Keeping him Fair and Balanced? Fox News execs ordered host Sean Hannity to abandon plans to broadcast his nightly show as part of a Tea Party rally in Cincinnati 4/15 after learning he was set to headline the event. Proceeds were to benefit the local Tea Party organization. Rally organizers had listed Hannity, who is on a book tour, as headliner of the four-hour Tax Day event at the University of Cincinnati, reports The LA Times.
The rally, expected to draw as many as 13,000 people, was set feature speakers such as “Liberal Facism” author Jonah Goldberg and local Tea Party leaders. Participants were being charged a minimum of $5, with seats near Hannity’s set going for $20, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, which reported that any profits would go to future Tea Party events. Media Matters for America noted that Hannity’s personal website directed supporters to a link to buy tickets for the Cincinnati rally.
From Media Matters:
“Hannity has repeatedly used his Fox News program to promote and help sell tickets to his CTP event. In the past week specifically, Hannity has noted his stop in Cincinnati and encouraged viewers to be a “part of the studio audience” by finding more information on his personal website, which contains a link to the UC box office.
•HANNITY: “[T]hen our final show will come Thursday from Cincinnati. That’s right, tax day, April 15. Now, details about the tour and the book are on my Web site and how you can part of the ‘Hannity’ program and come see us.” [Hannity, April 12]
•HANNITY: “Our final show on the 15th, by the way, tax day, a big rally in Cincinnati. We have great guests lined up all next week. And details about the tour and the book are at Hannity.com.” [Hannity, April 9]
•HANNITY: “And then tax day we will be in Cincinnati. If you want to join the show, it’s all on my Web site, Hannity.com. And hopefully, you can part of the studio audience. My Web site, Hannity.com.” [Hannity, April 8]
•HANNITY: “We will be in Cincinnati. If you want to be a part of this show, it’s all on my Web site, Hannity.com. Hannity.com.” [Hannity, April 7]
•HANNITY: “And by the way, if you want to find out how you can join us, either there or in Grand Rapids on Thursday or in New Orleans on Friday or the following week in Florida, Atlanta and Cincinnati on April 15, just go to my Web site. Details about the tour, my new book are at Hannity.com.” [Hannity, April 6]
On his website, Hannity includes the text, “Tickets for the event can be purchased HERE,” which directs to the UC box office.”
“But senior Fox News executives said they were not aware Hannity was being billed as the centerpiece of the event or that Tea Party organizers were charging for admission to Hannity’s show as part of the rally,” said the LA Times story. “They first learned of it Thursday morning from John Finley, Hannity’s executive producer, who was in Cincinnati to produce Hannity’s show. Furious, top officials recalled Hannity back to New York to do his show in his regular studio. The network plans to do an extensive post-mortem about the incident with Finley and Hannity’s staff.”
Neil Cavuto was the only host other than Hannity at a Tea Party event Thursday, a Fox News spokesperson told The LA Times, stressing that Cavuto was covering the Atlanta event for both Fox News and Fox Business Channel, not attending as a participant. Carl Cameron provided news coverage of the Tea Party events around the country out of Washington.
Bill Shine, EVP of Programming for FOX News, tells RBR-TVBR in a statement: “FOX News never agreed to allow the Cincinnati Tea Party organizers to use Sean Hannity’s television program to profit from broadcasting his show from the event. When senior executives in New York were made aware of this, we changed our plans for tonight’s show.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Fox News is working hard on dispelling claims it is not “Fair and Balanced,” as its moniker claims. Rival CNN hosts often point at the network, saying it leans Right and is predictably against Democrats and The Obama administration. The last thing Fox News needs is its hosts promoting something divisive as the Tea Party events (Hannity’s personal opinion is fine, but that’s where the line should be drawn). We can totally understand why the network needed to rein Hannity in – and to follow it up internally. No matter where you, the reader, stand politically, a News organization has to be perceived as just that by the public – one that covers the news, not preaches about it.