The GOP field of candidates seeking the 2012 presidential nomination is pretty settled. The only significant holdouts are the Texas evangelical, secessionist governor Rick Perry, and former half-term Alaska governor, and Fox News bobble-head, Sarah Palin.
The thing is, Palin is not running. She has no campaign staff; no organization in early primary states; no press office. Polls place her near the bottom of the pack and losing to President Obama by 20 points. She is not engaging in public appearances. In fact, her much ballyhooed national bus tour was aborted after just six days without ever making it off the east coast.
Too bad. I wish she were running. It would add another element of comic relief to supplement Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann. With Donald Trump out of the game the comedy factor took a serious hit.
The problem is that Fox News is still pretending that she’s a candidate and, by doing so, they are deliberately lying (so what else is new). Several months ago there were four Fox employees who were also speculative candidates for the Republican nomination: Palin, Gingrich, Santorum, and Huckabee. All four were in precisely the same position with regard to the race. They were all openly exploring campaigns and discussing it in public. At that time Fox gave two of them, Gingrich and Santorum, ultimatums insisting that they declare their intentions or be terminated. There was no apparent reason for excluding Palin and Huckabee from that edict.
Since then Gingrich and Santorum officially declared and Huckabee bowed out. This leaves Palin as the only prominent Fox employee still dangling. But with no visible manifestation of a candidacy, can she be taken seriously? The fact of the matter is that if Palin was a candidate in earnest, Fox could not keep her on the payroll. At this late date they would have to insist that she either fish or cut bait, just as they did with Gingrich and Santorum. She could not be both undecided and a Fox News contributor.
Evidence of the Palin predicament occurred yesterday as two Fox News analysts admitted on the air that they temper their criticism of Palin because she is their colleague:
Greg Gutfeld: The only problem with talking about Sarah Palin is that she works here, and it’s like a coworker. And if I say something bad and I see her in the hallway I feel really awkward and wrong.
Bob Beckel: It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with your paycheck. That’s why you feel awkward about it. I know exactly what you mean. I’ll be honest, I’ve pulled my punches.
These admissions are not surprising and are not limited to Gutfeld and Beckel. It is the law at Fox News as it was laid down by the boss:
Roger Ailes: For the first time in our 14 years we’ve had people apparently shooting in the tent, from within the tent…We prefer people in the tent not dumping on other people in the tent.
So how does a Fox News reporter cover Palin when he has been warned by his boss not to criticize fellow tent-dwellers? That’s the problem, and that’s why Sarah Palin is not a candidate for president. Fox knows that they can’t cover even a potential candidate who receives a Fox paycheck this late in the game. If Palin has not informed the network that she isn’t running, they would have to sideline her. Since that has not happened, it’s a safe bet that she has already told them that she’s out of the race.
If that’s the case, then Fox News knows that a prospective candidate has opted out, but they are keeping it secret. That is not acceptable behavior from a legitimate news enterprise, which of course, Fox is not. They are withholding a significant news item that journalistic ethics would require they disclose. Particularly because the only reason for them to withhold it is for their own financial benefit, and for that of Palin.
What’s worse is that they are brazenly manipulating the course of the election in a manner that has implications for the other candidates and, of course, the voters. It is long past time for Fox to come clean and reveal what they know about Palin’s alleged candidacy. And in the unlikely event that she really is undecided, then Fox should suspend her just as they did Gingrich and Santorum.