Angry Fox News executives ordered host Sean Hannity to abandon plans to broadcast his nightly show as part of a Tea Party rally in Cincinnati on Thursday after top executives learned that he was set to headline the event, proceeds from which would benefit the local Tea Party organization.
Rally organizers had listed Hannity, who is on a book tour, as the headliner of the four-hour Tax Day event at the University of Cincinnati. 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.
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. 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.
“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,” said Bill Shine, the network’s executive vice president of programming. “When senior executives in New York were made aware of this, we changed our plans for tonight’s show.”
Critics of Fox News have accused the network of promoting Tea Party even as it covers the political movement as a news story. A spokeswoman for the network said that Neil Cavuto was the only host other than Hannity at a Tea Party event Thursday, 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.