"Voice of the opposition": How Fox News won the 2010 election

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

During the 2010 election cycle, Fox News, its employees, and its parent company engaged in an unprecedented campaign in support of the Republican Party. The network served as the communications and fundraising wing of the GOP while fervently promoting -- and sometimes creating -- the party's candidates.

Fox News execs declared network the "voice of opposition," "the Alamo"

Fox parent company donates $2.25 million to GOP-linked groups

FoxPAC: Fox News figures raise big bucks for GOP

Karl Rove's shadow Republican National Committee

Dick Morris' one-man campaign for the GOP -- and for Dick Morris

GOP candidates "speak through Fox News"

2010 election features Fox News candidates

Network heavily promoted, took ownership of tea parties

Tea Party Express: Fox News' very own Tea Party affiliate

Beck uses Tea Party credibility to guide them toward the GOP

More than 30 Fox Newsers support GOP in 600-plus instances during midterms

Looking forward: The 2012 Fox News presidential primary

Fox News execs declared network the "voice of opposition," "the Alamo"

Ailes: "I see this as the Alamo." The Los Angeles Times reported on March 6, 2009, that according to Glenn Beck, in a meeting with him, Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes "shared a message of his own: The country faced tough times, he said, and Fox News was one of the only news outlets willing to challenge the new administration." From the article:

"I wanted to meet with Roger and tell him, 'You may not want to put me on the air. I believe we are in dire trouble, and I will never shut up,' " said the conservative radio host.

But before Beck could say anything, Ailes shared a message of his own: The country faced tough times, he said, and Fox News was one of the only news outlets willing to challenge the new administration.

"I see this as the Alamo," Ailes said, according to Beck. "If I just had somebody who was willing to sit on the other side of the camera until the last shot is fired, we'd be fine."

That couldn't have suited Beck more. In making the jump to the top-rated cable news channel from HLN, where he had a show for two years, he hoped to alert more people to one of his consuming fears: that the government's handling of the economic crisis is ushering in an era of socialism.

Shine: Fox is "voice of opposition on some issues." A March 23, 2009, report on NPR's Media Circus featured clips of Fox News vice president for programming Bill Shine calling Fox News the "voice of opposition on some issues":

DAVID FOLKENFLIK (NPR media correspondent): How has the Fox News Channel fared in the age of President Obama? Quite well, thank you, says Bill Shine, Fox News' senior vice president for programming.

SHINE [audio clip]: There were a couple of people who basically wrote about our demise come last November, December, and were, I guess, rooting for us to go away.

FOLKENFLIK: Ratings estimates from Nielsen show audience levels are up; crazy high for a news channel, and among the highest of all basic cable channels. And Shine says that's because Fox has taken a skeptical eye to the new administration.

SHINE [audio clip]: With this particular group of people in power right now, and the honeymoon they've had from other members of the media, does it make it a little bit easier for us to be the voice of opposition on some issues?

FOLKENFLIK: Let me answer that for him: Sure it does.

Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer similarly acknowledged that Fox News is the "voice of opposition in the media" during the June 17, 2009, edition of Special Report with Bret Baier.

Fox parent company donates $2.25 million to GOP-linked groups

News Corp. donated $1.25 million to Republican Governors Association. On August 16, Bloomberg reported that News Corp. gave the Republican Governors Association (RGA) "$1 million in June" and that News Corp. was "[t]he Republicans' biggest corporate donor" this year. The money "goes to candidates and the state parties, as well as independent expenditures to help elect gubernatorial nominees," according to Bloomberg. The New York Times further reported on August 17 that the donation "is one of the biggest ever given by a media organization, campaign finance experts said." On October 15, The New York Times reported that News Corp. donated an additional $250,000 to the RGA in July.

  • Donation the result of appeal from RGA chairman Barbour to Murdoch. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the chairman of the RGA, has said of the donation that he "asked Rupert Murdoch to help us, and he thought about it, and called me back, and said he wanted to help us. I'm very grateful." Murdoch reportedly told the Politico that the donation was the result of his "friendship with John Kasich," who previously worked for Fox News before running for Ohio governor. He later called that comment a "foolish throwaway line."
  • News Corp. spokesman: "the RGA's pro-business agenda supports our priorities." On August 16, Politico's Ben Smith reported that he had received the following quote from a News Corp. spokesman: "News Corporation believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA's pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy."
  • DGA asks for Fox News disclaimer during coverage of gubernatorial campaigns. On August 18, Smith reported that in a letter to Ailes, Democratic Governors Association executive director Nathan Daschle wrote:

In the interest of some fairness and balance, I request that you add a formal disclaimer to your news coverage any time any of your programs cover governors or gubernatorial races between now and Election Day. I suggest that the disclaimer say: "News Corp., parent company of Fox News, provided $1 million to defeat Democratic governors in November." If you do not add a disclaimer, I request that you and your staff members on the "fair and balanced" side of the network demand that the contribution be returned.

