Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Santorum: Fox News is "shilling" for Romney

On Brian Kilmeade's radio show today, Rick Santorum provoked controversy by claiming that Fox News was "shilling" for Mitt Romney "everyday."

Here's the key portion of the exchange and audio below.

SANTORUM: He's had a 10:1 money advantage. He's had all the organizational advantages, he has Fox News shilling for him everyday. No offense, Brian, but I see it.

[Later]

KILMEADE: Senator, I just gotta take you on Fox News shilling for Mitt Romney 24 hours a day?

I totally disagree with that. I think you've been on -- you can feel the way you want. I'm just telling you there's no way I agree with that, and you've been on as much as anybody.

SANTORUM: I can tell you we watch the coverage there, and you know, look, you guys are allowed to cover what you want to cover, but I can tell you that we want to make sure that a conservative is nominated.

.... we're going to focus on not mathematics.

KILMEADE: [interrupting] You don't want us to add up delegates?

Three things here.

1. Rupert Murdoch famously made shows of support for Santorum twice this cycle.

Just before the Iowa caucuses, he tweeted that Santorum was the "only candidate with genuine big vision."

Then, one week before Michigan's primary, he tweeted that if Santorum won Michigan, the nomination fight would be over.

From distance, Santorum doing great. Values really do count in America, and not sneered at as in parts of Europe. Win Michigan game over.

That's more forceful an endorsement than you'd ever expect from the head of a news organization, particularly for an underdog.

2. Santorum's just flat-wrong about the network shilling for Romney.

I've pretty much watched Fox News, morning until Red Eye, the past three years. I don't have stats to back this up, but just my own compelling force of observation, which puts Google Earth AND Google Satellite to anachronistic shame.

Bill O'Reilly is, indeed, very sympathetic to Romney and fairly dismissive of Santorum, and Karl Rove generally follows suit. Dick Morris also just endorsed Mitt.

But that's it. Charles Krauthammer, Brit Hume, Steve Hayes, Sean Hannity, Bill Kristol, Sarah Palin, Greta Van Susteren -- all of these Fox anchors or contributors have been more than sympathetic to Santorum and far from sycophantic toward Mitt. In fact, there's palpable distaste among many of those for Romney.

Quick examples: Here's Krauthammer ripping Romney for his "poor" comments, calling Mitt "extremely defensive" and "weak" on RomneyCare, and saying Gingrich sounds like a "socialist". Here's Kristol calling Romney's Super PAC attacks "juvenile" and accusing his campaign of treating the grassroots with "contempt."

That doesn't sound like shilling to me.

In fact, remember Bret Baier's tough interview with Romney, when Mitt was so chafed that he sort of tried to bully Baier off-camera?

There's a very strong libertarian vibe to much of Fox's programming, which finds Romney and his RomneyCare pretty onerous, and there's also a very strong strain of intellectual conservatism that finds RomneyCare awfully onerous, too.

Further, Romney has spent the past three years making numerous appearances on CNN, CNBC and other networks. Meanwhile, Santorum was a paid contributor for Fox News before deciding to run for president.

Santorum's just flat-wrong when he says that Fox has been shilling for Romney.

3. Santorum's attack falls apart when he accuses Fox News of focusing on "the mathematics" of the race -- in other words, delegates.

Why shouldn't Fox focus on it? You win by getting delegates.

It's like slamming ESPN for focusing on a game's score and not how many times Mike Breen says "BANG!" after a three-pointer.

Yes, "Bang" is compelling and Santorum has a Breen-BANGish quality to him, but in the end, points are what wins games, and so are delegates.

Santorum seems pretty desperate attacking Fox News for tracking delegates, and you simply don't win elections by pointing out that your competitor has outspent you. You win elections by accruing delegates. Santorum should probably spend his time figuring out how to do that.



[Hat tip: Daily Caller]