The Rove reversal: Fox takes Republican star down a peg

Pundit sidelined after on-air row over Ohio result on election night

Karl Rove, grand pontificator and schemer of the American right, suffered fresh humiliation today with word that the welcome mat at Fox News has been partially withdrawn, possibly as punishment for an on-air tantrum on election night.

Long revered by conservatives as the brain who put George W Bush in office in 2000 and subsequently as the top White House strategist, Mr Rove turned to Fox, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, to help keep himself relevant when the White House went Democrat.

Mr Rove has not been banned from Fox entirely. But producers have allegedly received word from the head of programming, Bill Shine, that in future they must receive specific permission if they want to book Mr Rove for an interview. Mr Shine, according to New York magazine, was acting on direct instructions from Roger Ailes, the all-powerful founder of Fox News and close confidant of Mr Murdoch. It has been a trying few weeks for Mr Rove. His side lost in November, of course, a defeat even more bitter for him as the founder of American Crossroads, one of the most active and richest of the conservative super-PACs created to defeat Barack Obama. His group spent $104m (£64.5m) backing Mitt Romney and other candidates.

Fox has also benched Dick Morris, the former Clinton White House aide who crossed to the Republican side. It could be that the network simply wants its viewers to forget the 2012 election ever happened. Or it has concluded that Mr Morris ,in particular, must be seen to suffer at least some kind of reprimand for insisting that Mr Romney was going to win and win big.

While Mr Rove may also have been guilty of overstating Mr Romney’s prospects in advance of polling, it was his performance on election night that has lingered longest in the collective political memory. Dubbed as the Rove meltdown and the Rove tantrum, it was not his finest hour.

It happened when Fox News called Ohio for Mr Obama. Mr Rove challenged the Fox call live on air, insisting that the network had been too hasty. “We gotta be careful about calling the thing,” Mr Rove said, offering numbers suggesting that Ohio remained close. “I’d be very cautious about intruding in on this process.”

If Messrs Rove and Morris are feeling sheepish about the outcome of the 2012 election and their parts in it, one man who isn’t is Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino tycoon and champion of Israel and all things conservative. He has told The Wall Street Journal he has no regrets about spending more than $100m of his own money on Mr Romney and other Republican candidates.

“I’ll spend that much and more,” next time around, Mr Adelson told the paper.

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