Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) might become the next Republican politician to find employment at Fox News, the “fair and balanced” network that operates as a de facto communications arm for the Republican Party. In doing so, Chaffetz could become yet another politician to hide out at the network while he waits to run for even higher office.
Chaffetz announced in April that he would not be seeking re-election in the 2018 midterm elections. Weeks later, Washingtonian magazine reported that the congressman has told colleagues on Capitol Hill that he might be headed to Fox News, telling one he would be taking on what the source called a “substantial role” on air. According to the May 13 report:
According to two GOP lawmakers who have spoken to Chaffetz directly and four senior House Republican aides, Chaffetz has been telling people he’ll take on what one source calls a “substantial role” in on-air talent at Fox News Channel, possibly as early as July, amplifying whispers that Chaffetz will not finish out his current term.
If “Jason in the House” — as the congressman is known on Twitter — becomes “Jason in the network,” he would join a long list of Republican politicians who have found gainful employment at Fox News after retiring from public service. The network offers the possibility of continuing to reach a wide but isolated conservative audience while protecting pundits from the scrutiny and accountability that could come from mainstream audiences — ideal conditions for individuals seeking to re-launch their careers in conservative politics. (Chaffetz is reportedly eyeing the Utah governorship for the 2020 election.)
Under former CEO Roger Ailes’ leadership, Fox News became the communications arm of the Republican Party by openly campaigning for Republican candidates, launching the Tea Party movement, and employing former Republican has-beens.
Many GOP political stars have passed through the revolving door between Fox News and the Republican Party. Fox News current or past employees who have previously run for office (successfully and unsuccessfully) as Republicans include Herman Cain, Al D’Amato, John LeBoutillier, KT McFarland, Oliver North, Jeanine Pirro, Allen West, and Jon Kyl. Sarah Palin also worked for Fox (twice); she has since left the network. Additionally, many pundits used the network as a launchpad to run for office as Republicans, including Angela McGlowan, Ben Carson, and Pete Snyder.
Several former Republican lawmakers have used the network as a place to hide out while they weigh running for higher office and rehab their careers. Former Arkansas governor and repeated Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee credited his show on Fox for helping him gain notoriety among several “Iowa Republican activists and volunteers” while he weighed running for president in 2016. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich openly campaigned on Fox to serve as President Donald Trump’s nominee for vice president and was cheered on by his fellow Fox contributors. After a short term in the Senate, Scott Brown joined Fox News as a contributor and rejoined shortly after losing a race for another Senate seat. After serving in the House of Representatives, John Kasich joined Fox News before running for governor of Ohio, and later president. And after he resigned amid an affair, Mark Sanford joined the network before successfully launching a bid for Congress.
Fox has proved to be an invaluable asset to the Republican Party. During the 2016 election, the network awarded Republican primary candidates more than 200 hours of interviews between May 1, 2015, and May 3, 2016, giving Trump more than twice as much the time it gave any other candidate. As CNN’s Brian Stelter noted it in 2015, “There really is no disputing Fox’s power in influencing the GOP.” There is also no disputing Fox’s appeal as a safe haven for retiring GOP politicians.