  • Fox offers intermittent disclosure of parent company's donation. In their reporting and discussion of gubernatorial races, Fox News often neglects to disclose News Corp.'s donation to support Republican candidates.
  • Fox's media criticism show virtually ignores News Corp. donation, paints it as pushed by "distractors on the left." The sole coverage Fox News media criticism show Fox News Watch has provided of the story came during its August 21 edition (accessed from Nexis). Before the last commercial break, guest host Eric Shawn teased the story by saying that "Big media companies donate to many causes, even some political. Now a News Corp. contribution causes the liberal media to take shots at Fox News." After the commercial break, Shawn said, "Fox News was targeted this week by distracters on the left, who attempted to attack the news operation of this network because of a political contribution made by our parent company." After airing a clip of Bret Baier discussing the donation, Shawn stated, "Well, General Electric, owner of NBC, ABC's parent company, Disney, and Viacom, which owns CBS, well, they've all donated money to political parties this year. None of those donations seem to raise much concern." But News Corp.'s donations clearly differ from those of other media companies in both their size and their party slant.

Fox donated $1 million to the GOP-linked U.S. Chamber of Commerce. On September 30, Politico reported that News Corp. had donated $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Politico noted that "the chamber has said it plans to spend $75 million in connection with the 2010 election, and has so far has directed substantial amounts to Republican Senate candidates."

  • Murdoch: I "just though I was being a good member" of the chamber. On October 6, Politico reported that Murdoch explained the chamber donation by saying, "We are members of the Chamber of Commerce, and I just thought I was being a good member." Murdoch also said that "We didn't expect" the chamber donation to become public; the chamber is a non-profit organization that does not disclose its donors.
  • Fox offers intermittent disclosure of chamber donation. Fox News' Special Report has discussed allegations that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent millions from undisclosed donors on GOP attack ads in a total of seven segments on four programs. But in only one segment has the network disclosed News Corp.'s donation to the chamber.

Murdoch on donations to GOP-linked groups: It is "in the interest of the country ... that there be a fair amount of change in Washington." During an October 15 shareholder meeting, Murdoch was asked how the chamber and RGA donations "further the strategic interests of the company and its shareholders." Murdoch replied that "it's certainly in the interest of the country and of all the shareholders and the prosperity of the -- that there be a degree of -- a fair amount of change in Washington."

FoxPAC: Fox News figures raise big bucks for GOP

Sarah Palin raised nearly $5 million during the 2010 cycle. According to OpenSecrets.org, based on FEC filings, through October 25, Fox News contributor and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's SarahPAC has raised $4,940,818 in the 2010 election cycle. SarahPAC has contributed $192,000 to federal candidates; with the exception of a $5,000 contribution to conservative candidate Doug Hoffman, all donations were to Republicans. During a November 1 appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, a caption promoted Palin's Facebook page, which features a prominent graphic and link urging contributions to SarahPAC.

Newt Gingrich raised more than $24 million during the 2010 cycle. Fox News contributor and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (GA) is chairman of 527 organization American Solutions for Winning the Future. Based on the group's filings with the IRS, OpenSecrets.org found that the American Solutions 527 has raised $24,416,928 during the 2010 election cycle. Gingrich's American Solutions PAC has raised $337,544 through October 25, and has donated $5,000 to federal candidates, all to Republicans.

Mike Huckabee has raised $1.6 million during the 2010 cycle. According to OpenSecrets.org, based on FEC filings through October 25, Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's Huck PAC has raised $1,643,597 in the 2010 election cycle. Huck PAC has contributed at least $83,467 to congressional candidates, all of them Republican. Huckabee has repeatedly used his Fox News program to promote his personal website, which links to his PAC's website, and the website balancecutandsave, which redirects visitors to his PAC's website. In December, Howard Kurtz reported that "Fox executives told Huckabee to stop plugging the Web site on the air after learning that it linked to his political action committee, which the network deemed a conflict of interest." Huckabee nonetheless continued to promote his website on-air.

