The Slatest

The GOP Contenders Getting the Most Free Exposure From Fox News

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky does a live interview with Fox News from Capitol Hill on June 1, 2015.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

With the first Republican presidential debate only two months away, conservative contenders and pretenders are scrambling to claw their way onto Fox News’ 10-person debate stage. The cable news network, which will host the event in Cleveland, has said it will send invites two days before the Aug. 6 event only to those candidates who are polling the best in the five most recent national polls. Given that, there’s no time like the present for those at risk of being snubbed to make sure GOP voters know their names.


One of the best ways to do that? Conveniently enough, with an appearance on Fox News. For a cash-strapped candidate, sitting down for an interview with the conservative cable network is among the cheapest and most effective ways to reach those voters who will decide your fate.


Thanks to Media Matters, a liberal watchdog (that also moonlights as an unofficial rapid-response team for Hillary Clinton), we have a snapshot of exactly which GOP candidates secured the most free airtime on the conservative outlet last month. Here’s the full breakdown, with the potential candidates currently among the top ten in RealClearPolitics’ rolling national average in bold:

  • 1. Mike Huckabee: 70 minutes over 7 appearances
  • 2. Rand Paul: 53 minutes over 12 appearances
  • 3. Donald Trump: 51 minutes over 8 appearances
  • 4. Ben Carson: 49 minutes over 6 appearances
  • 5(t). Marco Rubio: 38 minutes over 4 appearances
  • 5(t). Chris Christie: 38 minutes over 4 appearances
  • 7. Carly Fiorina: 36 minutes over 5 appearances
  • 8. Jeb Bush: 29 minutes over 2 appearances
  • 9. Scott Walker: 26 minutes over 4 appearances
  • 10. Rick Santorum: 23 minutes over 5 appearances
  • 11. Lindsey Graham: 15 minutes over 3 appearances
  • 12. Bobby Jindal: 13 minutes over 3 appearances
  • 13(t). Ted Cruz: 13 minutes over 2 appearances
  • 13(t). John Kasich: 13 minutes over 2 appearances
  • 15. George Pataki: 9 minutes over 1 appearance
  • 16. Rick Perry: 0 minutes over 0 appearances


That’s not to suggest these numbers are the result of some sort of master plan from the Fox News Powers That Be. Some candidates, like Bush, have largely avoided sit-down interviews to date, while others, like Paul, have locked down screen-time across the cable spectrum by driving the national conversation.


Still, the totals might help explain why Carson has been able to climb to fourth in the national polls despite getting relatively meager attention outside of conservative media, and how Huckabee—a former Fox News host—has more or less managed to pick back up where he left off in 2008. (Trump’s frequent appearances are noteworthy, too, but he is his own type of weirdly coiffed animal given his existing national name recognition and ability to manipulate the political press. His place near the top of the list has more to do with Fox News’ desire for ratings than its advocacy.)  

A few Fox News hits, though, can only do so much. Fiorina, for instance, was on the cable channel for a total of 36 minutes last month, spread out over five separate appearances—yet she still remains on the outside looking in with somewhere around 1 percent support in most national surveys.

Previously in Slate:

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the 2016 campaign.