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Friday, August 20, 2010
Was Fox Really Unaware Newsmax Was Using O’Reilly to Sell Financial Schemes?
Topic: Newsmax

The New York Times’ Media Decoder blog reports on a CBS Moneywatch post highlighting Newsmax’s use of Bill O’Reilly for its latest financial scheme, this time a report instructing how to receive generous tax-free “IRS payouts” of $1,196 or more. Turns out it’s not as exciting as it sounds -- it’s about investing in municipal bonds, which Moneywatch calls “the dowager of the investment world.” Municipal bonds are tax-free, but their interest rates are low; to receive that promised $1,196 payout, according to Moneywatch, you have to purchase $2 million worth of municipal bonds. According to Moneywatch:

The faux news show (linked here) starts with an anchorman sitting at a desk in front of a glowing “Economic Crisis Summit” video screen. The anchor welcomes O’Reilly and gets him talking about Obama and taxes — O’Reilly’s normal bailiwick. Then he asks: “How can you invest in this treacherous environment?” O’Reilly suggests buying depressed stocks that pay dividends, which plays right into the anchor’s hand.

As soon as O’Reilly leaves, the next “guest” is a smarmy-looking “accountant” named Bill Spetrino, who purports to agree with O’Reilly and offers a newsletter called “The Dividend Machine.” But he adds that he has “something even better.” Spetrino maintains that he’s written a report about a “forgotten, seven-state Constitutional Clause” that guarantees generous tax-free “IRS payouts” of $1,196 or more. And, he’s agreed to provide this report “free” to viewers of the show produced by Newsmax.

Moneywatch updated its post to note that after it went up, Newsmax scrubbed O’Reilly from the newsletter. The Times reported that, according to Fox News, the interview O’Reilly gave was used by Newsmax for its financial scheme without his knowledge. “They took an interview that Bill did and used it for other purposes,” said Bill Shine, a Fox News executive vice president, adding that “we’re all disappointed in this.”

It’s highly unlikely that O’Reilly and Fox News were not aware that Newsmax was using O’Reilly to sell financial products until Moneywatch wrote about it. After all, Newsmax has been doing so for two months.

We (here and at Media Matters) documented in June how Newsmax was portraying O’Reilly as teaming up with Dick Morris -- a Fox News contributor and frequent O’Reilly guest -- for something called the “Economic Crisis Summit,” using anti-Obama fearmongering to, yes, promote another financial product, this one a $1,495 "hot commodities insider membership." Media Matters also reported on how Newsmax used O’Reilly in the video promoting the financial scheme. In that video, the Newsmax host says that O'Reilly was not "here to endorse anyone's point of view or to endorse product or financial service.” As he did in the video referenced by Moneywatch, O’Reilly promotes the purchase of depressed stocks. Also as in the video referenced by Moneywatch, after O’Reilly left, Newsmax began shilling for its financial product.

Given how often O’Reilly snipes at Media Matters, it can be assumed he reads the website on a regular basis. How did he miss those reports on Newsmax’s usage of him?

Newsmax may have scrubbed O’Reilly from from parts of its current promotion, but it is still running ads promoting O’Reilly’s participation in its “Economic Crisis Summit.” Here’s a screenshot of the front page of from earlier on Aug. 19:


It links to a webpage detailing Newsmax’s commodities package in which O’Reilly is not mentioned.

Given how long Newsmax has been making use of O’Reilly -- and given that fellow Fox News employee Morris has been shilling for Newsmax’s schemes for years -- does anyone really believe Fox News and O’Reilly weren’t aware of this until now?

(Cross-posted at Media Matters.)

Posted by Terry K. at 2:19 AM EDT

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