Of all the people who have ever been favorably associated with Sarah Palin, there is no doubt that I have been by far the most outspoken about how she has destroyed whatever remaining credibility she may have had by making numerous highly hypocritical and ethically questionable statements during this Republican primary season.
It is, therefore, while still ironic given the documentary I made about her 2008 VP run, probably strangely appropriate that I also be the first to point out a topic that is incredibly obvious, but which that no one has yet dare raise.
Sarah Palin should be immediately suspended as a Fox News commentator at least until the end of the primary process and a failure to do so would be a grave threat to the integrity of the entire network as well as the entire Republican primary process.
The case for why this needs to happen is about as strong as the one that she could never beat President Obama in a presidential election and the fact that this has yet to become an issue is an indictment of the entire conservative media.
First, there is the precedent that Fox set last year when they suspended Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum from their roles as Fox commentators because they were taking (rather tepid at the time) steps toward running for president. Palin and Mike Huckabee were not suspended because it was deemed that they had not stepped over whatever rather nebulous line Fox had created in order to right preserve their journalistic standards.
For a while, those appeared to be the correct calls as both Gingrich and Santorum obviously did decide to run and Huckabee and Palin largely kept their analysis to the "play by play" variety and mostly did not get directly involved in events.
However, over the last couple of weeks this reality has dramatically changed when it comes to Palin's on-air participation.
In order, she has made the following on-air pronouncements in the role of Fox News commentator:
- A long primary is good for the process and the candidate which emerges.
- Voters should support Newt Gingrich in order to keep the primaries going.
- There is nothing wrong with a brokered convention.
- Conservatives should have doubts about the perceived front runner, Mitt Romney.
Now all of these statements are certainly legitimate opinions, though when they come from someone who teased for months that she was going to run for president and who may have a profound political interest in no Republican becoming president so that she can remain more relevant, having her specifically urging voters to take certain actions while in her role as a paid commentator is clearly a cause for concern for any journalistic organization.
However, any question as to whether Palin has indeed crossed the line into the realm of commentator illegitimacy ended yesterday when she said on Fox that she might run for office again and strongly implied that she would accept the nomination of a brokered convention.
So, the obvious question is: If Fox's policy is to suspend commentators who are making moves to run for high office, how in the world does campaigning on air for a brokered convention, urging voters to take actions which would facilitate that, knocking the frontrunner, and giving the impression you would accept the nomination of any such brokered convention, possibly NOT qualify for such an action?
I have asked Fox News (on which I have appeared many times) for an answer to this question but I have not received as answer as of yet.
My guess is that there simply is no logical answer. In fact, what Palin is currently getting away with is actually far worse than what Santorum and Gingrich were doing when they were suspended.
There were no primaries happening at that time, they weren't urging anyone to vote for or against anything, and the audience was pretty much aware that there was a good chance that they would be running for president. Still, it was the correct journalistic call to suspend them when Fox did.
Now, in the case of Palin, she is clearly using Fox's incredible influence over a Republican primary to attempt to manipulate the outcome, potentially (by her own words) to her own political benefit. The worst part is that this massive conflict of interest is probably not obvious to the vast majority of Fox viewers (though interestingly there are already at least two groups on Facebook devoted to this basic issue).
To be clear, Sarah Palin has no chance of coming out of a brokered convention as the Republican presidential nominee. I know this because by far the worst marketing effort for my movie Media Malpractice was directly to the delegates of the 2008 convention who actually personally witnessed the highlight of her entire career. I can assure you, the kind of conservatives who get to be delegates to the national convention are decidedly NOT Palin people, regardless of to whom they are previously committed.
But this political reality should not matter. There is an important principle at stake. The integrity of Fox News and the credibility of the entire Republican primary process are on the line here. Sarah Palin has every right to make whatever statements she wants in order to manipulate political events for her own purposes, but she should not be allowed to do so as a paid Fox News analyst. That conflict is just too profound and Fox's influence is just too great.
The choice is clear. Either Palin repudiates any notion that she may still be a candidate in any form or she gets suspended at least until after there is a nominee. Otherwise, Fox News will effectively become something even worse than what the left already thinks it is.