Rick Santorum has raised nearly $2.5 million during the 2010 cycle. Fox News contributor Rick Santorum has raised $2,449,084 for his America's Foundation PAC through October 25, according to OpenSecrets.org. He has contributed $35,000 to federal candidates, all to Republicans with the exception of a $1,000 donation to Hoffman. Santorum is also the chairman of the Iowa Keystone PAC, which stated that it plans to "donate at least $25,000 to candidates before November."

Karl Rove's shadow Republican National Committee

Rove advises and fundraises for American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. On March 31, National Journal reported that Fox News political analyst Karl Rove has "promoted" the 527 group American Crossroads to "Big time donors fretting about Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele's troubles." National Journal reported that according to a GOP lobbyist, "American Crossroads is being set up so that big donors view it as the 'destination 527' for where to send their campaign loot this year." Politico has reported that American Crossroads formed the affiliated 501(c)(4) group Crossroads Grassroots Policy Solutions, which does not need to disclose its donors, because they were "struggling to raise money from donors leery of having their names disclosed." Rove has described himself as an "informal adviser" and "fund-raiser" to both groups and said that he is "absolutely doing everything I can to raise money for them."

Rove-backed groups aiming to raise $65 million for 2010 cycle. On October 13, Politico reported that an American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS "spokesman announced that with the $13.3 million raised the last week, the groups had pulled in $56 million since their creation, and were setting a new goal of $65 million."

Groups run ten of thousands of TV ads attacking Democrats and bolstering Republicans. According to data compiled by PoliticalCorrection.org, between August 1 and October 31, American Crossroads ran 14,661 ads in 15 races, while Crossroads GPS ran 18,104 ads in 16 races. According to data compiled by OpenSecrets.org, American Crossroads has spent $21,553,227 on independent expenditures advocating for GOP candidates or against Democratic candidates during the election cycle, while Crossroads GPS has spent $16,017,664. OpenSecrets.org also reported that between October 1 and October 21 alone, the two groups spent $17,792,707 on independent expenditures.

Morris: "in effect," Rove "is the Republican National Committee these days." During an October 13 appearance on Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News political analyst Dick Morris said of the 2010 elections, "The independent expenditures that are going on are enormous. Karl Rove has done an incredibly good job in raising a massive amount of money -- really, in effect he is the Republican National Committee these days, not Steele."

Dick Morris' one-man campaign for the GOP -- and for Dick Morris

Dick Morris' Super PAC for America aims to win 100 House seats for GOP. In an October 4 appearance on Fox News' Hannity, Morris announced that the next day, he would be "launching a new PAC" through his website. In a letter posted on Morris' Super PAC for America website (a version of which was also posted to Morris' personal website on October 5), Morris stated that his goal for the PAC is to raise $20 million in order to target and win 100 House seats for the Republican Party. An email from Morris on October 25 stated that the PAC has raised more than $3 million. According to OpenSecrets.org, the group has spent $1,633,786 on independent expenditures either in support of Republican candidates or against Democratic ones. Morris has repeatedly promoted the PAC on Fox News.

Morris used Fox platform to push group that paid him. According to its October quarterly report for the Federal Election Commission, Americans for New Leadership, an independent expenditure political committee organized to defeat Sen. Harry Reid, paid Morris' Triangulation Strategies a total of $25,228.18 for "fundraising email expense." Triangulation Strategies is Morris' firm: the company and Morris share the same address, and past payments for Morris' political services have been sent to Triangulation Strategies' New York address. ANL paid Morris $9,728.18 on July 28, $8,500 on August 31, and $7,000 on September 21. In turn, Morris plugged ANL on Fox News three times after the payments were made. Morris has sent seven emails through his DickMorris.com email list from ANL, all of which contained the footer, "Paid for by Americans For New Leadership."

GOP candidates and groups have paid Morris at least $168,228 this cycle. During this election cycle, Morris has received payments from the Republican-aligned group Americans for New Leadership ($25,228), New York State Senate candidate Greg Ball ($5,000), the Alabama Republican Party ($15,000), Pennsylvania Republican Party ($10,000) and the Christy Mihos for Governor campaign (MA) ($80,000). Four federal candidates -- Steve Pearce for Congress (NM), Brad Zaun for Congress (IA), Nan Hayward for Congress (NY), and Dan Debicella for Congress (CT) -- have paid Morris' firm Triangulation Strategies $33,000.

