Newt's Safe Space in the Conservative Ranks: Fox News

Newt Gingrich is getting hammered by conservative media outlets that fear his nomination would cost Republicans the general election, but there's one outlet that has not been afraid of a Newt nomination: Fox News.

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Newt Gingrich is getting hammered by conservative media outlets that fear his nomination would cost Republicans the general election, but there's one outlet that has not been afraid of a Newt nomination: Fox News. The cable news channel, which hired Gingrich as a contributor until March 2011, may be the most powerful medium for Republican voters but was noticeably missing from Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen's Politico review of conservative outlets attacking Gingrich. While a review of the network's straight news coverage shows a healthy balance of his campaign's ups and downs, the channel's prime-time opinion coverage has been friendly territory for the GOP candidate.

While Fox News comes in for criticism of its coverage 24 hours a day, Fox employees like to describe the station as a newspaper: news in front, opinion in back. That separation starts at 8 p.m. when Shep Smith hands the broadcast off to Bill O'Reilly, who is followed by Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren. O'Reilly has not endorsed a candidate but he's done a good job defending Gingrich from some of his more fearsome critics. Last week, O'Reilly invited ABC News correspondent Brian Ross, who broke the "open marriage" story about Gingrich, and dismissed his report as digging up old news and failing to find anything new. Earlier this week, when he invited Gingrich critic Ann Coulter on his show, he reiterated the point. "What ABC ran was old news and I told that to Brian Ross," said O'Reilly. Going further, he slammed CNN for beginning its now-famous debate with a question about Gingrich's open marriage. "I would have never done that. I would have never done that," said O'Reilly. Pointing out the story's pickup on other conservative outlets, Coulter insisted "It's the headline on Drudge" but to no avail. "It's old news," repeated O'Reilly.

Meanwhile, Sean Hannity, who has interviewed Gingrich on TV and radio numerous times, has been a clearinghouse for Gingrich endorsements. Appearing on Hannity's show last week, days before the crucial South Carolina primary, Sarah Palin threw her weight behind the GOP candidate. “If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going, I’d vote for Newt and I would want this to continue,” she said. “I think a lot of people now in the media ... want us to believe the more moderate can indicate– will be the one to face Obama in the fall, but I don’t believe it is inevitable and I don’t believe he with the most money actually has to be the one who wins.”

Following the Palin nod, Hannity invited Gingrich on his show to breath fire on the media, a favorite punching bag of Newt's, for digging up issues of his marital infidelity. Then on Monday, Gingrich picked up another endorsement on Hannity's show from former Senator Fred Thompson. "I have come to the growing realization for me anyway that Newt Gingrich is the guy who can articulate what America is all about," he said.

On Greta Van Susteren's show last week, a much less opinionated program than O'Reilly or Hannity's broadcast, Gingrich has been invited on to repeat his attacks against the media. The primary outlier in the Fox News lineup is the channel's libertarian-leaning star Greg Gutfeld, co-host of The Five. Gutfeld has been genuinely critical of Gingrich the past couple weeks, pointing out that his ability to beat President Obama in a debate isn't the same as being able to beat him at the ballot box (you can view the clip here).

What does the man at the top of the totem pole, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, think of Gingrich? He has't said much about him on Twitter. However, his chief rival has been a recipient of scathing rebukes. "Romney's tax returns might kill his chances. See Republican establishment panic now!" he tweeted yesterday. Last week, Murdoch attacked his debate performance on Twitter. "When will Romney get a manager to prepare him? Fancy not being ready for questions about taxes or felons! Damaging."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.