Ex-politicos may lose contributor roles

Fox News Channel has suspended contributors Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for 60 days, saying it will terminate their contracts on May 1 unless they notify the network that they will not be presidential contenders next year.

Fox has faced complaints from other nets over its exclusive contracts with a preponderance of potential GOP presidential candidates — contracts cited by the network whenever an outside news org seeks an interview with one of its contributors (exceptions are made for those contributors’ book promotions). Fox News has responded in the past by indicating that as soon as a candidate declares for the presidency, his or her deal will with the network will be over. But contributors have been accordingly vague about their political plans.

The suspensions were announced Wednesday by Fox News anchor Bret Baier during the network’s “Happening Now.” The Des Moines Register reported that Gingrich would be announcing the formation of an exploratory committee — widely acknowledged as the first step towards candidacy — today in Atlanta. The Register quoted Joe Gaylord, a top Gingrich aide.

For Santorum’s part, the former Pennsylvania senator has hired staffers in Iowa and New Hampshire and told supporters in an email blast that he and his wife were “considering putting my name in for the 2012 presidential race.”

Notably, the suspension does not include Fox contributors Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee or John Bolton, who are also considered possible contenders in 2012.

“This is the announcement that is being made today; it does not preclude other announcements that may be made in the future,” Baier told viewers.

On Tuesday’s edition of “The Daily Show,” host Jon Stewart razzed the prospective candidates for their reluctance to give up lucrative TV contracts.

“This typically wouldn’t be a problem, because anyone who would be considered a serious candidate would be holding elected office,” said David Levinthal, communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics. “Right now you have a lot of people who have held elected office but aren’t today, and they have these opportunities. There’s just not a very good template here for Fox because there’s not a lot of history.”

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