Morris fundraises for candidates on-air. Morris has asked Fox News viewers to send money to Republican candidates. For instance, during a June 14 appearance on Hannity, Morris said viewers should "send" U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle (NV) "money." On June 28's Hannity, Morris asked viewers to "be helpful" to Angle. On August 30's Hannity, Morris urged viewers to give money to U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson (WI). During the May 26 broadcast of Fox & Friends, Morris plugged his website as the place to "give" GOP candidates "money so that they can win."

Politico: Morris "has become something of a principal himself," has "pad[ded] his bank account of the midterm elections." In a September 25 article, Politico reported:

[I]n his latest iteration, Morris has become something of a principal himself, headlining rallies, fundraising and advocating for Republican House candidates. He's formally endorsed some of the party's top prospects, raised money for a slate of GOP House candidates including David McKinley in West Virginia, and Bob Gibbs and Tom Ganley in Ohio, and even blasted out a message to his e-mail list subscribers heaping praise on David Harmer, a challenger for a northern California-based seat.

House candidates who haven't received material political benefits from Morris also report having informally discussed their races with the consultant and current FoxNews commentator at conservative events.

[...]

While Morris stressed that he provides informal assistance to candidates on a pro bono basis, he has nevertheless found ways to pad his bank account off the midterm elections.

Indeed, Morris regularly endorses and appears at fundraisers for Republican candidates.

GOP candidates "speak through Fox News"

Palin to O'Donnell: "Speak through Fox News." On the September 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Palin advised Christine O'Donnell, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Delaware, to "speak to the American people. Speak through Fox News and let the independents who are tuning in to you, let them know what it is that she stands for, the principles behind her positions."

O'Donnell reportedly said she had Hannity "in her back pocket." On October 14, Huffington Post's Howard Fineman reported that "according to two top GOP insiders," O'Donnell "said at a strategy meeting with DC types last week: 'I've got Sean Hannity in my back pocket, and I can go on his show and raise money by attacking you guys.'"

Fox source: O'Donnell appeared on Hannity to "get a certain kind of treatment." Media Matters' Joe Strupp reported that a Fox News source said O'Donnell appeared on Hannity in September after cancelling on Fox News Sunday to "get a certain kind of treatment."

Fox & Friends is launching pad for GOP general election campaigns. Following their primary victories, Republican candidates have routinely turned to Fox & Friends as their favored venue to mark the launch of their general election campaigns. Through softball interviews, Fox & Friends, in turn, provides them an open platform to promote their campaigns.

GOP candidates use Fox appearances as fundraising opportunity. During a July 14 interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle was asked why she's often "on Fox News or talking to more conservative outlets but maybe not going on 'Meet the Press' or a 'This Week.'" She replied:

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."

In September, Angle bragged to supporters that her appearances on "friendly" press outlets like Fox News are profitable, specifically stating that when she made an appeal on "Sean Hannity's television show we made $40,000 before we even got out of the studio in New York."

Indeed, Fox News consistently allows Republican candidates to flog their websites and ask the Fox audience for assistance.

Fox drew criticism for allowing "partisan on-air fundraising." On the October 15 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity allowed John Kasich, the Republican candidate for governor in Ohio and a former Fox News contributor, to promote his campaign website, then asked: "I want to put this -- put some emphasis on this because this is really important. Explain to people why -- we cannot afford to lose that race?" In response, Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik, who describes himself as "often defending Fox News the past year against attacks by the Obama administration," wrote:

There isn't a reputable mainstream newspaper in the country that lets its editorial page be used for partisan fund raising. What Hannity allowed Kasich to do on his show Thursday crosses the line as to what's acceptable for any news organization, and we all know it isn't the first Hannity time has done this.

If Fox News management wants mainstream critics to defend the organization's right to be treated like a news organization, it needs to behave like one -- all the time. Hannity's bosses need to publicly put an end to such partisan on-air fund raising now -- not sometime in November after the election.

Likewise, in September, the Democratic Governors Association filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission for what they claim are two apparent violations of Ohio Election law connected to Kasich's appearances on Fox:

The Democratic Governors Association cited two apparent violations of Ohio law: A prohibited in-kind contribution in the form of free political advertising, and failure to include a proper disclaimer for the political advertising. The complaint says Kasich raised more than $21,000 from the appearance, citing an Aug.21 speech that Kasich made in Cincinnati, where he reportedly said, "The other night, I was on a show with a man who always gives you the last word, Bill O'Reilly. And I said, if you want to help my campaign, our campaign, and you have any extra nickels or pennies, send them to us. In the next 21 hours, we received over $21,000."

