Green Room

Fox News’s definition of a “candidate for President” fails the laugh test

posted at 4:09 pm on March 2, 2011 by

Ed reported on Fox News’ decision to suspend its business relationship with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum because they, as Bret Baier put it, “have signaled possible runs for the presidency.”

The move caught a lot of us off guard, first because it doesn’t seem necessary — neither have formally put together exploratory committees — but second, the decision fails to address the two biggest elephants in Fox’s living room, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. Can anyone see a genuine difference between where Gingrich and Santorum are in their candidacies, and where Huckabee and Palin are in theirs? Indeed, none of the four have exploratory committees, and none have said “no” when asked if they might run. Not a Sherman Statement among them.

Whether you’re a Sarah or Huckabee fan, a Newt or Santorum backer, or a just a curious unaffiliated Republican observer of the events, FNC’s decision poses a real dilemma. Ed, Allahpundit, and many others have observed the extent to which Fox, since 2008, has taken the Republican candidates for the 2012 nomination and added them to the universe of paid contributors. There’s not a thing wrong with that, and FNC has benefited enormously by acquiring the candidates’ services.

What is wrong, however, is for Fox News to hold the candidates to different standards of “candidacy.” I have no dog in a talking heads fight, and particularly as to the candidates that just got bounced from FNC studios, I’m personally underwhelmed by their primary and general election prospects. But as a Republican, it is deeply troubling that Fox News would make this move since it suggests one of (at least) three things:

  • Huckabee and Palin have told Fox News they aren’t running. This poses problems for Fox News and for the former governors, because FNC would then be withholding news, and the candidates would in effect be misleading voters and viewers as to their intentions. Being “coy” about whether you’ll run wouldn’t be a problem if Fox had a bright-line definition of what does and does not constitute a candidate — like establishing an exploratory committee — and therefore who gets Fox News airtime, but as I’ve laid out already, Santorum, Gingrich, Palin and Huckabee are all in identical positions at present. None have exploratory committees, and none have said “no” to running. In fact, it’s the possibility they’ll run that has been a great deal of the allure for FNC to employ them, and viewers to watch them. Which brings us to a shadier option:
  • Huckabee and Palin might run, but they’re too valuable to “suspend.” This is a distinct and troubling possibility, one that on the evidence is still an open question. Gingrich and Santorum are with little doubt minor candidates relative to the triumvirate of Romney-Palin-Huckabee. Losing Gingrich-Santorum would be less expensive than losing 2/3rds of the major league 2012 Republican field. Fox News is then effectively picking its GOP winners and losers, keeping on payroll those that are more likely to have a ROI and jettisoning those that don’t under a banner of “neutrality,” when it’s anything but. FNC runs a business, and I get that. But if Santorum and Gingrich’s departure was based on that kind of cost-benefit analysis, it’s a serious ethical lapse taken in full view of the consequences.
  • Fox News is trying to get the Presidential race going. It’s the most unlikely of the possibilities, but here’s how it would work: Fox News bounces Gingrich and Santorum, putting them into de facto full campaign mode. (Gingrich may have anticipated FNC’s move to cull its roster yesterday, to no avail.) Huck and Sarah are then forced to distinguish their intentions from Gingrich’s and Santorum’s, with both “yes” and “no” answers having their own consequences as to who does and doesn’t get in. Consequently, the race is on. Unlikely, but possible.

Again, this is not me opining as a sort of sad minor candidate backer. The likelihood that I would personally support either Santorum or Gingrich in a primary is low, but “suspending” them in this manner was the wrong thing to do. Unfairly or not, it will probably take Palin and Huckabee to make the situation right. And it was all avoidable.

Recently in the Green Room:



Trackback URL


This decision actually will ramp up the pressure on both Palin and Huckabee, because any action they take that even looks like a signal they’re running will have not just the rest of the anti-Fox media and Democrats making noise, but other Republican hopefuls as well will be griping about any double-standards for Sarah and Mike (it’s also hard to believe Roger Ailes & Co. don’t know this, though I suppose with the way the latest ratings came out, they might actually think they can hold off any decision on those two for a while longer and milk a few more months of high viewership/high ad rates out of both of them).

jon1979 on March 2, 2011 at 4:29 PM

This post has been promoted to

Comments have been closed on this post but the discussion continues here.

Allahpundit on March 2, 2011 at 10:43 PM

HotAir — Politics, Culture, Media, 2017, Breaking News from a conservative viewpoint
Top Pick


Top Pick

“When she left it, it was in better shape than it had ever been.”

Manafort, firm registers as foreign agents

Ed Morrissey Jun 28, 2017 6:41 PM

Better late than never?

Delivered as promised

“I would like to think that the president saved many innocent men, women and children.”

“The Russia investigation was by far the dominant topic…”

The merry little media war continues.

Criminal enterprise

Politico: Has the SPLC lost its way?

John Sexton Jun 28, 2017 3:01 PM

“The organization has always tried to find ways to milk money out of the public…”

Trump legal team backing away from Comey complaint?

Ed Morrissey Jun 28, 2017 2:31 PM


Time to get up and go to work, sir

CNN gets glum, defensive after resignations

John Sexton Jun 28, 2017 1:01 PM

“If Jeff lit himself on fire, it wouldn’t appease the pro-Trump media.”

Hmmm: FBI probing Russia-based anti-virus firm?

Ed Morrissey Jun 28, 2017 12:31 PM

“I wouldn’t put their stuff on my computer if you paid me.”

He works hard for the money…

It’s not a slippery slope. It’s a freaking avalanche.


Showdown: Sarah Palin vs the New York Times

Jazz Shaw Jun 28, 2017 9:21 AM


Credit where creditor’s due?

More flash than bang, but a very bad sign

“Felix was out on bond after threatening another public servant and has a history of making threats.”

Chaffetz: House needs housing allowances?

Ed Morrissey Jun 27, 2017 8:41 PM

“There are dozens upon dozens of members living in their offices, and I don’t know how healthy that is long term.”

“This isn’t going to get a lot cheaper, it can’t, it won’t.”

“…what we failed to achieve with votes, we would do with weapons.”

“[S]o dumb it’s amazing we even have to have the conversation.”

“It was not necessary.”

“You’re inflaming everyone right here right now with those words!”

“Trump’s people said, ‘We’ll be writing the speech that the President’s Audio-Animatronic figure will be saying.'”

Excuses, excuses.

Not really a “kill all the lawyers” scenario

4 pm ET!

“it has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking, including forced laborers from North Korea.”

Currently doing a search for “good international trade lawyers”

Ransomware attack spreads through Europe

John Sexton Jun 27, 2017 1:01 PM

“A massive ransomware campaign is currently unfolding worldwide.”