Pollster Frank Luntz acknowledges that he took money to help shape Marco Rubio’s political career, a fact that he did not disclose while praising Rubio on Fox News and on social media.
In a profanity-laden interview, Luntz tells Breitbart News that he worked for Rubio when the young politician was preparing to become Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.
Luntz tweeted positively about Rubio and negatively about Donald Trump after Saturday night’s Republican debate in South Carolina, while also disparaging the entire debate itself as too confrontational.
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) February 14, 2016
Trump does not need to attack Bush to oppose Bush.
Someone needs to tell him to chill out. #GOPDebate
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) February 14, 2016
Luntz first raised alarms when he held a staunchly pro-Rubio focus group on Fox News after the last debate before the Iowa caucus, where establishment favorite Rubio took 23 percent of the vote for a third-place finish. Luntz admitted to Breitbart News that he once accepted payment to work for Rubio.
“Yeah, nine years ago,” Luntz admitted. “Nine years ago.”
Luntz defended the supposed impartiality of his post-debate focus groups.
“Why was it until debate number seven that I said Marco Rubio was the clear winner?” Luntz asked.
“Megyn, you asked probably the toughest question of the debate. You gave the candidates no room to wiggle. You pressed him. And he responded,” Luntz gushed to Megyn Kelly in that pre-Iowa focus group, awkwardly referring only to Rubio before even mentioning him by name. “I want to begin with the most important and impactful moment of this debate. It was your challenge of Marco Rubio. And watch how well he did on immigration.”
The focus group, featuring pre-selected ordinary Americans, was seen as a love letter to Rubio.
Sonny Bunch, executive editor of the pro-Rubio blog Washington Free Beacon, used Luntz‘s over-the-top focus group to claim that Rubio did extremely well in the debate.
I say this merely as a reporter: Marco Rubio crushed it according to Luntz’s focus group.
— Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) January 29, 2016
But Breitbart News research has subsequently revealed Luntz‘s financial history with Rubio.
A high-level former elected Florida Republican told Breitbart News that Luntz worked closely over the summer of 2006 with Rubio’s twelve-person leadership team to prepare Rubio for his new elected role as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.
Luntz held a series of focus groups in Orlando, and showed people tapes of the thirtysomething legislator. Rubio and his aides would also sit in on some of the sessions, presenting bits of speeches to the focus group participants and also learning firsthand from their observations.
The meetings helped Rubio to write his book “100 Innovative Ideas For Florida’s Future,” but they also helped him to deliver his “American Exceptionalism” speech that Rubio finally trotted out before a national audience when he accepted victory in his November 2010 Senate race in Florida. Rubio has subsequently returned to themes from that speech in many of his public statements.
Luntz was hired by Rubio’s team, but the insider did not remember whether Luntz was paid by Rubio personally or by the Republican House leadership organization in Florida, which Rubio at the time controlled.
This all raises serious questions about Luntz‘s credibility and also about Fox News’ role in favoring Rubio over the other candidates. The legendary mainstream Washington magazine National Journal even picked up the scandal in a feature entitled “Luntz Plays Favorites With Marco Rubio.”
Luntz refused to release the names of his focus group participants to Breitbart News so that we could verify the extent to which Fox News helped to select them.
“I’ve never released the names of anyone,” Luntz said, noting that he’s done “a thousand” focus groups. “I’ve never released the names.”
Luntz repeatedly attacked Breitbart News. “You are so far up Trump’s ass,” Luntz said, calling this reporter an “asshole.” “You’re full of shit.”
“If I do release the names I will only release it to a reputable news outlet.”
Though Luntz did not officially declare Rubio the winner of any debates until the last one before the Iowa caucus, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough noticed that Luntz helped to damage Donald Trump in the early rounds of the debate schedule.
After the 1st Fox debate, Luntz focus groups had Trump as big loser. Every poll showed he won & his numbers shot up. https://t.co/U3SWbsgGj9
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) January 31, 2016