(Tony Gutierrez / The Associated Press) (Tony Gutierrez / The Associated Press)

A headscratcher over at Fox News. Let’s explain via timeline:

*Karl Rove on Election Night performs an instantly famous on-air meltdown as he challenges the decision by Fox News’s vote-counting experts to declare that the state of Ohio — and thus the entire presidential election — belongs in the column of incumbent President Barack Obama.

*One month later, Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine reports that Fox News producers wishing to deploy Rove—along with bad soothsayer Dick Morris—must jump through new procedural hoops. The story is titled “Fox News Puts Karl Rove on the Bench.”

*Two days after the New York mag report surfaced, Rove posts details on his own website about upcoming appearances on Fox News. Critics attack the New York magazine story for its “benched” terminology.

*And this afternoon, Politico reports that Rove has renewed his contributor’s contract with Fox News through the 2016 campaign.


1) Smart move for Fox. Ohio freakout notwithstanding, Rove is a phenomenal on-air talent, one who pulls from an encyclopedia of political experience and insight on whatever topic that may surface. That he can be a bit combative and tendentious makes him all the more valuable.

2) The glory of Fox News. What other network would confirm a story about steps to clamp down on a contributor while apparently negotiating to renew that contributor’s long-term contract.

3) Spokespeople should go on record. New York mag’s report carries this substantiation:

A Fox spokesperson confirmed the new booking rules for Rove and Morris, and explained that Shine’s message was “the election’s over.”

One interpretation is that Fox News wanted to signal to the public that it takes seriously the bush-league conduct of its contributors, even though it really doesn’t. Quite a trick. Since no one at Fox News put a name behind the news of Rove’s benching, no one’s reputation suffers when we later learn that Rove is actually in the network’s good graces.