Former Governor Spitzer: Too Many 2012 Republican Contenders at Fox

On Tuesday's Parker-Spitzer on CNN, ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer ironically worried that too many of his fellow former politicians, who are also contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, are on Fox News: "Never before in our history...has one media outlet with one coherent ideology had almost a monopoly on...half of the presidential nominees and controlled one political party this way."

The disgraced former politician of Client Number Nine infamy raised the apparent problem during the first part of an interview of former MSNBC personality and Mediaite founder Dan Abrams. After noting that "Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and John Bolton...[are] all running for president and, perhaps more important, they all work for Fox News," Spitzer highlighted a quote from Dick Morris, who stated the 2012 race for the Republican presidential nomination "will come to resemble American Idol, where we watch the candidates perform and vote on who we like best."

Conservative writer Will Cain, filling in for pseudo-conservative host Kathleen Parker, first asked Abrams, "So what? What's the big deal that the Republican primaries are going to take place on Fox News?" Abrams pointed out that "these people are commentators. These are not hosts of shows. If these people were hosting prime-time shows, then I might say- you know what? This is going to be a real vehicle for them to get their positions out there- to advocate. But as commentators, they are answering questions."

Spitzer wasn't having any of this: "Wait- Dan, I don't think the commentator/host distinction is that meaningful." He continued with his "monopoly" concern about Fox News, but Abrams interjected, "But how many of these people are serious candidates, right?...Do you think John Bolton is really going to be a serious candidate?"

Later in the segment, the Mediaite founder hinted at the irony of a former politician expressing so much concern about other politicians contributing to a rival news network: "Sarah Palin is an occasional commentator on Fox News. I mean, so what? Look, I'm just saying to you, I wouldn't be surprised if Eliot Spitzer, at some point, ran for office again."

The former governor acknowledged moments later that he might be hyping up the situation with the five Republicans: "Maybe you're right. Maybe this is a tempest in a teapot, but it is a fascinating fact that they've all converged at Fox."

One can't help but notice that during a past appearance during the same time slot on July 23, 2010, Abrams criticized former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez for making a big deal about Fox News's coverage of the Shirley Sherrod controversy and accused him of "doing an opinion-based program," which the liberal anchor denied (Sanchez once claimed he "plays it down the middle").

The transcript of the relevant portion of the segment from Tuesday's Parker Spitzer, which began 24 minutes into the 8 pm Eastern hour:

Dan Abrams, Mediaite Founder; & Eliot Spitzer, CNN Host | NewsBusters.orgSPITZER: What do the following five people have in common? Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and John Bolton- they're all running for president and, perhaps more important, they all work for Fox News. In a blog post yesterday, Republican political analyst Dick Morris even said the 2012 Republican presidential nominating process- and I quote, 'will come to resemble American Idol, where we watch the candidates perform and vote on who we like best,' end quote. Only this version of American Idol will be held on Fox News, not as entertainment. Perhaps, it is entertainment. Who knows?

Joining us for the 'Culture of Politics,' Dan Abrams. Dan is a media analyst- founder of Mediaite.com. Dan, welcome.

ABRAMS: Good to be with you.

SPITZER: Thank you.

CAIN: Dan, I got the first question for you- it's complicated. So what? What's the big deal that the Republican primaries are going to take place on Fox News?

ABRAMS: Look, I don't know that they're going to take place at Fox News because remember, these people are commentators. These are not hosts of shows. If these people were hosting prime-time shows, then I might say- you know what? This is going to be a real vehicle for them to get their positions out there- to advocate. But as commentators, they are answering questions, and sure, that means they get publicity, but they're also not the only ones in the country- these five- who have considered political- or have political aspirations and are commentators on TV.

SPITZER: Wait- Dan, I don't think the commentator/host distinction is that meaningful.

ABRAMS: Why?

SPITZER: I think what- well, because I think everybody is going to be articulating views, and that's fine. I have no problem with-

ABRAMS: You have much more autonomy as the host of this show-

SPITZER: Sure.

ABRAMS: Than you ever did as a guest- fair?

SPITZER: Not necessarily.

CAIN: Like me (Abrams laughs).

SPITZER: But here's what I think does matter- never before, that I can think of- I'm not sure I disagree with your underlying conclusion- but never before in our history, that I can think of, has one media outlet with one coherent ideology had almost a monopoly on- or at least, access to half of the presidential nominees and controlled one political party this way.

ABRAMS: But how many of these people are serious candidates, right? I mean-

SPITZER: Sarah Palin? Mike Huckabee?

ABRAMS: Sarah Palin- yes. Sarah Palin might be a candidate-

SPITZER: John Bolton-

ABRAMS: Do you think John Bolton is really going to be a serious candidate?

SPITZER: I think he will emerge as one. Certainly, Sarah Palin is.

ABRAMS: Sarah Palin- that's right- Sarah Palin-

SPITZER: And then, so I think you're looking-

ABRAMS: But Sarah Palin is an occasional commentator on Fox News-

SPITZER: Well-

ABRAMS: I mean, so what? Look, I'm just saying to you, I wouldn't be surprised if Eliot Spitzer, at some point, ran for office again.
 


CAIN: Really? Really?

SPITZER: I don't know who you're talking to (laughs), but let's switch back to Fox News for a minute, which is clearly not going to be my home. But-

CAIN: Let me- I want to support his argument. Not only- this is a good thing. You can argue this is a good thing. The majority of the Republican electorate is watching Fox News, and to have presidential hopefuls on night after night espousing their views essentially leads to a more informed electorate.

ABRAMS: Well, but look, what we're seeing now is media figures become leading political figures- right? I think we can all agree that there's not a senator or governor in the country who could probably get 200,000-plus people to a rally in Washington- right? But Glenn Beck or Jon Stewart can get that. That shows us- and look, it's part of the reason that Mediaite has been successful, is that because people are really interested in what media figures have to say about politics, and here we're seeing this kind of blend of political figure-slash-media figure.

CAIN: This is the potential bad thing, Dan. There are many presidential hopefuls on the Republican side-

ABRAMS: Right.

CAIN: Who aren't on the Fox roster. Some of my favorites- Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie. Aren't they at an automatic disadvantage?

ABRAMS: Maybe a little bit, but it sounds like we're having a discussion over the fact that there are some famous people-

SPITZER: Right.

ABRAMS: Who are going to be running for office.

SPITZER: But which (unintelligible)-

ABRAMS: And we're sort of like acting as if we're like- horror- can you imagine these people are kind of famous? They're on TV, and they're running for political office!

SPITZER: All right. Let's move. Maybe you're right. (Cain laughs) Maybe this is a tempest in a teapot, but it is a fascinating fact that they've all converged at Fox.

ABRAMS: Absolutely.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center