Fox concludes campaign with GOP GOTV effort. In its final week of election coverage, Fox News almost exclusively hosted GOP candidates, who lined up for softball interviews. On October 26, Fox hosted seven Republican candidates in the course of 24 hours, and RNC chairman Michael Steele twice, while hosting just one Democratic official, DNC chair Tim Kaine. On October 27, Fox hosted hosted three more GOP candidates as well as the campaign attorney for Angle. On October 28, Fox hosted six more GOP candidates while hosting just one Democratic candidate as well independent Charlie Crist and Kaine. On November 1, Fox hosted 13 GOP candidates or campaign officials, and one conservative candidate, while featuring only three Democrats.

2010 election features Fox News candidates

Angela McGlowan. On the May 14, 2008, edition of America's Election Headquarters, Fox News contributor Angela McGlowan announced on-air that she planned to return to Mississippi to "beat" Rep. Travis W. Childers (D-MS), telling fellow contributor Bob Beckel, "That's all right, sweetie, that's my district, and I'm going there soon to beat your Democrat colleague, honey. I'm going soon. 2010 is my year. Announcing it right here." Between that appearance and February 2010, when her Fox News contract expired and she announced her run for office, McGlowan made dozens of appearances on Fox Business and Fox News, often speaking as if she was already a candidate for office. Shortly after her official announcement, McGlowan made appearances on America's Newsroom and Hannity. During the campaign, McGlowan regularly touted her Fox News affiliation and also received a late endorsement from Fox News contributor Sarah Palin. After she was defeated in the Republican primary, she was re-hired as a Fox News contributor.

John Kasich. On March 27, 2008, the Columbus Dispatch reported that Kasich announced "he is paving the way now for a gubernatorial bid" and quoted Kasich stating, "I'm going to go forward even more aggressively, and we're going to continue to ramp it up (for a gubernatorial run)." Between March 28, 2008, and July 1, 2009, when Kasich officially announced his candidacy, Kasich frequently guest-hosted or appeared as a guest on Fox News. Fox paid him $265,000 in 2008. On July 15, 2008, Hannity encouraged Kasich to run. After Kasich announced his candidacy, he sat for numerous softball interviews with Fox News hosts; Hannity, Huckabee, and Gingrich all headlined fundraisers for Kasich; and he received contributions from the political action committees of Huckabee and Santorum, as well as $10,000 donations from Rupert Murdoch and his wife.

Pam Bondi. Republican Florida attorney general candidate Pam Bondi -- who does not appear to have been a "Fox News contributor" -- made at least 100 appearances on Fox News between 2002 and December 1, 2009 (the day of her announcement), according to a Nexis search. The Palm Beach Post noted that Bondi's "frequent appearances on FOXNews over the past decade have turned her into a quasi-celebrity among the conservative faithful and translated into friendships with Sean Hannity, the mere mention of whose name elicits applause from conservative voters on her bus tour, and other FOX favorites." The Post added that "Bondi's not shy about dropping the names of her FOX friends. She touts her connections with Hannity and Palin's endorsement at each of her stump speeches and in Ocala delighted the audience with her praise of the network." Since officially announcing her candidacy, Bondi appeared on the April 13, May 14, July 1, and August 17 editions of Hannity, where she was introduced as "our friend."

Ron Johnson. During a May press conference announcing his U.S. Senate candidacy in Wisconsin, Ron Johnson said he was inspired to run because of Fox News. Johnson stated: "I was sitting at home watching Fox News and Dick Morris came on and said 'Hey, you know, Feingold is vulnerable. You know, if you're a rich guy from Wisconsin, step up to the plate.' I kind of looked at (my wife) Jane and said 'is he, like, talking to me?'" Morris repeatedly solicited GOP candidates on Fox News. He told Greta Van Susteren on February 5 that "[w]e need somebody to run against" Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. On February 1, Morris similarly told Sean Hannity: "I want to do a paid commercial here. If anybody out there lives in Wisconsin or, Oregon, or New York, or Indiana, and would like to be a United States senator, if you're a Republicans, run. Run. Win all those seats."

John Gomez. On March 7, prior to his announcement that he would be a congressional candidate in New York, Newsday reported that Gomez is "among the GOP front-runners to take on five-term Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) because he has an 800-pound gorilla in his corner: megastar radio and Fox TV conservative pundit Sean Hannity." Newsday further reported that "GOP sources say Hannity touted his boyhood friend as a conservative who can win, vowing 'to do all he could' to promote Gomez, help fundraise and bring in headliners for events." Newsday subsequently reported in September, after Gingrich headlined a Gomez fundraiser that "Gomez arranged Gingrich's visit through childhood friend and TV host Sean Hannity." According to FEC records, Hannity and his wife donated a total of $9,600 to Gomez's campaign for the primary and general. Gomez was endorsed by Palin and heavily touted by Morris.

