NEW YORK -- Fox News host Sean Hannity solicited donations for the Tea Party Patriots in a fundraising email sent Wednesday morning by the conservative organization.
"Please make a generous contribution of $15, $25, $50, or whatever you can afford to Tea Party Patriots' 5 Years for Freedom $1.2 million-dollar money bomb," Hannity wrote, noting that Feb. 27 is the fifth anniversary of the tea party movement.
It's no secret that Hannity's a conservative tea party supporter who offers political opinions each day on Fox News and on the radio. And Fox News has heavily promoted the tea party movement from its inception.
But Fox News in the past has drawn a line between a host expressing support for a political group or cause and actively helping to raise money on a group's behalf -- and on at least one occasion has specifically maintained that distinction for Hannity and the tea party movement.
In 2010, network executives ordered Hannity to return to New York after learning he'd been slated to star at a Cincinnati tea party fundraiser that would have aired on his primetime show.
A Fox News spokeswoman did not immediately respond with comment on the network's current policy regarding hosts' participation in political fundraising efforts.
In the Wednesday fundraising email, Hannity wrote that he had agreed to help Tea Party Patriots president Jenny Beth Martin and the organization because "it's time to teach the Washington, D.C. ruling class a lesson."
Hannity lent his name to a previous fundraising effort by the Tea Party Patriots in October 2012, when he teamed up with the organization to send copies of the group's first film, "The Determinators," to undecided voters. Tea Party Patriots asked for contributions of $15 per copy.
Hannity has also promoted the group's efforts on his Fox News program. In August, he mentioned "Hannity for Sanity," a dedicated space on the Tea Party Patriots' website where one could make donations to help circulate "The Determinators." And Martin, the group's president, has appeared a half-dozen times on "Hannity" in the past year.
The Huffington Post has made several unsuccessful attempts since Wednesday morning to clarify Hannity's relationship with the group.
Diana Banister, whose firm, Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, represents Martin, did not provide comment to questions posed Wednesday regarding Hannity's fundraising efforts on behalf of the organization. The Tea Party Patriots did not respond to a call or email left Wednesday. Lauren Scirocco, an associate producer on Hannity's radio show, did not respond to a Wednesday email.
But on Wednesday night, Hannity made a passing reference to the Tea Party Patriots on his Fox News show, just before debating Ann Coulter on the future of the movement.
"The Tea Party Patriots are partners on my radio show," Hannity said on his Fox News program. "I consider myself a tea party conservative. I'm a registered conservative. I think it's going to be stronger than ever."
According to a Lexis-Nexis search of television transcripts, Wednesday night's program was the only time on Fox News that Hannity has described Tea Party Patriots as a "partner" of his radio program.
UPDATE: 4:40 p.m. -- TV Newser received a response from Fox News:
Fox News tells us Hannity’s involvement with the Tea Party group is for his radio show, and has nothing to do with his FNC show or role with the network.
That said, Hannity has promoted the Tea Party Patriots' efforts on his Fox News show and the organization's president has appeared a half dozen times over the past year.
And in addition to the Wednesday morning fundraising email referenced above, The Huffington Post has now obtained two similar email solicitations for the Tea Party Patriots from Hannity, dated Aug. 13 and Aug. 23.