Fox News Tells Suspended Gingrich, Santorum: You Decide On Presidency

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Fox News Channel has suspended two leading Republican commentators – Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum - from its broadcasts because of their interest in seeking the presidency in next year's elections.

Political anchor Bret Baier made the announcement late Wednesday morning, saying former U.S. House Speaker Gingrich and former U.S. Senator Santorum would be suspended for two months. On May 1, contracts for the two men would be terminated unless they directly tell Fox they have decided not to run.

The announcement is one of the most visible manifestations of the nation's leading cable network's tight-knit relationship with key elements of the Republican party. Fox's parent company, News Corp., also gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association during last fall's campaign season.

"This had been contemplated from the start, from the very beginning," Baier said. "This is Fox policy."

Left unmentioned were two Fox News hosts who are at least as prominent– former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, though Baier said today's events did not preclude future announcements.

Other networks have high profile political figures on the payroll: MSNBC has former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell as analysts and former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough as a morning host. CNN hired several analysts from the ranks of top political strategists, including former Democratic party chairwoman Donna Brazile and former Republican Cabinet Secretary Bill Bennett.

Fox News is unrivaled however. The network's leading analysts include former President George W. Bush's top strategist, Karl Rove, and his former press secretary, Dana Perino.

Aides to Gingrich have indicated he will soon form an exploratory committee and make the rounds in Iowa with an eye to next winter's caucuses. Santorum has been giving talk to key Republican groups, such as the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference and has signaled he intends to take part in Republican primary debates.

In a statement, Santorum praised Fox News and expressed thanks for the time he has spent on its programs, saying he would continue to evaluate whether he should run for president: "I will make an announcement on my final decision sometime in the coming months."

A Fox News spokeswoman deflected questions about the decision Wednesday, referring to remarks by the network's top legal official to the Los Angeles Times.

"We can't have Speaker Gingrich on our payroll while he is in the midst of an exploratory committee to see if he's going to run for office," Fox News executive vice president Dianne Brandi told the paper. "It's a clear conflict." Brandi said Palin hasn't shown any such intent and that Huckabee appears to be on tour to promote his book.

Huckabee turned his national celebrity after his unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination into a weekly show, and has flirted publicly with the idea of a follow up. In an interview with the National Journal last week, Huckabee pointed to a series of polls that showed him in an early lead among possible Republican candidates, then said it would be "presumptuous" to say he's the front-runner. That said, he's also acknowledged a key draw to Fox: the paycheck.

"I need to make sure I'm ready to give up my job to declare my candidacy," Huckabee also said last week, according to the Associated Press. "The day I say 'I'm running,' that's the day I don't have an income."

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.