Movement building: How Fox created the Tea Party movement

Network heavily promoted, took ownership of tea parties

Network was chief promoter of April 15 "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties." In the lead-up to the April 15 tea parties, which the channel repeatedly described as "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties," Fox News frequently aired segments publicizing and encouraging viewers to get involved with the protests. A Media Matters study found that from April 6 to 13, Fox News featured at least 20 segments on the "Tea Party" protests, and a subsequent Media Matters study found that from April 6 to 15, Fox News aired at least 107 commercial promotions for its coverage of the April 15 tea parties.

FNC broadcasted live from protests on April 15. On April 15, Fox News hosts Beck, Neil Cavuto, Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren each provided live coverage from the sites of separate tea parties. Fox News also dispatched reporters and other hosts to the April 15 protests.

Fox News' coverage boosted protests, pushed other outlets to cover. Following the rallies, dozens of national and local news reports credited Fox News for publicizing and boosting the protests. On the April 18 edition of Fox News Watch, host Jon Scott asked: "Did the Fox coverage and promotion of the coverage, did it force the other networks to pay attention to it?" Then-Fox News contributor Jane Hall replied: "I think it did because the other TV networks ended up leading with it." CNN and Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz remarked, "I don't think I've ever seen a news network throw its weight behind a protest like we are seeing in the past few weeks with Fox and these tea parties."

Fox News gave publicity to Republican governors' "Tea Party 2.0." Van Susteren did a May 13, 2009, segment on the "Tea Party 2.0," a public tele-conference hosted by the Republican Governors Association, and stated, "If you wanted to go to a Tea Party on April 15 but could not make it ... tomorrow's your big chance." Fox Nation also promoted the event.

Fox promoted anti-health care reform disruptions of town halls. Following the August 2, 2009, disruption of a town hall event hosted by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Fox News personalities repeatedly lauded such protesters and urged viewers to take similar action. Fox & Friends guest co-host Peter Johnson Jr. said to protesters, "[W]e thank you for representing Americans, and we hope that other Americans get out there." Additionally, co-host Gretchen Carlson asked viewers: "Are you gonna call" your member of Congress "or are you gonna go to one of these receptions where they're actually there?" Co-host Steve Doocy similarly said: "If you want to contact your congress members and sound off, go to FoxNation.com." Fox & Friends also ran the on-screen text, "Hold Congress accountable! Now is the time to speak your mind." Hannity also said of town hall protests: "That's a pretty good way to fight back."

Hannity helped Bachmann start anti-reform protest. During the October 30, 2009, edition of Hannity, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) announced what was dubbed a "House Call on Washington" protest for "the people" to "tell their Representatives to vote no" on reform. Bachmann invited Fox News viewers to participate, adding, "You can go to MicheleBachmann.com for more information." Along with Hannity, Gingrich, Beck, the hosts of Fox & Friends, Andrew Napolitano, and the Fox Nation promoted the protest in the days leading up to November 5, 2009. Additionally, Fox News provided significant coverage for the protest on the day of the event. Fox News.com hosted a live stream of the protest as well. Bachmann repeatedly credited Fox News for helping start her protest. Fox & Friends also credited Hannity for providing a forum to start the protest.

Fox News promoted anti-health care "Code Red" rally. Fox News personalities such as Steve Doocy and Michelle Malkin as well as The Fox Nation promoted the December 15, 2009, anti-health care reform "Code Red" rally, which featured a speech by Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham. Fox's "news" hours, in turn, gave the protest live coverage.

Tea Party Express: Fox News' very own Tea Party affiliate

Consultant proposed the Express saying it would "give a boost to our PAC," highlighted possible friendly coverage from "Fox commentators." Following the April 15, 2009, tea parties, Joe Wierzbicki, a senior associate with the GOP consulting firm Russo Marsh, proposed creating the Tea Party Express bus tour in order to "give a boost to our PAC and position us as a growing force/leading force as the 2010 elections come into focus." Wierzbicki also wrote in the original memo proposing the creation of the Express that the effort could get "some mentions and possibly even promotion from conservative/pro-Tea Party bloggers, talk radio hosts, Fox News commentators, etc..."

