The Lessons of Craig James
Fox Sports announced that Craig James, failed Republican candidate for U.S. Senate and one-time sports commentator, was fired recently due to anti-gay remarks made while on the campaign trail. There are some interesting notes to take from the article and the situation for both consultants and candidates:
First, Fox Sports has admitted (at least internally) that they didn’t look closely enough at James’ campaign activities.
Citing unnamed sources, Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated reported that James’ hiring “had not been fully vetted at the highest levels of Fox Sports management.”
This is all well and good for Fox Sports; they are the private sector. When a private company uncovers something embarrassing about an employee, they can simply fire him and move on. If a candidate doesn’t vet a vendor, though—or vice versa—the fallout after discovery can be much more devastating.
The second nota bene is that actions made in one’s private life and public life cannot be separated. They are all one pile, in this era of smartphones and immediate publication. It is the naïve candidate who assumes he can keep the two apart.
The final takeaway that cannot be overlooked: Fox Sports is owned by Fox Entertainment Group which also owns Fox News Channel—widely considered to be a pro-Republican media outlet with conservative bias. James’ comments on the campaign trail were unremarkable for a Republican primary candidate in Texas. Why would Fox Sports fire someone over remarks that are regular fodder on its sister channel’s talk shows?
Now, fair enough, media conglomeration being what it is, we can’t necessarily insist that the actions of one subsidiary cast any shadow on another. And there is a difference between an employee and a talk show guest.
And yet, was Fox Sports bound in any way to tell Dallas Morning News the reason for its firing of James? It seems an odd public statement to make; they could have dismissed him without comment. In fact, I expect most people who saw the news of the firing last week assumed it’s because he’s just not that engaging a speaker.
It could be nothing. Or it could be the ringing of a wether’s bell.