So Wrong, So Long: Dick Morris' Unethical Career At Fox News
Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI & BEN DIMIERO
Following nearly fifteen years of countless ethical violations, inaccurate electoral predictions, and offensive, false, and dishonest comments, Fox News political analyst Dick Morris is done at the network.
His exit is long overdue.
After Morris announced on his website that he would be appearing on the February 6 edition of CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, Fox News officials confirmed that the network had declined to renew his contract.
Though Morris had made dozens of appearances on Fox News in the months before the 2012 election, he has been absent from the network's airwaves since a November 12 appearance on Hannity. Prior to the election, Morris repeatedly told Fox's audience that Mitt Romney was headed to a "landslide" election victory over President Barack Obama.
New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman reported in December that Fox News had benched Morris, requiring producers to get permission from high-ranking network executives before booking him on their shows. According to Sherman, "Morris's Romney boosterism and reality-denying predictions became a punch line" inside the network. In recent years the network's executives had also repeatedly been subjected to inquiries from reporters concerning Morris' pattern of ethical misdeeds.
During a May 2012 appearance on the O'Reilly Factor -- a program that featured Morris hundreds of times during his tenure at the network -- host Bill O'Reilly told Morris that he was so far "out on the limb" predicting a Romney win, that if Obama were to be re-elected, Morris would be "through."
At least as far as Morris' Fox employment is concerned, O'Reilly was right.
In this report:
Shortly after one of Dick Morris' many ethical lapses, Baltimore Sun television critic David Zurawik told Media Matters that Morris is a "sleazy operative" and asked, "Is there anybody in the media you can think of who has less of an ethical compass?"
Indeed, Morris' Fox News career featured a staggering number of ethical problems, with the pundit regularly shilling on-air for various candidates and conservative causes that were paying him money without disclosing the conflict of interest to viewers.
Morris also used his Fox platform to plug his website several hundred times over the course of his contract, to the point where his incessant self-promotion became a punchline for his colleagues. During appearances, he regularly directed viewers to sign up for his mailing list, which he subsequently sold -- through conservative outlet Newsmax, which operates the list -- to various conservative groups, including the shady super PAC he helped direct.
Some lowlights below.
Promoting GOP Candidates And Causes That Were Paying Him Money
When Morris was discussing political candidates and causes on Fox News, it was usually safe to assume they were paying him money behind the scenes.
Between October 27, 2008, and November 17, 2008, Morris urged Fox viewers to donate to GOPTrust.com, the website of the National Republican Trust PAC. Morris mentioned the group during at least 13 Fox News appearances. At no point did Morris disclose that the organization paid his firm $24,000 from the beginning of October 2008 to November 24, 2008, mostly for "Email Communication."
During the 2009-2010 election cycle, Morris often appeared on Fox to tout pro-Republican causes to which he had a financial connection. According to a Media Matters review of FEC filings, Morris and his firm, Triangulation Strategies, received at least $229,174 in direct payments from political campaigns and groups during the 2009-2010 election cycle.
In October 2010, Morris promoted the congressional campaign of Beth Anne Rankin (R-AR) to Fox News viewers in at least three separate appearances. Shortly before Morris started plugging her campaign on-air, he appeared at multiple political rallies for Rankin, for which he was paid $10,000. Morris did not disclose the payment on Fox News.
In the summer of 2010, Morris was paid more than $25,000 for "fundraising email expense" by Americans for New Leadership, an independent expenditure political committee organized to defeat Sen. Harry Reid. Between July and September of that year, Morris appeared on Fox to urge viewers to donate to the group's cause and promote its goals. At no point did he disclose that he was receiving money from the group.
In February 2010, the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania paid Morris $10,000 for speaking at its 2010 Lincoln Day Dinner. Following the payment, Morris repeatedly appeared on Fox News to discuss Pennsylvania politics and shill for Pennsylvania Republicans and causes -- once again without disclosing the financial conflict of interest.
The 2012 election cycle was no different.
During the 2012 Republican presidential primary, Morris sent a series of emails to his mailing list touting softball interviews he had conducted with then-presidential candidates Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann. All of the emails promoting these interviews were "paid for" by the Cain and Bachmann campaigns and included direct links to the fundraising websites for the candidates.
In November, the same day that Morris released a video on his website and column in The Hill touting the electability of Newt Gingrich, Gingrich's campaign paid Morris for the use of his email list. (Santorum and Ron Paul also rented Morris' email list over the course of the primary.)
Morris was a regular fixture on Fox News' airwaves during the Republican primary, and often discussed (and praised) candidates that had rented his email list. Only after Associated Press writer David Bauder contacted Morris and Fox executive vice president Bill Shine with questions about the payments did Morris disclose to Fox News viewers that he had taken money from several of the campaigns.