Fox News "hops aboard the first Tea Party Express bus tour. Fox heavily promoted the first Tea Party Express bus tour with a month of positive coverage on Fox News, Fox Business, The Fox Nation, and FoxNews.com. On August 28, 2009, Fox News dispatched reporter William La Jeunesse to provide live coverage of the Tea Party Express kickoff in Sacramento. Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins travelled with the first Tea Party Express bus tour, purporting to "document it and see as much as we can and to challenge it," but frequently expressing support for the movement and its members.

Fox highlights "major grassroots support" of Fox-promoted Tea Party Express II. In October 2009, Fox Nation and Fox News both promoted the kick-off of the "Bigger & Better" Tea Party Express II. Tea Party Express co-chair Mark Williams appeared on the November 12, 2009 edition of Fox & Friends to discuss the conclusion of the Tea Party Express II tour. Co-host Gretchen Carlson noted that the tour "focused on small town U.S.A.," while Steve Doocy lauded the tour for its "major grassroots support."

Fox provides unending coverage of Tea Party Express III kick-off rally, along with its keynote speaker. Fox News provided all-day coverage of the March 27 kickoff rally for the Tea Party Express III bus tour, with the network's hosts and on-site reporter Casey Stegall frequently praising the rally's participants. At one point, Fox aired a graphic of the bus over the text, "Conservative Woodstock?" Fox provided live coverage of the event's keynote address -- given by Sarah Palin.

"Party On!": Fox promotes Tea Party Express IV. Fox relentlessly promoted the kick-off of the Tea Party Express IV bus tour, devoting numerous segments to the launch of its latest tour as well as hosting its chairman for softball interviews.

Express backed Republican candidates during 2010 elections. The Tea Party Express lists endorsements of dozens of Republicans on its website. The group rescinded its only endorsement of a Democrat, Rep. Walt Minnick (ID), in late October.

Beck uses Tea Party credibility to guide them toward the GOP

Beck promoted April 15, 2009, Tea Party protests, hosted his show live from Alamo rally. In the month leading up to April 15, 2009, Beck frequently promoted the Tea Party protests and hosted organizers of several Tea Party events. While discussing the April 15 protests on his April 6 program, Beck suggested that viewers could "[c]elebrate with Fox News" by either attending a protest or watching it on Fox News. Beck stated that in addition to himself, hosts Cavuto, Greta Van Susteren, and Sean Hannity would be "live" at different protests. While Beck spoke, on-screen text labeled those protests as "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties." Beck hosted his April 15 show live from a Tea Party rally held at the Alamo.

Beck launched 9-12 Project, which he said spurred "millions" to get "involved" in protests, including 9-12 march on Washington. On March 13, 2009, Beck announced the launch of his 9-12 Project for those "looking for direction in taking back the control of our country." At the conclusion of this broadcast, Beck told his viewers to get to work and, "We'll meet back here in six months, all right?" On August 12, 2009, Beck described the 9-12 Project as giving "ourselves an outlet of voice to connect, because you needed to community organize. ... Well, you've already done it. There are 9-12 Projects and rallies happening all over. The biggest one seems to be in Washington, D.C., on September 12." On August 27, 2009, Beck said of the 9-12 Project: "A few months ago, I told you, you got to know you're not alone. You've got to know. You got to unite. Talk to people. Make sure you know you're not alone, through the 9-12 Project. We started that. Millions all involved across the country and the 9-12 Project and other organizations like it. I knew we needed to connect with one another."

  • Fox News relentlessly promoted 9-12 protest. Organizers involved with the September 12, 2009, March on Washington credited Beck with inspiring the 9-12 movement, and Fox News, led by Beck, relentlessly promoted the 9-12 march. Fox News also aggressively promoted the Tea Party Express tour -- whose last stop was on September 12, 2009, in Washington -- on Fox News, Fox Business, TheFoxNation.com, and FoxNews.com -- going so far as to cheerlead for the protests and advertise the Tea Party schedule so viewers "can be a part" of the events. Indeed, a Fox News producer was even caught coaching the crowd to cheer during a stop on the Tea Party Express. Following the protest, Beck and other Fox News hosts exaggerated the number of participants, with Beck at one point going so far as to claim -- based on calculations by a "university" that he could not "remember" -- that "1.7 million" people showed up for the march. PolitiFact.com reported that a fire department official said "he thought between 60,000 and 75,000 people had shown up."

