The journalistic fraud that is Fox News is well known. It’s a network that was contrived as a right-wing spin factory, but dishonestly marketed as being “fair and balanced.” They have a revolving cast of scripted characters who alternately play politicians and pundits. Often the same person in both roles. Their commitment to partisan deceit is rooted deeply in the foul culture nurtured by its founders Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.
However, a new investigation proves that ideological fraud is not the only unethical practice employed by Fox News. Following the scandal-driven departures of Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, a new cretin was crowned as the top Foxie. Tucker Carlson was awarded O’Reilly’s prized time slot that anchors the network’s primetime lineup. Never mind that Carlson has a record of failure on the three previous networks foolish enough to hire him. Fox News put all their faith behind Carlson. And he soon proved that he was totally undeserving. Last month, for the first time in seventeen years, MSNBC’s primetime beat Fox News.
Now it has come to light that Carlson is more than just a terrible TV host. The Center for Media and Democracy conducted an exhaustive investigation into the stewardship of his website, The Daily Caller (TDC). Carlson launched the site six years ago and it quickly became a staple of wingnut propaganda. The Washington Post published CMD’s findings with this summary of the scam:
“Most of the roughly 50 journalists who produce content for the Daily Caller actually work for the Daily Caller News Foundation, a tax-exempt organization with 501(c)(3) status that is ostensibly separate from DailyCaller.com. The two entities share the same floor of the same Washington office, however, and virtually everything produced by the foundation — which accepted $3 million in donations in 2015, according to an IRS filing — appears on the for-profit website, which sells advertising on the articles.
In short, TDC takes in tax-free donations to finance their for-profit newsroom. Then they use the articles written by foundation authors to populate a commercial website that receives advertising revenue. The Post cites legal experts that describe this an obvious tax dodge:
“‘It’s a huge rip-off for taxpayers if the Daily Caller News Foundation is receiving revenue that it doesn’t pay taxes on, to produce stories that are used by the for-profit enterprise, which then makes money on the stories through ads,’ said Lisa Graves, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration who now serves as executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy.”
The unscrupulous business practices that Carlson employs are part of an established pattern. TDC was first bankrolled by Republican stalwart and notorious climate change denier, Foster Friess. He laid out $3 million to get the site off the ground. The Koch brothers were also generous with Carlson’s new venture. They contributed over $800,000 to the effort.
More recently, Carlson enjoyed the benevolence of an even more prominent financier. During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump sought out Carlson’s help to reach out to conservative voters. Trump purchased the use of TDC’s mailing list to solicit both votes and contributions. The CMD estimates that Carlson took in about $150,000 for his services.
So Carlson was feverishly promoting Trump, hosting his surrogates, and even interviewing him on Air Force One after the inauguration. However, he failed to inform his audience that he was paid substantial sums of money by Trump. It’s an unambiguous lapse of ethics that calls into question Carlson’s integrity and motives. Furthermore, Fox News is equally unprincipled for allowing Carlson to go on the air under these circumstances. But in neither case would anyone familiar with the Fox code of ethics be surprised. It’s just standard operating procedure for a network that was born to deceive.