April 19, 2015

For those who might have had even a nagging doubt about Fox News' role as the Republican News Channel, let's lay it to rest and start asking why it is that there is no requirement for Faux News to report all of this free air time as an in-kind political contribution.

On Reliable Sources, RNC spokesman Sean Spicer proclaimed that an appearance on Hannity's show is a prerequisite for all candidates. Spicer as much as admitted that the reason it's required is because Hannity has reach and will be kind to them.

From the transcript:

I think if you didn't go to Hannity, you would be sued for political malpractice. Sean has given folks an hour of time to sit there and have an informed, intelligent discussion about key issues that voters want to talk about. And then you look at the size of his audience, he has got on average 1.2 million to 1.5 million viewers every night on his TV station, on his TV program alone. That's more than the other stations combined.

So when it comes to absolute reach, you know, you can't beat Hannity. No one out there is offering an hour to sit down and have a back and forth in a substantive, long-form manner, where it's not just a bunch of gotcha questions over a three-second sound bite.

Or you could just think of it as an hour-long campaign ad given to each candidate, free of charge. There's that, too.

So, I think it's actually really smart politics for candidates to do this. And again then you factor in the additional piece that Sean has got a radio show with 14 million listeners that furthers that reach, I mean, it actually just comes down to marketing 101. That's where you're going to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Well, of course it is. And it gives Fox News personalities that much more power to frame their choice for the general election and use that to influence their core viewers.

They then moved on to Hillary Clinton, where Spicer alleged that she was having "stagecrafted events with vetted people." This claim is exclusive to the right-wing media bubble, which started the breathless ZOMG campaign after the Daily Mail reported that the campaign drove Austin Bird to the event. Bird interned for Obama in 2012 and had some role as Biden's chauffeur when Biden was in Iowa, too. Somehow that makes him less than an "ordinary American?"

But I digress, because that wasn't the only segment on Reliable Sources devoted to the Fox primary. Politico's Hadas Gold was also there to discuss the right-wing media bubble, and behold, she confirmed Spicer's claim as well.

STELTER: Do you get pushback from FOX News or Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or others when you talk about their influence?

GOLD: A lot of times, when I reach out to them to try and talk to them about who are you looking at, who are you favoring, they don't want to talk about it. They say, I want to be impartial. I want to help my listeners and my viewers make an informed decision.

But they definitely show a preference based on who they talk to the most and they will let their preference known in various ways. They will say, I want this type of candidate, I want this type of candidate, and then they will interview somebody with those types of views and talk about their amazing record.

Let's say -- Scott Walker gets this a lot. They will talk about, you have such an amazing record in Wisconsin. And that's how you can tell who they're really thinking of. And actually from my reporting, if you really want to see who those FOX News chiefs really care about, Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch, I have been told to watch Sean Hannity, and that a lot of what they care about, you can see it come through Sean Hannity's show.

Both of these segments offer great ammunition for an enterprising liberal lawyer to file complaints with the FEC about in-kind contributions of air time and Hannity's salary to the Republican 2016 Presidential primary.

Bottom line here: They must submit to Hannity's tongue bath and wait anxiously for his blessing before any candidate can breathe easily, knowing that Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch have their backs as they move forward.

It's almost like a political CandyLand game. First they have to get through KochVille and then head to HannityLand, where they might get to the next square or they might get sent back to the beginning again.

Good to know who all the puppetmasters are, I guess.

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