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Troubling Questions About Fox News’ Role In Ensign Affair Still Unanswered

Reported by Ellen - June 20, 2009 -

As Priscilla posted previously, Doug Hampton, the husband of Sen. John Ensign’s (R-NV) mistress, presented a copy of a letter to the Las Vegas Sun he said he mailed to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly seeking help in exposing the senator’s “heinous conduct and pursuit” of Hampton’s wife. But Fox seems never to have done any investigation or even reporting on the matter until Ensign resigned, five days later. The Sun was unable to reach Kelly for comment but the producer of her show, Tom Lowell, told The Huffington Post it never got any letter but they did admit to having received an email one day before Ensign resigned. Ensign’s spokesman said the senator disclosed his affair with Hampton’s wife, Cynthia, because her husband had approached “a major television news channel before Tuesday,” the day Ensign admitted the affair. Did Fox sit on the story? Did they tip off Ensign and out a source? Why didn’t Fox ever reveal the existence of what should have been newsworthy information they had until now? Raw Story’s Larisa Alexandrovna laid out these and more troubling questions that Fox has yet to answer about its role in the affair.

Alexandrovna writes, "Once Ensign went public, however, Fox should have immediately revealed that they had been approached, even if only to make it known they had been working this story.” Comments from Fox News producer Lowell, she noted, did not address the issues but raised additional questions.

Consider that Lowell says that Hampton reached out to Fox 24 hours before Ensign's press conference and that Fox thought "that it wasn't something we needed to move on," and questioned Hampton's credibility. But why did they not revisit Hampton's allegations after the Ensign news conference, in which he admits to the affair with Cynthia Hampton? Moreover, they have yet to provide Hampton's side of the story, even though they have now confirmed that he reached out to them. Why? If Hampton is indeed not credible, then what is he not credible about?

She also noted that Fox has not mentioned in its reporting the fact that Hampton (falsely, according to Lowell) claimed to have mailed Kelly a letter nor the email Fox has admitted it received.

Alexandrovna continues,

Did Fox actually work the story and contact Ensign for comment in the process, thereby informing him of the story? If so, where is that story and why won’t Kelly say so?...

-How did Ensign find out that Hampton had approached Fox? Or did Ensign not know for sure it was Fox, but somehow know that Hampton had approached a major media outlet?

Kelly’s silence is also troubling. ...Granted, Kelly has a TV show and it is possible that she first went to Fox lawyers rather than investigate the matter. Still, if that is the case, why not simply explain that she was in the early process of the investigation rather than not comment at all when asked about the letter? Considering that Ensign came forward only five days after the letter was allegedly sent, Kelly's lack of explanation on the matter is especially troubling. Considering too that at the very least, Kelly's team was informed of Hampton's allegations and concerns 24 hours prior to Ensign coming forward, again making Kelly's silence very troubling.

Finally, as Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert wrote,
We now know that Fox News did nothing with the original, exclusive news tip about an adulterous Republican... Y'know, just one of those crazy news days where you forget to follow-up, or to tell your superiors, about a first-hand, on-the-record communication revealing an affair by a presidential Republican hopeful. Oops. Raise your hand if you think the Fox News producer would have dropped the ball if a juicy, inside scoop about, say, Democrat Chuck Schumer having an affair had fallen into Fox News' lap.

Yeah, me neither.