Media Matters: Fox’s 2012 GOP Influence

In a November ad for their special series “Fox News Reporting: The Challengers for 2012,” Fox News promised “unrivaled access” to “the GOP’s top White House contenders.” Such access, however, isn’t hard when correspondents just have to walk down the hall.

That Fox News helps Republicans get their message across to their conservative base — long documented and publicly acknowledged by Republican officials — is nothing new. But what’s unprecedented is the level of influence one news organization can exert on a party’s presidential primary, and the rest of the media’s coverage of that primary, by simple fact of who is on its payroll.

Fox News employs five Republicans considering runs for the GOP nomination: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and John Bolton. All five regularly appear on the network through exclusive contracts and all five have used their employment to position themselves for their respective runs.

Take the cases of Rick Santorum and John Bolton — two potential candidates who have so little chance of winning the nomination that Fox didn’t even include them in their twelve challenger profiles.

Both would largely be out of the public spotlight if not for their Fox News contracts, yet Santorum — who lost his Senate seat to Bob Casey (D-PA) by 17 points in 2006 — has appeared on the Fox programs America’s Nightly Scoreboard (twice), America’s Newsroom (twice), The Willis Report (twice), America Live, On the Record (twice) and Varney & Company (twice, as a “special guest”) in the past two weeks.

During the same time, Bolton has appeared as a foreign policy and national security expert on America’s News HQ (where he has a regular weekly slot), Follow The Money, America’s Newsroom (twice), America Live, Fox & Friends, Hannity, On the Record, and Varney & Company (as a “special guest”!).

On the other side of the spectrum is Sarah Palin, who has little trouble attracting attention. But as her TLC program and public comments indicate, Palin prefers a certain type of attention in which she can tightly control the messaging. It’s no wonde