McCain Town Hall, But Only On FNC

By Chris Ariens 

In an unusual political programming move (but then, what’s been usual about this campaign?), John McCain will get nearly an hour of airtime tonight exclusively on Fox News Channel.

“[The McCain campaign] came to us, asking if we would be interested in coverage,” says Thom Bird, FNC’s executive producer of news specials & events. “They were looking for a network who would do it alone.”

Bird tells TVNewser the event at Federal Hall is being produced by the McCain campaign. “They are bringing in the audience, we are bringing in the cameras and the lights to make it TV,” he says.

Asked what he says to critics who think this sounds a bit too cozy, Bird says, “What we’re trying to do is give our viewers a real introduction, to present the candidates as much as possible. There’s no special agreement, no special deal done in the dark.”

And the network has already reached out to, and heard back from, the Barack Obama campaign. FNC is offering a similar town hall production to the Democratic nominee. “They are interested to see how it goes tonight,” Bird says of the Obama campaign’s response.

There are no restrictions on the video, which means CNN or MSNBC could use as much, or as little, of the FNC programming as they want, when they want.

Normally the anchor at 7pmET, Shepard Smith will introduce the hour, then wrap up the coverage with a panel including Carl Cameron, Rich Lowry and Juan Williams.

(an earlier version of this story reported the original post-town hall panel would be made up of Fox News analysts, Karl Rove, Kirsten Powers and Bob Beckel)