Morris' financial conflicts of interest during the 2012 cycle weren't limited to the presidential race. In the lead-up to the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, Morris frequently went on Fox News to praise Scott Walker, the state's Republican incumbent governor. He applauded Walker's anti-union actions and begged viewers to "do everything they can to support Scott Walker."
The Walker campaign had previously rented Morris' email list three times and "paid for" a blog post featuring a video of Morris urging people to donate to Walker. Further, in 2011, Morris' firm was paid $20,000 by conservative group The Presidential Coalition LLC for "list usage." Morris sent several 2011 emails asking readers to donate to that group to help various Wisconsin Republicans that were facing recall elections.
In 2012, Morris also used Fox News airwaves to promote the campaigns of Republican Senate candidates Josh Mandel and Richard Mourdock. Both candidates had previously paid Morris: the Mandel campaign paid Morris firm a $10,000 "speaking fee" to compensate Morris for an appearance at a Mandel fundraiser, while the Mourdock campaign "paid for" at least two emails to Morris mailing list, including a direct fundraising appeal from Morris himself.
Morris' financial conflicts of interest expand beyond promoting GOP political candidates.
In appearances on Fox News in 2011 and 2012, Morris promoted National School Choice Week without disclosing that the Gleason Family Foundation -- a major funder of School Choice Week -- has paid out at least $180,000 in "marketing" fees to Morris' Triangulation Strategies.
Auctioning Off Fox News Tours
On at least two separate occasions, Morris used the promise of a Fox News studio tour to help fundraise for Republican causes. (When he wasn't touting Republicans on Fox News, Morris was frequently campaigning for Republican candidates and organizations around the country.)
In March 2012, Media Matters reported that Morris had been paid to speak at an event for a local Republican Party in Lake County, Florida. As part of his appearance, Morris auctioned himself off as a tour guide of Fox News headquarters. Morris was paid $10,000 for his appearance, according to records with the Lake County Supervisor of Elections.
In response to the report, Fox News announced that they had "reprimanded" Morris and that the tour had been canceled (several media ethicists at this point wondered what it would take for Fox to suspend Morris).
But at least one such tour had previously gone forward, apparently without being brought to the attention of network executives. In 2011, Morris was a paid guest speaker at Michigan's Oakland County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner. According to the group, Morris helped arrange a tour of Fox News studios for a select group of VIP donors. The donors were also treated to tapings of Lou Dobbs Tonight and Hannity during their visit.
Super PAC For America
In the weeks before the 2012 election, Super PAC for America, the political group where Morris serves as chief strategist, paid conservative news outlet Newsmax Media roughly $1.7 million -- more than the group spent on all independent expenditures combined. A portion of that money went to renting Morris' own Fox News-fueled email list, which is managed by Newsmax. According to a Media Matters review, Morris sent at least 21 emails to his list featuring fundraising pitches "paid for by Super PAC for America."
The emails from Morris and Super PAC for America sent prior to the 2012 election regularly hyped Morris' ludicrous predictions of Romney's supposedly impending victory, as well as assurances that the money Super PAC for America had invested in political ads was "paying off." A representative fundraising pitch from Morris declared that his group's "powerful" ads had "made a huge difference in key swing states like Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Virginia."
After Romney lost all of those states, Morris explained in a post-election column that political ads are actually no longer effective because people fast forward through them.
Prior to the 2010 elections, Super PAC for America paid Newsmax nearly $2 million for "email list rental," fundraising, and advertising. Before those midterm elections, Morris, as he did in 2012, sent out numerous emails that were "paid for by Super PAC for America." In October 2010, Morris promoted the group in at least three Fox News appearances. During an appearance on Fox & Friends, Morris plugged Super PAC for America's website and told viewers, "Don't watch this show without a pencil and paper."
Dick Morris appeared on Fox & Friends the day before the 2012 election to discuss his prediction of a "landslide" Romney victory and, after noting analysts predicting an Obama victory, said "either I'm gonna have to go through a big reckoning, or they are. And you know what? They are." "They" did not.
Not only were Morris' 2012 predictions inaccurate, his punditry was fundamentally dishonest. Morris repeatedly talked up Mitt Romney during Fox News appearances (and in his online videos), including telling O'Reilly Factor viewers that he "like[s]" Mitt Romney. Morris' praise was a total reversal from his previous criticisms of the candidate. Why the flip-flop? Morris admitted on a conservative radio program in June that he would stop "dumping" on Romney because he might become the Republican nominee.
