By David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Thursday, September 16th, 2010
Fox News has been accused at times by progressives of acting as an arm of the Republican Party, particularly in the wake of its parent company’s $1 million donation last month to the Republican Governors Association. During the current election season, however, that support has become particularly noticeable.
When Sarah Palin spoke with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly on Wednesday about Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell’s campaign in Delaware, the two of them sounded less like a host and a news analyst than like a pair of political strategists hashing over plans for how Fox could best serve the Republican Party.
Palin even went so far as to advise that if O’Donnell is going to overcome negative perceptions of her, “She’s going to have to … get out there, speak to the American people, speak through Fox News.”
O’Reilly had begun by citing recent harsh criticism of O’Donnell by former White House adviser Karl Rove, who told Fox’s Sean Hannity on Tuesday night, “I wasn’t frankly impressed by her abilities as a candidate. … There were a lot of nutty things she has been saying that don’t add up.”
“What Rove is afraid of,” O’Reilly suggested, “is that Miss O’Donnell is so inexperienced, and not able to make her points in a way that will persuade the independents in Delaware — which absolutely have to vote for her — so she can’t win.”
“I don’t buy that at all,” Palin replied.
O’Reilly, however, continued to argue that “Miss O’Donnell could be on here tonight, could be presenting herself in front of the nation. Her people don’t want her to be, because…”
“I’ll grant you that,” Palin interrupted, preventing O’Reilly from specifying exactly what he thought O’Donnell’s people might be worried about
“She’s going to have to learn very quickly to dismiss what some of her handlers want,” Palin suggested. “Remember what happened to me in the VP? … She’s going to have to dismiss that, go with her gut, get out there, 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 liberal watchdog Media Matters seized upon this O’Reilly-Palin exchange on Thursday, noting, “It’s election season once again. How can you tell? Because Fox News has turned into an extended campaign commercial/telethon for Republican candidates. Over the last 24 hours, it’s racheted [sic] up to a new level.”
Fox supporters, of course, would argue that Media Matters has its own partisan agenda, directing its criticisms at Fox but not at liberal news sources, and that Fox was established in the first place to counter liberal biases in the media.
Palin was also scornfully dismissive of Rove, telling O’Reilly, “I have nothing against Karl Rove personally …. but some of these folks, they are saying that people like Christine O’Donnell and the Tea Party Americans can’t win because they don’t want them to win. … I think that some of those in the hierarchy of the political machine … are very much into control, and titles, and egos, and everything else.”
Palin’s comments may have hit home. On Thursday morning, Talking Points Memo reported, “Just now on Fox News Karl Rove prostrated himself on the altar of tea party orthodoxy, having what amounts to a full conversion on Christine O’Donnell.”