is the most influential adviser to the president of the United States, and that could be particularly true for Marco Rubio."
For his part, Hannity repeatedly endorsed Rubio as a VP candidate on his Fox News program. On the July 16, 2012 edition of Hannity, responding to Fox political contributor Cal Thomas saying "I love Rubio," Hannity exclaimed, "why do I keep hearing they're not gonna pick Rubio. I want Rubio."
It wasn't the only time Hannity plugged Rubio for VP on his Fox program, and he wasn't alone in doing so on Fox's airwaves:
- After then-Fox contributor Sarah Palin promoted former Rep. Allen West as a good "rogue choice" for vice president, Hannity responded by saying, "I like Senator Rubio." Palin agreed that he was "great." [Fox News, Hannity, 4/3/12]
- Then-Fox News political analyst Dick Morris touted Rubio as a VP pick on Hannity in at least two appearances. Discussing Romney's possible VP choices on the June 26, 2012, edition of Hannity, Morris said, "I think it should be and ought to be and it has to be Rubio." Hannity responded that Rubio was also "my first choice." Two weeks earlier, Morris endorsed Rubio because he was the only possible candidate "that can really affect the vote." Once again, Hannity declared that Rubio was his choice. [Fox News, Hannity, 6/16/12 and 6/25/12, via Nexis]
- At a January 2012 GOP presidential debate, Newt Gingrich suggested Rubio might be well-suited to be his eventual vice president. Discussing the remark the next day on Fox News' The Five, co-host Eric Bolling proclaimed, "I mean, who wouldn't want Marco Rubio?" [Fox News, The Five, 1/27/12, via Nexis]
- Shortly before Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, the hosts of The Five discussed a CNN poll that found 28 percent of Republican voters wanted Rubio to be the VP pick. After co-host Dana Perino described Rubio as fellow host Kimberly Guilfoyle's "favorite," Guilfoyle responded, "I love him." [Fox News, The Five, 8/8/12, via Nexis]
Fox's love for Rubio has extended to its online outlets. Their Fox Nation website in particular has swooned over him for years. Some lowlights:
After Rubio gave a 2012 speech at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference:
Linking to video of a 2011 Rubio speech:
Promoting one of Rubio's many appearances on Hannity:
Promoting a Rubio for Senate ad the week before the 2010 elections: