Who was the big winner in this week's midterm election?
The Republican Party? No.
Former half-term Governor Sarah Palin? Not hardly.
Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner? Nope.
The Tea Party movement? Think again.
Tuesday night's big winner was undoubtedly Fox News. It did more than just about anyone to weaken President Obama, peel off Senate seats and wrestle control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Democrats.
Let's face it, we all saw this coming. Just after the President was sworn in, Fox News vice president for programming Bill Shine called his employer the "voice of opposition" and Fox chief executive Roger Ailes -- a former advisor to Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush -- described the network's role "as the Alamo."
How can any news organization claim the mantle of "Fair and Balanced" when it sees its role under a new president as that of history's fearless Texas soldiers attempting to fight off Mexican troops led by Santa Anna, whose cruelty inspired countless others to join the Texian Army?
Tellingly, Fox News didn't wait long before inspiring an army of its own.
In the early days of 2009, the network co-opted the then-fledgling Tea Party movement, swelling its ranks with endless promotion. As the first round of nationwide Tea Party protests approached on April 15, Fox News repeatedly described the events as "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties" airing segments encouraging viewers to attend and get involved. In fact, in the week leading up to the protests, Fox aired more than 100 commercial-like promos for its coverage surrounding the events many of which featured Fox News personalities.
The Tea Party promotion has continued unabated for more than a year.
Compounding its activism, the conservative network moved on to lobbying Congress just a few months later.
As Members of Congress went home for summer recess to hold traditional town hall meetings with constituents, angry protesters who had been organized by conservative special interest groups were ready to meet them. Footage of the events was enough to make Fox News swoon as network personalities repeatedly praised the disruptions and encouraged viewers to join in the right-wing fun.
As 2009 became 2010, Rupert Murdoch's American cash cow of a network morphed even more explicitly into the communications arm of the Republican National Committee.
Leading Fox News contributors with an eye on the 2012 presidential race -- Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum -- raised an astonishing $33.1 million in the 2010 elections to help fund the candidates of their choice and advance their various causes.
Former Bush advisor Karl Rove -- another Fox contributor -- raised and spent an astonishing $38 million to elect Republicans and it didn't hurt matters that Fox News hosted him time and again to discuss the election without noting this blatant conflict of interest. Now that's what I call journalistic ethics.
All told, more than 30 different Fox News personalities -- from hosts to contributors -- supported Republicans in at least 600 instances, in nearly every state during the election.
Republican candidates knew where their bread was buttered too. After Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell's disastrous debut on the national stage, Palin advised her to "speak through Fox News." She got the message -- one Fox source reportedly said O'Donnell went on Hannity to "get a certain type of treatment." Perhaps it was that "certain type of treatment" that led Nevada's Sharron Angle to suggest she preferred appearing on Fox News because the network let her plug her website for contributions.
News Corp. -- the parent company of Fox News and sister network Fox Business -- was not going to let its employees have all the fun. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, it donated at least $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association to defeat Democrats and at least $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a right-wing special interest deeply involved in this year's election.
Yes, it was a stellar election night for Fox News -- they won a slew of governorships, the U.S. House of Representatives, and came darn close to winning the U.S. Senate.
But don't expect the right-wing "news" network to rest on its laurels. After all, it has a President to defeat in two short years.
Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and progressive political communications consultant. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns by email.
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