When House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz announced in April that he would not seek reelection, speculation reigned—did the powerful Utah Republican have his eyes on another office? Did he have a more lucrative offer? Was there a scandal no one knew about?
Certainly, Chaffetz has not closed the door on future political bids, including for Utah governor in 2020. His campaign site, jasoninthehouse.com, briefly redirected to jasonforgovernor.com (both have now been shut down). And while he’s been vague about his ambitions to return to office at some point, he was definitive that his sudden exit was not prompted by scandal. “I’ve been given more enemas by more people over the last eight years than you can possibly imagine,” Chaffetz told Politico. “If they had something really scandalous, it would’ve come out a long, long time ago.”
There is another possibility. According to two GOP lawmakers who have spoken to Chaffetz directly and four senior House Republican aides, Chaffetz has been telling people he’ll take on what one source calls a “substantial role” in on-air talent at Fox News Channel, possibly as early as July, amplifying whispers that Chaffetz will not finish out his current term — our sources tell us that he will likely depart Congress in June.
Chaffetz, 50, has said on Facebook he made “a personal decision to return to the private sector.” Some observers in Utah speculated that he might join Fox News in some capacity. His announcement came the same day as the network revealed it would cut ties with Bill O’Reilly.
It is unclear what precise role Chaffetz may play at Fox, or if a deal has in fact been finalized. Spokespeople for Fox declined to return multiple requests for comment.
Chaffetz was a frequent face on the network before and during the 2016 race, whether needling President Obama or assuring viewers that his committee had “years of material” prepared against Hillary Clinton should she succeed him.
“Let’s just say that when Jason told us he was headed to Fox, no one was surprised,” says one senior House Republican aide.
Says a House Republican member close to Chaffetz: “I know he was gunning for it…Fox was his first choice once he announced his plans” not to seek reelection.
“He’s probably one of the most media-capable members in the House,” adds another senior House Republican aide, “just based on total time spent on a television camera.”
A spokesperson for Chaffetz declined to comment.