Aggrieved presidential candidate Newt Gingrich went off on a freewheeling rant against Fox News last night, accusing his former employer of "bias" and "distortion," and effectively neutering his campaign. If only that were true. If one considers on-air appearances and primetime endorsements, Gingrich has gotten a lot of love from the cable network.
"There’s no question that Fox had a lot to do with stopping my campaign,” Gingrich told a private gathering of 18 Delaware Tea Party leaders, which RealClearPolitics reporter Scott Conroy gained exclusive access to. “I think FOX has been for Romney all the way through.” He even endorsed one of Fox's principal competitors, CNN, to the conservative audience. “In our experience, Callista and I both believe CNN is less biased than FOX this year. We are more likely to get neutral coverage out of CNN than we are [on] FOX, and we’re more likely to get distortion out of FOX. That’s just a fact.”
After that, he went to the top of the food chain, saying the chairman and CEO of Fox's parent company News Corp. was responsible for the slanted coverage. “I assume it’s because [Rupert] Murdoch at some point [who] said, ‘I want Romney,’ and so ‘fair and balanced’ became ‘Romney,’” Gingrich said. He attributed the network's decision to "write him off" in June and July to his defiance in attending media soirees. “I don’t go to their cocktail parties," he said. "The only press events I go to are interesting dinners when the wife insists on it, so we’re going to go to the White House Correspondents' dinner because she wants to. And we’re actually going to go to CNN’s table, not FOX.” Take that, Fox!
In truth, Fox News has been one of the few safe harbors for Gingrich among conservative news outlets. For starters, some of Gingrich's most important endorsements came on Fox News airtime. Sean Hannity's 9 p.m. program, for instance, was a veritable clearinghouse for Gingrich buy-ins. In January, Sarah Palin first gave Gingrich her seal of approval, telling voters for the first time, "I'd vote for Newt," which she eventually did. Shortly after that, Hannity invited on former Senator Fred Thompson to pledge allegiance to Gingrich. "I have come to the growing realization for me anyway that Newt Gingrich is the guy who can articulate what America is all about," Thompson said. How about Palin's husband Todd? He decided to divulge his love for Gingrich on Greta Van Susteren's show Off the Record.
But what's far more important than even endorsements is airtime—something Gingrich's rivals like Rick Santorum and Ron Paul bitterly complained about. Say what you will about liberal watchdog Media Matters, but it knows how to count, and in its "Fox Primary" a catalogue of air time and appearances of each Republican candidate, Gingrich was the undisputed winner, with more than 12 hours and 85 appearances between June 2011 and January 2012.
Still feeling slighted by how you were treated, Newt?