Despite Fox’s apparent misgivings about the practice, Pirro and other Fox hosts and paid contributors have attended Republican fundraisers and stumped for GOP candidates in recent weeks. The practice, apparently routine at Fox News, is unusual elsewhere; most news organizations prohibit their employees from such participation on the grounds that it compromises the independence of the organization.
The next week, Pirro appeared at a fundraiser staged by the Seminole County Republican Party outside Orlando.
Mark Levin, who hosts a Sunday evening program on Fox News, was the featured speaker at a rally in behalf of Republican state Senate candidate Geary Higgins of Virginia last month. He was also the headline attraction at a fundraiser for Higgins in May.
After Levin’s involvement with Higgins was highlighted by Media Matters for America, the liberal anti-Fox organization, Levin pushed back on his radio program. “Let me explain something to [Media Matters] and the whole world: I didn’t violate any rules, number one. Number two is: I will never be silenced. Ever. . . . They don’t get to tell me what to do. Nobody does. . . . Nobody on this planet is going to stop me. No corporation. No left-wing group funded by billionaire, America-hating pukes. Nobody.”
Others at Fox News who have appeared this year before Republican or conservative groups include news anchor Shannon Bream, legal analyst Gregg Jarrett and commentator Rachel Campos-Duffy.
Jarrett was the featured speaker at the Columbiana County (Ohio) Republican Party’s annual dinner in April. He will also be the headliner for the Trump Club 45 USA organization, which bills itself as the largest pro-Trump group in the nation, at its meeting later this month in West Palm Beach, Fla.
The commentary duo known as Diamond and Silk (Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson), who co-host a program on the Fox Nation streaming service, headlined a Trump campaign event in October in Pennsylvania. (The pair are not official employees of Fox and not subjected to the same guidelines.)
News organizations typically prohibit their employees from associating themselves with political causes, candidates or organizations in any public way. The restriction is intended to maintain the news organization’s independence from any candidate or party; directly assisting in fundraising for a partisan cause or candidate is widely considered a breach of that independence. The rules at some organizations even ban placing yard signs at employees’ homes or putting campaign bumper stickers on their cars.
The Washington Post, New York Times, NBC News, MSNBC, NPR and the Associated Press all said on Monday that news employees aren’t permitted to speak to or to fundraise in behalf of political organizations. They were unaware of any employees who had violated these rules in the past year.
Fox appears to be different. Critics have frequently noted that its opinion hosts, and sometimes its news division, favor Republican candidates and have been especially friendly to Trump. By appearing at rallies or speaking at fundraising events, the network’s hosts and contributors risk making the connection to the party more than just a rhetorical one.
“I do think that this shows how blurred the lines are at Fox News, where the talent doesn’t neatly divide between news and advocacy,” said Bill Grueskin, a professor at the Columbia Journalism School. He added, “If a newsperson is being used to sell tickets, that’s a problem.”
In fact, Republican groups trade on the Fox News personalities’ prominence in their promotional literature for their fundraisers, sometimes using Fox News’s logo to help sell tickets.
Fox declined to address specific instances, but a spokeswoman said the network has addressed the issue with its contributors and hosts, as well as third-party agents who book events. She did not say how it was addressed or why it continues to arise more than a year after Hannity and Pirro’s appearances at Trump’s rally.
However, behind the scenes, the network appears to have to gone to considerable effort to stop its on-air personalities from promoting Republican events and causes. Network executives have intervened to cancel a long string of fundraising appearances that were to have featured Fox News figures, according to people at Fox, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe its internal operations.
Among others, Pirro has been asked to cancel eight events that she was scheduled to speak or appear at this year, including seven since September, according to internal documents. The canceled events include four fundraisers for Trump’s reelection campaign in Florida, and a “Jexit” brunch rally featuring Trump associate and felon Roger Stone at the Trump International Hotel in Washington in October (“jexit” refers to a movement to encourage Jews to leave the Democratic Party).
Brian Kilmeade, co-host of the “Fox & Friends” morning program, canceled his participation in a Republican fundraiser in Tennessee in January. Kilmeade was due to be the keynote speaker for the event, in which ticket prices started at $150 per person and a reception with Kilmeade cost $200. The group cited “scheduling conflicts” for Kilmeade’s nonappearance.
Bream, a Fox anchor, canceled her keynote address to the James Madison Institute, a Florida think tank that has received funding from libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. The group didn’t explain Bream’s cancellation in a news release.
And Pete Hegseth, who co-hosts the weekend version of “Fox & Friends,” canceled on the Bridgeport (Conn.) Republican Town Committee fundraiser in April after the event was flagged by Media Matters.