Fox News' Greta Van Susteren says Husband's Relationship with Herman Cain Not Conflict

Van Susteren points out that her husband, Washington lawyer John Coale, is not being paid by the campaign of embattled GOP hopeful.
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The cozy relationship between the media and the politicos they cover is again making headlines. This time, Fox News Channel host Greta Van Susteren is taking fire for not disclosing her husband’s informal advisory role to embattled GOP contender Herman Cain.

Van Susteren’s husband John Coale – a Washington lawyer who describes himself as a “Clinton Democrat” (he worked closely with the Clinton Administration on gun law reforms and other causes, his web site states) – has been advising Cain for the last eight months, though not in any contractual way – he’s not being paid. But his involvement with Cain, and Van Susteren’s by proxy, burst into the headlines this week as Cain battles the latest allegations about alleged personal impropriety. This time, Ginger White, an Atlanta mother of two grown children who has worked as a fitness instructor, is alleging that she had a 13-year affair with the Republican presidential hopeful. Cain has called the allegations “completely false” and this morning one of his lawyers demanded White surrender cell phone records that would substantiate a relationship.

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Van Susteren has interviewed Cain multiple times on her Fox News show On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. And she landed a recent exclusive with Cain’s media shy wife Gloria Cain, who went on Van Susteren’s program to defend her husband against sexual harassment allegations.

On her blog, Van Susteren points out that her husband has many friends in Washington on both sides of the political divide (from Democrat Nancy Pelosi to Republican Michele Bachmann) and advises a lot of them – without remuneration.

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“My husband has never worked for any of them nor taken a dime from any of them,” writes Van Susteren. “He is not a lobbyist (never has been) and he is not looking for a job. These are simply his friends…people he finds interesting. As friends, he gives them advice, and they give him advice….he tells them things and they tell him things. I suppose his years as a lawyer makes him a good source for advice and just conversation.”

Coale was an advisor to Sarah Palin while the former Alaska governor was considering a presidential run. And before that he was a bundler for Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic primary.

Coale defended his wife. Telling The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz that Van Susteren is “used to me being friends with all these people, it probably didn’t occur to her [to make the disclosure].”

And he added that the perception of conflict of interest should only arise if he was “making a living” as an advisor or “just hanging out with partisan Republicans or partisan Democrats. But I hang out with both.”

In her own defense, Van Susteren invoked journalists whose spouses are actually on the payroll of certain politicos, though she did not name names.

“It is all part of living in Washington,” she wrote. “Many in the media have spouses  - unlike my husband – who actually WORK for politicians and or in government. Let me repeat, my husband does NOT WORK for any of them and NEVER HAS.”

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George Will, who appears regularly at ABC’s This Week roundtable disclosed on the program that his wife Mari Maseng (a Washington public relations executive and former communications director to President Ronald Reagan) was recently hired by the Rick Perry campaign.

This has subsequently led rival GOP contenders, specifically some in Mitt Romney’s camp, to cry conflict of interest.

“Some of the more excitable and perhaps the less mature members of the Romney campaign have tried to make this personal,” said Will on This Week. “At the Michigan debate [on Nov. 9], after the debate, Mari waved a hand to Mitt Romney, they came over and talked, they’ve been guests at our dinner table, and Romney gave her a kiss on the cheek and they went their separate ways. They’re both mature professionals.”

Fox News suspended the contributor contracts of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich when they entered the race for the 2012 race for the Republican presidential nomination.

And last October, NPR’s Michele Norris announced that she would temporarily give up hosting All Things Considered after her husband, Broderick Johnson joined President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign as a senior advisor. Norris said she would return after the 2012 election.


Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie