OPINION: A Republican is suing for fairness from Fox News. Good luck with that.

Jeremy Hunt, speaks during Georgia's Second Congressional District republican primary election runoff debates on Monday, June 6, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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Jeremy Hunt, speaks during Georgia's Second Congressional District republican primary election runoff debates on Monday, June 6, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

In the GOP primary elections, air time on Fox News Channel is as good as gold, literally.

A single appearance can put new candidates in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers and, in the process, let them direct like-minded viewers to donate online.

But one unhappy GOP candidate out of Southwest Georgia, Wayne Johnson, is suing the Fox News Channel mothership, along with Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade, and his own GOP opponent, Jeremy Hunt over Hunt’s numerous Fox appearances on Fox during their primary — so many that Johnson says he never had a chance against the machine.

Hunt, a West Point graduate and 2022 transplant to the district, did in fact beat Johnson like a drum on Election Day in May, 37% to 19%.

Chris West, an Air Force veteran whose family goes back generations in the area, finished with 30% and went on to face Hunt in Tuesday’s GOP runoff.

West won in the end, but in the lead up to Election Day, both Johnson and West complained behind the scenes to Fox News executives that they had created an uneven playing field for all of the candidates. They said it started when Hunt announced his candidacy on Fox & Friends in January and continued to appear on Fox networks over, and over before Election Day —15 times in all.

Some of Hunt’s appearances related to his time training troops in Ukraine. Others featured Hunt talking about Black conservatives, or “Woke America” or Joe Biden’s “weak” foreign policy.

Nearly all of them included Hunt sending viewers to his campaign website, where viewers could also donate. None mentioned that Hunt was in a GOP primary competing against other Republicans.

In one segment, ostensibly about the Iran nuclear deal, Kilmeade wrapped the segment by saying, “Alright, Congressman Hunt, uh, if you become Congressman Hunt, I hope you’re on the Armed Services Committee.”

For another about Ukraine, Hunt said had received messages from troops on the ground, and then segued, “Anybody who wants to hear more about that or my experiences in Ukraine, you can go to JeremyforGeorgia.com.”

Was all of Hunt’s air time on Fox News the secret sauce to his rocketing to the front of the GOP pack by Primary Day?

Johnson was so convinced that was the case he repeatedly complained in writing to Fox News higher-ups, including CEO Suzanne Scott, calling the Fox segments “seriously egregious” and “blatant promotion of Mr. Hunt’s campaign.”

On the Monday after he first complained, Johnson appeared on Fox & Friends, but never again.

Chris West’s campaign also worked behind the scenes to get their candidate on air.

“Jeremy has been on the show a ton — and Chris saw Kilmeade over the weekend and discussed coming on for balance,” a West staffer emailed in February. “When can we get Chris on this week?”

A producer tentatively booked West for the following week, but then canceled. After booking and canceling him two more times, Fox stopped responding to West’s requests.

In the meantime, Hunt continued to appear on the network.

Media experts I spoke with are skeptical of the lawsuit, to say the least, especially the notion that any news network owes every candidate equal time.

Had equal time been required in 2016, Fox, CNN and MSNBC would never have been able to run then-candidate Donald Trump’s rallies uninterrupted for hours at a time.

“I expect the case will be dismissed fairly quickly and the candidate may have to pay Fox’s legal fees,” said David Heller, the Deputy Director of the Media Law Center.

Beyond equal time, Johnson’s suit also alleges that Fox’s unfettered air time for one candidate over all others in the GOP primary amounted to an illegal campaign contribution.

“It’s stepping across the line from commentary to an infomercial to take it all the way to a telethon, asking for money,” Johnson said of Hunt’s appearances.

“The question that’s going to be asked is did Fox give Jeremy Hunt a contribution of a significant amount of airtime that was not related to a “bona fide news program,” but was literally there for the purpose of promoting his campaign and his raising of money?” Johnson said.

I’ve been on Fox and other cable news shows enough to know that frequent bookings usually happen because a guest is available, is at least somewhat knowledgeable, and is moderately presentable.

And Hunt is so camera ready as a young, Black conservative with West Point and Yale Law on his resume, that he could easily have his own Fox show now that his bid for Congress has fallen short.

But Johnson’s lawsuit takes the idiosyncrasies of the notoriously chaotic cable news world and flips it on its head, alleging the exact opposite —that Fox News, its talent, and Hunt conspired together to get a candidate elected in Georgia.

Jeremy Hunt predicts the suit, like Johnson’s candidacy, will go nowhere.

“It’s sad that twice-failed candidates Wayne Johnson and Chris West have resorted to such desperate tactics. This lawsuit will be dismissed as quickly as Wayne Johnson was dismissed by voters of the 2nd District,” Hunt said in a statement. Fox News has not responded to a request for comment.

Johnson’s Macon-based layer, Devlin Cooper, said the next step will be to serve Kilmeade and Fox executives with the suit and then proceed to the discovery process.

Since the suit has been filed in state superior court, Devlin said the discovery process can continue even if Fox files a motion to dismiss, which they fully expect. Johnson said he’ll press on either way, if only in the name of fairness.