A week ago, Fox News made headlines when it was revealed that star host Sean Hannity was helping the Tea Party raise money by charging for tickets to see an episode of his show that would be taped at a rally in Cincinnati. Anyone who wanted to sit near Hannity had to pay $15 extra on the ticketing website, to which Hannity’s own personal website directed visitors. When a top Fox brass heard about this, he yanked Hannity’s appearance and made him broadcast from New York that day. According to the Los Angeles Times, “the network plans to do an extensive post-mortem about the incident with [Hannity executive producer John] 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.”
Perhaps because Shine is a close ally of Hannity’s, or perhaps because Fox is such a tight-knit organization, no “post-mortem” — extensive or otherwise — has been performed over the incident. This has left staffers buzzing, because a decision like calling Hannity back the day of an event could have only come from Roger Ailes himself. And the move — and Hannity’s brazen aid to the Tea Party’s bottom line, a relationship Fox has been defensive about — was deemed a significant embarrassment for the network. Is Ailes going to hold anyone accountable for this? When we called, a Fox rep said: “We’re not going to discuss internal matters any further.”
Compare that to what happened at MSNBC this week, when Donnie Deutsch was kicked off the air for embarrassing Keith Olbermann by including footage of him in a montage of angry talking heads. Not only did Deutsch lose his weeklong special series, but his executive producer, Gresham Striegel, “was sent home Wednesday,” according to the Times. Sent home? When was the last time you were sent home? They don’t even do that in middle school. And Deutsch and company didn’t even embarrass the network as a whole — they just gently poked at a fellow windbag. Can it be possible that MSNBC’s Phil Griffin is more of a ball-buster than Roger Ailes? Or is it just that Ailes is less petulant than Keith Olbermann?