Boisterous predictions at odds with polling data, political realities, and common sense have been Dick Morris' stock in trade as a purported political analyst. Media Matters looks back at some of Morris' worst misses over the past years.
Morris Predicted Romney Would Defeat President Obama In "A Landslide"
"Romney Will Win By A Very Large Margin -- A Landslide If You Will."
MORRIS: We're going to win by -- Romney will win by a very large margin. A landslide, if you will. I believe he'll win by more than five points in the popular vote. I think he'll get 325 electoral votes. [Fox News, America Live, 11/5/12]
Morris Predicted Republicans Would Win "10 Seats In The Senate" In 2012
Actual Result: Democrats added to their majority in the Senate.
"We Are Also, By The Way, Going To Win 10 Seats In The Senate." [Fox News, Hannity, 2/27/12]
Morris Thought It Was "Very Possible" That Obama Would Drop Out Of The Presidential Race
Actual result: Obama did not drop out and he won re-election.
"It's Very Possible" That Obama Won't Run For Re-Election Because His Numbers Are So Bad.
[Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 9/28/11]
Morris Predicted Herman Cain "Will Overcome" Sexual Misconduct Allegations
Actual Result: In the midst of controversy, Herman Cain suspended his presidential campaign on December 3, 2011.
"Why Cain Will Overcome." In a November 10 blog post, headlined, "Why Cain Will Overcome," Morris predicted that Cain "would survive" the allegations, writing:
We are mired in the worst economic condition in eighty years and will not tolerate more talk about who invited whom up to their room and for what. We don't care. We don't want to know. We want you to go away and let us choose a president based on the serious and grave issues we are trying to consider. We think the media is a distraction and we want it to stop its drumbeat coverage. Pro-Cain or anti-Cain is irrelevant. We want the issue to go away!
This third dimension of public reaction was evident when the CNBC reporters in last night's debate tried to ask Cain about the accusations. The crowd would have none of it. When the reporters tried to couch the questions as relating to managerial ability or the character required of a CEO, they still hooted down the question. In that moment, I realized that Cain would survive for the same reason Clinton made it - we have more important things to worry about. [DickMorris.com, 11/10/11]
Morris Predicted Donald Trump Is "Going To Run" For President And "He Could Beat Obama"
Actual result: Trump did not run and did not beat Obama.
"I Think He's Going To Run, I Think He's Got A Good Shot At The Nomination, If He Were Nominated, He Could Beat Obama."
GALLAGHER: Hey Dick Morris, you sound intrigued by a Donald Trump candidacy.
MORRIS: Oh I am. I am. I take him very seriously. I think he's going to run, I think he's got a good shot at the nomination, and I think if he were nominated, he could beat Obama. [Salem Radio Network, The Mike Gallagher Show, 4/28/12]
Morris' 2008 Map Included Arkansas As "Leaning Obama" And Louisiana And Tennessee As "Tossup" States
Actual result: Sen. John McCain won each of these states by at least 15 percentage points.
On the electoral map he posted at Newsmax.com shortly before the 2008 election, Morris labeled Arkansas "leaning Obama." McCain won Arkansas by 20 percentage points, and according to Pollster.com, Obama led in that state in only one poll throughout the entire race -- by two percentage points in a June 2008 Zogby Internet survey. Morris' final electoral map also had Louisiana and Tennessee as "tossup" states; McCain won each of these states by at least 15 percentage points.
From Morris' 2008 electoral map, accessed via the Internet Archive:
Morris' Book Predicting the 2008 Election Was Titled Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race
Actual result: Condoleeza Rice did not run for president, and Hillary Clinton did not win her party's nomination in 2008.
The cover of Morris' 2005 book:
Morris On Rice: "We're Going To Draft Her Into Running. If We Build It, She Will Come." [Fox News, DaySide, 10/12/05]
Morris Predicted Republicans Would Never Nominate McCain For President
Actual result: Republicans nominated Sen. McCain for president.
Morris: "Rudy Giuliani And John McCain? Either Of Them Could Probably Win, But Neither Will Ever Be Nominated By The Republican Party." [Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race, page 2].
From Morris' Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race:
Morris Predicted Hillary Clinton Would Drop Out Of The Race Against Jeanine Pirro
Actual result: Pirro dropped out of the race.
"The First Thing I Would Tell Hillary, If I Were Advising Hillary, Is You're Crazy To Run For The Senate." As Media Matters has documented, in columns in The Hill and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and appearances on Fox News in 2005, Morris repeatedly touted New York Republican Jeanine Pirro's 2006 Senate campaign against Clinton. Morris asserted, regarding Clinton running for a second Senate term, "[T]he first thing I would tell Hillary, if I were advising Hillary, is you're crazy to run for the Senate." He also asserted that Clinton "might just take a pass" rather than face Pirro in the election, and even stated, "My bet is that Clinton thinks the better of it and drops out of the race if Pirro comes on strong.