Beck tried to make peace between nakedly political FreedomWorks and other Tea Party groups. On the April 17 edition of his radio show, Beck announced that he had taken on the corporate-backed right-wing organization FreedomWorks as a sponsor. The announcement came shortly after a Politico report on other Tea Party leaders accusing FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey, the former House majority leader, of "trying to hijack the tea parties." Beck urged his radio audience to "link arms" with FreedomWorks, calling them "the only organization that we have seen that really truly has the organizational power." Beck subsequently called for an end to "infighting" between 9-12ers, Tea Partiers, and FreedomWorks, and convened a summit on his Fox News program of Tea Party factions that included FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe.

Beck credited as a leader of the Tea Party movement. In the wake of his 8-28 Restoring Honor rally, which drew hundreds of thousands of attendees to the National Mall, Beck was credited as a leader of the Tea Party movement. Indeed, according to a July report from the Democratic polling firm Democracy Corps:

Glenn Beck is the most highly regarded individual among Tea Party supporters of the people we tested. He scores an extraordinarily high 75 percent warm rating, 57 percent very warm.

This affinity for Beck came through very clearly in the focus groups. The only news source that participants said they could trust was Fox. Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity were cited as people who "are not afraid to tell it like it is" and support their arguments with solid facts. Beck was undoubtedly the hero in these groups. Participants consider him an "educator" (in contrast to the popular Rush Limbaugh who is an "entertainer") who teaches people history and puts himself at risk because he exposes the truth. In the words of a woman in Ft. Lauderdale, "I would trust my life in his hands."

Beck uses Tea Party popularity to drive GOP get-out-the-vote. Throughout September and October, Glenn Beck used his Fox News show to urge his audience to vote and to "[g]et your friends and neighbors to go in record-breaking numbers to vote." Beck warned that if they did not do so, progressives would "de-develop the United States" and "[m]ake us poorer and make the poor countries richer." While Beck had claimed, "I'm not telling you who to vote for" and that he doesn't "care if they're voting for Democrat or Republican," on the October 26 edition of his Fox News show he dropped all pretense, turning his Fox News show into an hour-long telethon and GOTV drive for Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann and Jason Chaffetz and Sen. Jim DeMint. Beck at one point turned to DeMint and asked, "What kind of help do you need?" DeMint promptly directed Beck's viewers to a GOP fundraising website. Beck also allowed Bachmann to plug her Facebook page, where viewers could donate to her campaign, and her political action committee.

More than 30 Fox Newsers support GOP in 600-plus instances during midterms

Fox Newsers support Republican candidates and organizations. During the 2009-2010 election cycle, more than 30 Fox News personalities have endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or organizations in more than 600 instances. The Republican support has been given to more than 300 different races or party organizations in at least 47 states.

Republicans routinely tout Fox News in campaigning. Media Matters found that Republicans routinely tout the Fox News affiliation of their supporters. For example, on his September 13 Fox News program, Hannity told North Carolina congressional candidate Ilario Pantano that "you belong in Congress, I'm very impressed." In an email, Pantano highlighted the Fox News exchange to raise campaign funds. The campaign also issued a press release calling Hannity's praise a "significant achievement."

Looking forward: The 2012 Fox News presidential primary

Politico: "How does a news organization cover White House hopefuls when so many are on the payroll?" In a September 27 article, Politico reported:

With Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee all making moves indicating they may run for president, their common employer is facing a question that hasn't been asked before: How does a news organization cover White House hopefuls when so many are on the payroll?

The answer is a complicated one for Fox News.

As Fox's popularity grows among conservatives, the presence of four potentially serious Republican candidates as paid contributors is beginning to frustrate competitors of the network, figures within its own news division and rivals of what some GOP insiders have begun calling "the Fox candidates."

With the exception of Mitt Romney, Fox now has deals with every major potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office.

[...]

At issue are basic matters of political and journalistic fairness and propriety. With Fox effectively becoming the flagship network of the right and, more specifically, the Tea Party movement, the four Republicans it employs enjoy an unparalleled platform from which to speak directly to primary voters who will determine the party's next nominee.

Their Fox jobs allow these politicians an opportunity to send conservative activists a mostly unfiltered message in what is almost always a friendly environment. Fox opinion hosts typically invite the Republicans simply to offer their views on issues of the day, rather than press them to defend their rhetoric or records as leaders of the party.

Fox News candidates "speak through Fox News" at least 269 times in 2010. Media Matters for America searched the Nexis database through September 18 for network and cable television appearances in 2010 by five potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates who currently have relationships with Fox News. The five potential candidates -- John Bolton, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Rick Santorum -- have appeared 269 times on Fox News and a total of six times on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS combined.

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