Yesterday on CNN's Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz briefly mentioned something that deserves some greater scrutiny:
KURTZ: I also want to get to Sarah Palin. You know, there was that incident where she referred to a couple of journalists on the Anchorage television station who were overheard, a phone call, either joking around or looking for dirt on Republican nominee Joe Miller, in that Senate race, as corrupt bastards. They later lost their jobs.
And here's more of what the former governor had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR: First, let me make it clear that nobody has constrained me being here as a contributor to Fox. I still talk to whomever I want to. I will not talk to reporters who have an obvious bias or a vendetta, or are going to turn my words into something that they are not meant to be and take things out of context.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Shepard Smith had asked her if she wasn't kind of protected within the Fox family and if this would change this.
SESNO: -- Katie Couric.
KURTZ: But, excuse me, what reporters, as Palin talked about, outside the Fox bubble? I'm not aware of this.
SESNO: I don't think she has in a meaningful way. And the question whether she should. And the answer is, of course she should.
Of course, none of them had any real answers. After the obligatory hand-wringing, they moved on to other subject.
But it's worth pointing out that it's not just Palin: a number of candidates followed her advice not to speak to any reporters who aren't from Fox News Channel, with varying degrees of success:
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who most notably fled to exclusively appearing on Fox after being asked to explain her 'headless bodies' claims.
Christine O'Donnell, who pretty closely hewed to Palin's advice.
Rand Paul, who not only stiffed Meet the Press after his disastrous Rachel Maddow interview, but also pulled an Angle, actually running away from local reporters after making an appearance on Fox News.
You'll notice, of course, that most of these politicians were also unsuccessful -- but not all. Both Paul and Brewer won going away.
No doubt, in the future, Republican candidates will be modeling themselves after these two and adopting this strategy -- especially as Fox News becomes more openly active in promoting Republican candidates exclusively. More and more candidates are going to avoid answering questions from the press, both national and local, content in the knowledge they can "get their message out" through the friendly auspices of the Fox Propaganda Channel.
This kind of political behavior is anti-democratic, because it means candidates can run entire campaigns in which they can avoid any kind of public accountability whatsoever.
And that's a serious problem for our democracy -- one that ultimately lies at the feet of the nation's media, whose traditional role as the Fourth Estate underpinning our democracy is being destroyed by the Fox News phenomenon.
Because Fox News has been permitted to gradually transform itself from an obviously right-leaning news network into an outright 24/7 conservative propaganda operation -- one that, functionally speaking, has grown beyond being a mere arm of the GOP and is now itself controlling the Republican Party -- because the rest of the press has stood by silently and allowed it to do so.
Everyone surveying the political landscape today can see that Fox News is indeed a pure propaganda operation dedicated to electing conservative Republicans -- after all, nearly the entire slate of GOP presidential candidates for 2012 is on the Fox payroll. The Tea Parties would not exist were it not for the incessant promotion they received from Fox. For that matter, 2010 election results were not the result of a grand Republican comeback strategy, but the incredible media power that Fox flexed in the two years after Obama's election, effectively seizing hold of the national political narrative and driving it to where they wanted it to go.
It's completely unprecedented. And perhaps the most amazing thing about it has been watching the nation's watchdogs in the media -- not just the Howard Kurtzes, but everyone in the journalism business who has an ounce of respect for the profession -- stand by and say nothing.