Morris Predicted Rick Lazio Would Defeat Clinton In 2000 Senate Race
Actual result: Clinton defeated Lazio by more than 12 percentage points.
"Lazio Is, At This Point, More Likely To Win It Than Hillary." On the November 6, 2000, edition of The O'Reilly Factor,Morris asserted: "I think Lazio is, at this point, more likely to win it than Hillary, because, if Hillary is at 48 percent -- or even at 49 percent, or even at 50 percent -- a lot of her vote of minorities, a lot of her -- who have no real reason to vote in the presidential race."
Morris' Commentary On Fox Is Filled With Smears And Falsehoods. Morris frequently and repetitively pushes falsehoods about progressive policy proposals. For example, Morris repeatedly forwarded the myths that Democratic health care reform legislation contained a "death panel" or promotes "euthanasia" and that the legislation punishes those who do not have health insurance with "jail."
Morris has also a history of fabricating smears. For instance, Morris invented then retracted a story that President Clinton reappointed Attorney General Janet Reno so she wouldn't "turn on" him over the federal raid on the Waco, TX, compound. He has also pushed conspiracies about the Obama administration's purported plans to impose global government on the country through the United Nations.
Outrageous comments that Morris has uttered on Fox News include:
Morris: "Those Crazies In Montana Who Say, 'We're Going To Kill ATF Agents Because The U.N.'S Going To Take Over' -- Well, They're Beginning To Have A Case." During a long conspiracy theory about a "super-national authority" that will oversee U.S. financial institutions, Morris asserted that because President Obama's policies are "internationalist ... [t]hose crazies in Montana who say, 'We're going to kill ATF agents because the U.N.'s going to take over' -- well, they're beginning to have a case." [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 3/31/09]
Morris: Obama's "Failure" To "Produce" Birth Certificate When He Declared Candidacy "Attracted Legitimate Attention." Morris has blamed Obama for the birther movement, claiming that by failing to "produce" his birth certificate he "attracted legitimate attention" from those who doubt that he was born in the United States. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/27/11]
Morris: Health Care "Switch[ers]" Are "Traitors" That "Sold Out This Country." Morris named House Democrats who switched their health care vote from no to yes and labeled them "traitors." Morris concluded, to applause, that "we are going to defeat them" in November. [Fox News, Huckabee, 3/20/10]
Morris: Obama Is "Anti-American." Morris has claimed that Obama's nuclear policy "might" make him "the first anti-American president we've ever had." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/13/10]
Morris: "If We Don't Take Our Country Back In 2010, It's Not Going To Be There For Us To Take Back." Discussing why "we are in one of the more important election cycles ever in our lifetime," Morris has stated, "If we don't take our country back in 2010, it's not going to be there for us to take back." [Fox News, Hannity, 1/4/10]
Morris: Obama Awarded Nobel Prize As Part Of "Europe's Effort To Colonize The United States." Morris claimed that the reason Obama was "delaying the decision to commit troops to Afghanistan is because he wanted" to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He added that the award "is part of Europe's effort to colonize the United States -- to reverse the effects of the American Revolution." [Fox News, Hannity, 10/13/09]
Morris: "The Way To Get Popular With This Administration Is To Be An Enemy Of The United States." Morris has said Obama's foreign policy is "absolutely flipping things upside-down" because "If you're an enemy of America -- Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Hamas -- he's in bed with you." He added that "The way to get popular with this administration is to be an enemy of the United States." [Fox News, Hannity, 4/23/09]
Morris: "Obama's Plan Is Gonna Kill You." After Bill O'Reilly said, "just treat me as a guy from Levittown ... making $55,000 a year" and asked if Obama's plan is "gonna help me" buy health insurance, Morris replied "No, Obama's plan is gonna kill you." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/22/09]
Morris On Herman Cain Sexual Harassment Accuser: "I Look Forward To Her Spread In Playboy." During the November 7 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity discussed sexual misconduct allegations against then-presidential candidate Herman Cain by Sharon Bialek. Hannity said: "This is 15 years ago. The woman did not work for the Restaurant Association. She comes forward at this moment. There really isn't any corroboration -- it's a he said, she said." Morris responded: "Well, this is ridiculous. ... This woman is in search of money. ... This woman has been unemployed for 13 years, and this is apparently payday. ... I look forward to her spread in Playboy." [Fox News, Hannity, 11/7/11]