It's not just Mike Huckabee: GOP presidential field likely to include 5 former Fox News employees

Many GOP candidates have longstanding relationships with the conservative infotainment channel

By Sophia Tesfaye

Published July 21, 2015 8:13PM (EDT)

  (AP/Alex Brandon)
(AP/Alex Brandon)

A former Fox News host wants to be President of the United States. You've heard that bit before?

Well, today Ohio Governor John Kasich became the latest former Fox News employee to make his pitch to lead the nation and the 16th Republican to enter the 2016 race. Fox News aired Kasich's unscripted and often rambling announcement speech uninterrupted in its entirety. While MSNBC and CNN eventually cut in to broadcast President Obama's address to a veterans' group and later to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump's rally in South Carolina, Fox News stuck with the Ohio governor as he became the fourth Republican, out of 16 total candidates, formerly associated with the conservative media outlet to enter the 2016 race.

Kasich, who professed his love for Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch in a recent Financial Times profile, owes much of his post-Congressional career to the media mogul. As Media Matters' Eric Hananoki explains, Kasich has benefited from his relationship with the conservative outlet for years:

Fox News hired the former congressman in 2001 -- he stayed at the network until 2009, when he left to successfully run for Ohio governor. Kasich worked as a frequent guest host for The O'Reilly Factor and the host of the programs From The Heartland and Heroes. The network paid him $265,000 in 2008 for his work.

Murdoch is the executive co-chairman of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox and the executive chairman of News Corp. He donated $10,000 to Kasich's 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Murdoch's News Corporation, which at the time owned Fox News, also donated $1 million in 2010 to the Republican Governors Association; Murdoch said the donation "was actually [a result of] my friendship with John Kasich." In December 2014, Murdoch donated $10,000 for Kasich's 2014 transition fund.

Kasich's lucrative relationship with the outlet has translated to it's on-air personalities, as well. As Media Matters highlights, Fox News' primetime hosts have made direct appeals on behalf of the politician:

Fox News heavily promoted Kasich during his first post-Fox political run. Sean Hannity, who hosted a fundraiser for Kasich, told him on Fox to "do me a favor. Go get elected governor." In another interview, Hannity said, "you can help us. Win the state of Ohio." During an interview on The O'Reilly Factor, Kasich asked for donations while Fox News put his website address on-screen (the solicitation drew a formal complaintlater dismissed by Ohio officials, from the Democratic Governors Association).

But Kasich can't lay claim to the "Fox News' favorite candidate" mantle just yet. He'll receive the standard announcement-day Sean Hannity interview that every Republican candidate so far has received following their official campaign kick-offs and his nascent campaign is not yet leading the all important Fox Primary -- a measurement of airtime the outlet dedicates to Republican presidential candidates. That prize goes to current Fox News favorite, Donald Trump.

Much has been made of Fox News' role in shaping the Republican primary process with its' selection of participants in the first debate using a complex, poll-averaging formula of the network’s own design leading to the current GOP nightmare, frontrunner Donald Trump, but the Fox's dealings with Trump go far beyond the configuration of a debate stage and has carried on even as the candidate sees a rise to the top of the polls and mires himself in miles of controversy. Trump has a longtime relationship with Fox News, with a recurring Monday morning appearance on Fox and Friends, whose hosts have defended some of the former reality TV star's most offensive remarks, and the real-estate mogul has returned for appearances on Fox's primetime shows like The O'Reilly Factor to clean up some of his campaign stumbles. During the month of June, Trump appeared on Fox 10 times, amounting to 1 hour and 48 minutes of free airtime according to the Media Matters analysis. And veteran Fox News observer, Gabriel Sherman, reported that Trump met with Fox News head Roger Ailes ahead of his announcement:

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Last month, another former Fox News host led the network in coverage, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The former host of the weekend program "Huckabee," was let go from the network after announcing his intentions to run for the presidency. Huckabee had been a Fox News employee since his last failed bid for the White House in 2008. In May, Huckabee appeared on the network seven times for a total of 1 hour and 7 minutes of airtime. After a May 24th appearance on Fox News Sunday during which host Chris Wallace savaged Huckabee's proposal for a fair tax, the former Fox host saw his free airtime plummet to just 23 minutes in June.

This is all well worn terrain for Fox News. During the 2012 election cycle, Fox News cut ties with former contributors Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum  as they began their presidential bids; Santorum is running again this cycle. Late last year, the network released Ben Carson as a contributor after he revealed his intentions to run for president. And who could forget the on-again, off-again saga between former Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin and Fox News?

By the end of the summer, Fox News will have five former hosts or paid contributors running for President, as former Virginia Governor and Fox News contributor Jim Gilmore has announced his plans to enter the race in early August.

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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