So it seems that Karl Rove and Dick Morris are on the outs at Fox News. New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman reports that Roger Ailes wants the two pundits off the air, for the time being, and that Fox News producers "must get permission before booking Rove or Morris." The reasons for their benching? "Morris's Romney boosterism and reality-denying predictions became a punch line" within the network, and "Ailes was angry at Rove's election-night tantrum when he disputed the network's call for Obama."
At last we're getting a clearer picture of what it takes to face a reckoning at Fox News. Glaring conflicts of interest, grossly unethical behavior, and naked GOP boosterism adorned with a journalistic fig leaf are just fine. To reap the Ailes whirlwind, you have to become such a transcendent embarrassment that the network has no choice but to treat you as a liability.
It's not a hard-and-fast rule, but there exists some precedent. The most prominent example is, of course, Glenn Beck, whose short-lived Fox News tenure was an ongoing exercise in damage control. Beck managed to stay in Ailes good graces owing to high ratings and ad revenue, but as he grew increasingly unhinged (caliphate, anyone?) and big-name advertisers fled en masse, they had a falling out and Beck was shown the door. "Half of the headlines say he's been canceled. The other half say he quit. We're pretty happy with both of them," Ailes told the Associated Press.
And then there's E.D. Hill, the Fox News anchor who in 2008 memorably characterized a fist bump between Barack and Michelle Obama as "a terrorist fist jab," generating howls of outrage from all corners. Her program was canceled within two weeks, and later that year the network declined to renew her contract.
On the other hand, there are plenty of Fox News personalities who have very publicly disgraced themselves and the network and who remain secure in their jobs. Look no further than the cast of Fox & Friends. Their 2008 stunt in which they smeared two New York Times reporters by Photoshopping yellow teeth, big noses, and receding hairlines into their publicity photos should have sent heads rolling. And yet, Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade are still on the air. Eric Bolling declared himself a birther on his Fox Business Network show: "There is a legitimate question as to whether or not the president of the United States is allowed to be president of the United States." He's since moved up to the big leagues and now co-hosts The Five on Fox News.
All this to say that, despite Morris' and Rove's benching -- which has every appearance of being temporary -- there is still no real culture of accountability at Fox News. The only way to get in trouble is to make such a spectacle of yourself that the network brass are forced to act (sagging ratings seem to be a precondition as well). And even then, there's a good chance you won't face any consequences whatsoever.
You might even get promoted.
From the November 25 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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The right-leaning Heritage Foundation has thrown cold water on the revival a conspiracy theory pushed on Fox News by contributor Dick Morris and the National Rifle Association that the United Nation's Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is actually a sinister Obama administration plot to eliminate the right of private individuals to own a firearm.
During a Heritage Blogger Briefing, senior research fellow Ted Bromund stated, "I don't think that the ATT is a gun confiscation measure for a variety of reasons. First, because I don't regard that as within the bounds of possibility in the United States and secondly, because that is not what the text says."
Bromund's assessment is correct. The stated goal of the treaty is to regulate the international trade of firearms in order to prevent the diversion of arms to human rights abusers, and the most recent version of the treaty's text expressly prohibits the regulation of firearm ownership within sovereign nations.
The preamble of the July 26 treaty draft clearly "reaffirm[s] the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system." Furthermore, the Department of State has stated that it will oppose any treaty that contains "restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution."
Despite convincing evidence that the treaty seeks only to regulate international trade -- and that any treaty limiting rights granted by the United States Constitution would be considered invalid -- the conspiracy theory persists. Morris, who has pushed theory on Fox News, and NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, both dedicated space in their latest books to advance the claim.
After spending the weeks before the election sending emails imploring his readers to send him money to run TV ads he described as critical to defeating President Obama, Dick Morris used his most recent column to say that such ads have no impact.
The Fox News political analyst and columnist for The Hill is having a rough month. In the wake of an election in which several conservative pundits -- conspiracy theorists, wishful thinkers, and heavily invested political players alike -- have come out looking foolish for their predictions of a major Romney win, Morris stands alongside Karl Rove as the figure bearing the most ridicule and criticism.
Perhaps in response to this criticism, Morris penned an election postmortem this weekend, wherein he laid out why "The Campaign Made No Difference." According to Morris, the extended, expensive campaign in swing states was basically a wash.
But for weeks before the election, Morris' public pronouncements of an impending Romney victory were tied to a steady barrage of fundraising emails from his political action committee, Super PAC for America. Those pre-election emails explained that the TV ads that Super PAC for America was running had made a difference in swinging the race in Romney's favor.
Now, a week out from the election, Morris explains that political ads are ineffective and people just fast forward through them anyway:
The months and months of campaigning, the hundreds of millions of TV advertising, the incessant travel schedules of the candidates, and the vigorous efforts of both sides to get their vote out made little or no difference in the outcome of the Election of 2012.
1. Television is losing its impact. Particularly in the presidential race, it is astonishing that the almost one billion dollars spent advertising in eight states did very little to move the vote share. Voters are not watching television as much these days and those that are still turning it on are fast forwarding through the ads. And negative campaign ads -- in fact, all ads, -- are losing their impact.
To sum up, Morris now says that nobody watches political ads, they don't move swing voters, and negative ads are losing their impact. Let's compare Morris' discussion of the ineffectiveness of political advertising with some of the fundraising emails sent by Super PAC for America in the weeks leading up the election.
After President Obama's re-election, conservative media figures attacked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for his praise of the president's leadership following Hurricane Sandy. Their attacks followed News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch's pre-election statement that Christie would be to blame if Obama won the election.
