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Fox News Suspends Gingrich, Santorum Contracts

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Fox News announced Wednesday that it has suspended its contracts with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum—both paid Fox contributors who have been laying the groundwork for possible Republican presidential bids.
 
"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," Dianne Brandi, a network executive, told the Los Angeles Times. "It's a clear conflict."
 
The network has drawn protests from the left—and some grumbling from competitors—for keeping a slew of potential GOP presidential hopefuls in its stable as primary season approaches. Speculation on whether Gingrich would actually announce an exploratory committee this week reached a fever pitch as advisers sent conflicting signals to the media.        
 
Amid that uncertainty, Fox political anchor Brett Baier delivered news of the 60-day suspension on air Wednesday. “On May 1, their contracts will be terminated unless they notify Fox that they are not running for president,” he said. “This had been contemplated from the start, from the very beginning, but that is effective today.”
 
While federal law doesn’t explicitly prohibit political candidates from having contracts with a news agency, the questions of what would effectively be a paid contribution to a campaign, and what would require equal time given to other candidates, would become much more difficult to parse in a scenario where a declared candidate is being compensated for his or her appearances. Fox’s move appears aimed at sidestepping that trap.
 
The liberal group Media Matters, one of Fox’s most vocal detractors, wasted no time celebrating the decision, and called for the network to terminate its relationship with other contributors who may be weighing runs for the White House.
 
“I am happy to hear that after giving Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum over 17 hours of airtime and over $12 million in free advertising in 2010, that Fox News is finally suspending their contracts,” said Ari Rabin-Havt, Media Matters’ executive vice president, in a statement blasted to reporters. “I look forward to hearing their decision on the other Fox candidates: Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and John Bolton.”
 
Fox contends that it will suspend any other contributors who appear likely to formally test the waters for a run.
 
"As soon as each of them shows some serious intention to form an exploratory committee, we would take the same action," Brandi said. "Huckabee is on a book tour, so I think his present intention is to sell books."