Fox News' effort to help elect former network contributor Scott Brown as U.S. Senator from New Hampshire is drawing criticism not only from Democrats but from one of Brown's Republican primary opponents.
In an interview with Media Matters, former Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH) accused Fox News of failing to live up to its "fair and balanced" slogan by giving "flattering" coverage to Brown while having "totally shut down" his campaign's requests for airtime.
Smith pointed to two recent softball interviews Fox News conducted with Brown, noting that anchor Bret Baier "interviewed Brown for a very flattering piece" and a recent Obamacare special. Smith said Fox didn't reach out to his campaign.
"They've totally ignored us," Smith said. "They've shut us down. We've made every effort to get on any of the shows, or at least have a comment. We've tried with [Fox host Sean] Hannity, we've tried with Baier, we've tried with, you name it ... we've just been totally shut down. And I mean shut down. I mean we don't even get call backs."
He added: "I think that's not good reporting. It's very shoddy reporting. They're not doing any background, they haven't talked to me, or anybody from my team. They haven't talked to my campaign manager."
Fox News has made a long-term investment in Scott Brown's political career. The conservative network boosted his successful 2010 Massachusetts Senate campaign (at one point, Fox News hosts played with a Brown "man of action" figure) and then hired him after he lost his 2012 reelection bid.
In 2013, Brown used his Fox News employment as a launching pad for his long-discussed run for Senate from New Hampshire, with the network's apparent approval. Fox hosts repeatedly asked Brown if he planned to seek office again, with one calling it a "terrific" idea. One appearance devoted a discussion to how Brown looked shirtless and whether he might run for president in 2016. In another, Brown attacked New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Senate Democrats over health care. Brown also penned FoxNews.com columns that sounded like stump speeches ("Time to hold Democrats in Congress responsible for the mess they created"). Brown recently credited Fox News for inspiring his campaign.
He left the network this March when he officially announced his Senate run. Fox News has unsurprisingly touted Brown's candidacy and recently aired a tailor-made special for Brown's anti-Obamacare message.
Brown is facing Smith and former State Sen. Jim Rubens, among others, in New Hampshire's September 9 Republican primary. Smith was elected three times as a U.S. congressman from New Hampshire then served as a U.S. senator from 1990-2002. After being defeated for reelection in the 2002 GOP primary he moved to Florida and ran for the U.S. Senate. He was also a 2000 presidential candidate. According to available polling data, Brown is the favorite to win the primary but trails incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Smith, who insisted he would win the election, said "I don't think it's illogical or unreasonable to include me and frankly the other candidate, Mr. Rubens, who's been running as well for quite some time and I mean we're both very credible candidates."
Asked if he thought Fox News was boosting Brown because of his prior employment there, Smith said he wasn't "comfortable making that accusation" but "it certainly doesn't look good."
Smith added that Fox's pro-Scott Brown coverage is especially disappointing because of the network's conservative image.
"I'm a conservative Republican so when the attacks come, if it comes from The New York Times or whatever, you know, okay, I expect it," Smith said. "But when it comes from your own -- well I don't want to say my own, it's not my own media, but when it comes from what's supposed to be conservative media, or at minimally it's supposed to be fair and balanced, that's my point. That it's not fair and balanced."
"I know the facts because I'm directly involved, I'm wondering how many other times are they saying something's fair and balanced when it's not?" Smith later said.
Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.