He was supposed to lend credence to a Fox News narrative.
But when 20-year-old Max Rice paid a visit to “Fox & Friends” on Monday morning to discuss high unemployment and disenchantment with President Obama among young Americans, the interview quickly went from conservative boilerplate to an outlandish prank.
Rice said his national television debut fell into his lap. The film student at Columbia College Chicago told TPM Monday that a “friend of a friend” who works at Fox News reached out earlier this month hoping to find erstwhile young Obama voters who have shifted their support to Mitt Romney out of frustration with the stagnant job market.
“When I picked up the phone, my ears perked up at the national TV part,” Rice said. “I was like, ‘Fuck yeah, I graduated college.’ And they should have known I hadn’t graduated.”
A YouTube video easily found by searching the name “Max Rice” shows a similar-looking young man delivering a high school commencement address in 2010, casting doubt on Fox’s claim that he is a recent college graduate (Rice confirmed that it was him in the video). Rice said there was little in the way of screening done by Fox in advance of his interview, save for a long e-mail he received last week.
“It was a checklist basically, requirements to appear on the segment,” Rice said. “I had to have voted for Obama in 2008, feel disenfranchised and now be voting for Romney.”
Rice, of course, was ineligible to vote four years ago. “That’s why I said I supported Obama, I didn’t say vote,” he said.
Fox remained in steady contact with Rice in the weeks and days leading up to the interview. Each time, Rice said he gave the callers conflicting biographical information.
“I gave them no straight answers,” Rice said. “Every time they called, it would be from an unknown number. I’d be like, ‘Yeah, I got my English degree from Texas.’ Then the next time, ‘Yeah, I’m in engineering.’” Rice told TPM he transferred from the University of Texas at Austin last spring and began taking classes at Columbia this summer.
Rice said two of his friends were also considered for an interview, but neither was as interested in pursuing the opportunity. One communicated with a Fox News employee by impersonating a character on “Family Guy,” which immediately disqualified him.
It wasn’t until a week ago that Rice learned which Fox program would be the stage for his prank. He had no qualms with the early morning venue.
“I was like, ‘No fucking way!’” Rice recalled. “‘Fox & Friends,’ that’s my favorite show.”
Rice said he intended to “hit on the female anchor” — but that he requested that Steve Doocy, one of three ‘Fox & Friends’ hosts, would conduct the interview.
Instead, Rice was dealt a solo interview with Gretchen Carlson, whose former title as Miss America Rice brought up at the outset. A clearly annoyed Carlson tried throughout the interview to get Rice back on topic, asking why he intended to vote for Romney.
“Why I am supporting Mitt Romney? It’s actually a funny story,” Rice told Carlson. “I lost a basketball game to a friend of mine.”
That part, Rice insisted to TPM, is actually true. He said he lost a game to a conservative friend, who would have been stipulated to vote for Obama if Rice had won.
Carlson eventually wrapped up the disastrous interview, telling viewers that Rice would get “another chance maybe when he’s ready to do the interview.”
Rice said he hopes that his interview shines a light on the mainstream media’s occasional disregard for substance and facts.
“I don’t care if there’s any negative press about me. I think there’s a greater issue,” Rice said. “Our media should be a tool to educate the masses, instead of getting ratings and selling Cheetos. This is proof.”
Watch Rice’s interview with Carlson:
Tom Kludt is a newswriter for TPM. A former research intern and polling fellow for TPM, he lives and works in New York City. Tom graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Dakota in May of 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science and History. He can be reached at Tom (at) talkingpointsmemo.com.