NYT: Hannity scandal "caused consternation inside Fox ... over its perceived closeness to ... Tea Party movement"
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From an April 16 New York Times article:
For more than a week on his Fox News show, Sean Hannity promoted his planned Tax Day attendance at a Tea Party rally in Cincinnati. But as hundreds of Mr. Hannity's fans lined up for a pre-rally book signing there on Thursday, he was whisked back to New York, his plans scrapped by his bosses at the last minute.
Fox News executives said they canceled because they did not know that the Tea Party organizers were raising money based on Mr. Hannity's widely promoted attendance at the rally. But Mr. Hannity's producers at Fox were aware for months that tickets were being sold, said Chris Littleton, the president of the Cincinnati Tea Party, a nonprofit group. And Mr. Hannity mentioned the sales on his TV show a week ago.
The incident caused consternation inside Fox News Channel, which is a unit of the News Corporation, over its perceived closeness to the antigovernment Tea Party movement, especially in its highly rated opinion shows.
The network has faced regular accusations that it is promoting - not just covering - the Tea Party movement, something that its executives deny.
Responding to a question from the media watchdog group Media Matters last week, News Corporation's chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, said, "I don't think we should be supporting the Tea Party or any other party."
Whether it is promoting the Tea Party or covering it, Fox is clearly the movement's favored outlet; a New York Times-CBS News poll released this week found that 63 percent of self-described Tea Party supporters gain most of their television news from Fox, compared with 23 percent of all adult Americans.
Tickets costing $20 and $100 were sold for "Hannity seating" near his stage, according to the group's materials. Mr. Littleton said proceeds were to go to the Cincinnati Tea Party, a group that has not donated to political candidates. He said he "received calls from Fox asking about ticket sales," apparently referring to Fox producers.
Asked about the producers' and executives' knowledge of the ticket sales, Mr. Shine said Friday that "I'm doing a big post-mortem and trying to get to the bottom of it."