Opinion

Sarah Palin and Fox News: a match made in heaven

Sarah Palin’s new role as a Fox News contributor is the perfect platform for the celebrity politician.

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Today’s announcement that Sarah Palin will become a contributor to Fox News Channel is the next step in the logical progression of her career.

The success of her recently released autobiography as well as the media’s breathless reporting on her statements and Facebook musings have made her one of the nation’s top news voices and a force to be reckoned with.

While Ms. Palin will probably never be president, it’s clear that many of her critics have underestimated her ability to tap into the grievances and discontent of large social and geographic blocs in the country.

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Palin’s appeal no longer straddles simple political lines, but broader cultural ones: This is because she is no longer a politician but a pop culture icon and a celebrity. She has transcended politics, opening new career doors.

Let’s examine the Fox News deal from Palin’s perspective. Palin is a true, Hollywood-type celebrity with a bestselling book and millions of adoring fans. She may have designs on the presidency, but she evidently wants to soak up the perks and adulation of her celebrity first, and she has done that with gusto.

Palin’s resignation as governor of Alaska last summer was abrupt and unusual, but seen through the lens of celebrity, it is understandable. The isolated confines of Juneau were too small for Palin when she returned following the presidential election. She could not go home again.

But Palin’s strident, conservative manner, her deep Republican stripes, and her penchant for publicity make her a superb fit for television and a natural fit for Fox News.

This is not a novel idea, but in light of Palin’s lasting hold on the national stage, it appears a match perfectly suited to both parties commercially and ideologically. A regular slot on Fox News would be an immediate sensation and it would expand Palin’s imprint on the national stage, giving her a place to build and shape her public persona.

Palin’s aggressive partisanship wouldn’t work for network television, nor CNN or left-leaning MSNBC. That leaves Fox, which, as America’s most popular cable news channel, provides the best platform for Palin to cement the adoration of her most fervent supporters among Fox’s viewer base as well as keep her relevant.

She could easily be paid millions there to do what she does best: delighting Republicans and infuriating Democrats. She could also use the new job to strengthen her public conversational and oratorical skills.

And therein lies why Fox News Channel is bringing on Palin. Her star power would be an immediate ratings bonanza.

The reasons for a Palin-Fox marriage can be traced to how Fox and its leadership in the form of the News Channel president Roger Ailes thinks. Mr. Ailes, a brilliant former Republican operative, has infused a Republican viewpoint into the channel’s programming, as evidenced by its lineup of Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and even Palin’s potential presidential rival Mike Huckabee, who hosts a low-profile weekend show.

“Governor Palin has captivated everyone on both sides of the political spectrum and we are excited to add her dynamic voice to the Fox News lineup,” said Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming.

Another reason this is such a great fit for both Palin and Fox? Both appear to enjoy upsetting and besting Democrats. Officially, of course, they both claim otherwise: “It’s wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news,” Palin said in a written release.

At Fox, Palin could sit in a comfy studio in stylish clothing, holding court before America and dispensing sharp political observations and nuggets of stinging disdain for Democratic initiatives. No other major guests or political pundits would be necessary; Palin would be the unquestioned star.

In fact, this announced hiring could merely be a test run for giving Palin her own prime-time show. Fox could call the program “Sarah!” and slot it at 6:30 p.m. opposite the ABC, CBS, and NBC nightly news programs. No doubt “Sarah!” would get higher ratings than the big three, at least initially.

For a one-time insurgent channel that was birthed to provide a counterweight to perceived liberal media bias, the show would be the ultimate insult to the so-called elite media and its adherents, a delicious prospect to Ailes.

General chatter about Palin’s political future misses the point. Just as David Beckham, Shaquille O’Neal, and others – athletes who arguably became more enamored of celebrity than the sports they played – Palin now seems more interested in being a star than a politician. Being a cable figure would allow her to continue this and solidify her conservative credentials to run for president down the road.

Sarah Palin and prime-time television? It makes total sense.
Mark Greenbaum is an attorney and freelance writer in Washington.

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