From the November 7 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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From the November 7 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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In response to President Obama's re-election, conservative media have declared that the president does not have a mandate to pursue his policies and said Republicans have a mandate to obstruct them. In Obama's first term, Republicans engaged in historic levels of obstruction against Obama's agenda.
During this election cycle, Fox News political analyst Dick Morris repeatedly made outlandish and bizarre electoral predictions at odds with polling data and common sense. His predictions were "so far out on the limb" that Bill O'Reilly told him if Barack Obama wins the election, Morris would be "through." Morris' long track record of terrible prognostication shows that his many strikeouts this cycle aren't an aberration but a steady flow of failure.
Media Matters looks back at 12 of Morris' many predictions that didn't come true.
From the November 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News political analyst Dick Morris, who repeatedly predicted a "landslide" victory for Mitt Romney, is officially "through" according to the standard set by Bill O'Reilly earlier this year.
During a May appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly told Morris that he was "so far out on the limb" for a Romney win, that if Obama was re-elected, Morris would be"through" and would be "selling refrigerators in Topeka."
Major media outlets, including Fox News, are now projecting that Obama will win re-election.
In February, Morris appeared on Hannity and declared that there was "no chance that Obama will get re-elected." When Hannity disagreed, Morris said "zilch, zone, zip nada," prompting Hannity to tell Morris that he would hold the analyst to his prediction.
Fox News political analyst Dick Morris, whose Super PAC for America has recently been flooding inboxes with countless fundraising appeals, changed venues for his solicitations this afternoon by participating in a "critical election teleconference" hosted by NewsMax.com.
The discussion, access to which cost listeners $4.95 in order to "cover the expense ...to set up your private line," was billed as an opportunity to give NewsMax subscribers "the latest campaign information, how you can still impact the race, and how you can prepare for what is about to happen on Nov. 6." In reality, the call was little more than an elaborate plug for Morris' super PAC, couched in a meandering and often self-contradictory conversation about the state of the presidential race.
Joining Morris for the discussion were his Super PAC for America cohort Michael Reagan along with, for reasons that weren't made clear, the "very famous" author Robert Wiedemer. Morris, who has recently been predicting a "landslide" for Mitt Romney, sounded notably less confident, cautioning that he did not "want to pretend that everything is perfect, because I'm very concerned today." Citing the November 2 Rasmussen daily tracking poll showing a tied race, Morris expressed concern that Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy has helped him in the polls, a conclusion that directly contradicts the fundraising pitch Morris made right before the hurricane struck, in which he predicted voters "will see right through" Obama's attempt to "look presidential" in the face of the storm.
However, despite warning at the call's outset that he is "very concerned today," when the conversation shifted to electoral predictions, Morris was once again bullish about Romney's chances. He predicted Romney wins in nearly every swing state, except for Nevada and New Mexico, "if you consider that a swing state."
Asked what people can do to help Romney heading into the final weekend, Morris shifted seamlessly into soliciting donations to Super PAC for America. "We're sitting here in the trench firing mortars, folks, and we need shells. ... Right now if you contribute today, in this phone call, we will put that money directly into Monday night advertising in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and make a big difference " After being informed that people could not donate over the phone because the call was a "news briefing," Morris and Reagan both repeatedly directed listeners to SuperPacforAmerica.com so they could empty their wallets.
Morris particularly wanted money to help in Pennsylvania, where he said he is currently campaigning and where his Super PAC had effectively executed a "flanking maneuver." In Morris' view, "we're in better shape in Pennsylvania than we are in Ohio" thanks in part to Hurricane Sandy possibly depressing Democratic voters in the state's eastern half.
To sum up Morris' pitch: the race is close and also not close, and there are danger signs but Romney is also going to win almost every swing state. But to be extra sure, you should give money to Super PAC for America.
In recent weeks, Morris has repeatedly twisted news events into reasons to donate to his Super PAC for America. In addition to his cynical pitch tied to Hurricane Sandy earlier this week, Morris blatantly flip-flopped on who he considered the winner of the vice presidential debate in order to ask for money.
From the October 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Hurricane Sandy is due to make landfall in the next few hours and is predicted to cause billions of dollars in damage to the East Coast. The storm is already responsible for widespread damage and nearly 70 deaths in Caribbean countries. While both presidential campaigns have asked their supporters to donate to the American Red Cross and other relief organizations, Fox News political analyst Dick Morris is using the storm to solicit donations to his super PAC.
Morris' Super PAC for America sent an "Urgent" message to NewsMax.com's email list earlier today with the subject line, "Dick Morris: Hurricane Hurts Obama, Helps Romney." In the email, Morris writes that while the storm "will drench many states with rain while battering them with dangerous winds," President Obama's decision to cancel campaign events to prepare for it was "a cynical grab for votes."
In the email, Morris conveys a sense of excitement at the prospect of storm damage depressing Democratic turnout. He writes that Hurricane Sandy helps Romney because the effects of the storm will be felt for weeks due to power outages and flooding, and "Obama voters are looking for ANY excuse to not vote for him," while Romney voters "will drive through a blizzard to the polls."
According to Morris, the Obama campaign "will realize their cynical attempt to use this weather disaster for political gain was one big failure," and possibly unleash a "surprise" in the next few days in order to derail Romney. Conveniently, Morris' super PAC is prepared to counter "Obama's Chicago-style get out the vote machine," as long as you donate:
Conservative media figures are lashing out at GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for not attacking President Obama aggressively enough during tonight's presidential debate over his handling of Libya. Many of these same media figures have spent much of the past month lobbing frequent, inaccurate attacks at the administration over the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Fox News host Greg Gutfeld:
Fox News political analyst Dick Morris:
Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes:
Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin:
Fox News host Eric Bolling:
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham:
Romney has regularly echoed false talking points from conservative media figures during debates.