Politico reports on a new, complicated development for Fox News: nearly all of the major potential Republican candidates for the presidency are on the channel's payroll as commentators, raising questions about how Fox News can cover them as the 2012 campaign approaches.
The website notes that Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and, of course, Sarah Palin have all expressed interest in a potential run for president. All four are paid political commentators for Fox News.
"With the exception of Mitt Romney, Fox now has deals with every major potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office," Politico's Jonathan Martin and Keach Hagey write.
The situation is reportedly causing consternation both within and without Fox News. Sources inside the network told Politico they are growing increasingly agitated about having so many people who are still active in politics on their payroll:
"Fox insiders, speaking anonymously about what is a sensitive topic for a network worried about outside perception, said no word has been conveyed from the corporate brass to reporters about how to treat what are, for now at least, their colleagues."
People from other networks are also frustrated that, while major newsmakers such as Palin routinely appear on Fox News, the network's tight contractual strings mostly prevent its stable of Republican stars from being interviewed on any other channel, even C-SPAN. Of the four potential candidates, only Gingrich has appeared on another channel in all of 2010.
Fox News told Politico that, as soon as anyone actually declares their intention to run, they will be dropped from the channel's payroll. But the lucrative nature of the arrangement might delay those announcements, the site says.
The network did run into this issue with Angela McGlowan, who returned to the network after her failed bid for a GOP nomination for congress in Mississippi. She had been suspended from the network as she pursued the nomination.
Of course, Fox News isn't the only cable news network with a stable of potential candidates on its airwaves: Harold Ford's contract with NBC News was suspended as he considered a run for the Senate from New York, and Chris Matthews has spoken openly about having weighed a run for Senate from Pennsylvania. Joe Scarborough is also routinely discussed as a potential Republican presidential candidate at some point in the future.
The New York Times' Brian Stelter examined this very phenomenon earlier this year.
At the time, MSNBC President Phil Griffin explained his rule: "If you're seriously examining a run for office, you can't host a show or be a general analyst."