Santorum Suggests He Might Participate In Fox's Presidential Debate As A Fox Employee

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI & JOE STRUPP

Former Sen. Rick Santorum suggested yesterday that he wouldn't have to give up his current Fox News employment if he wanted to participate in the network's upcoming presidential primary debate, so long as he hasn't officially declared his candidacy.

"I don't think you have to be a candidate to be a part of the debate, at least that's my understanding," Santorum said when asked by Media Matters at CPAC if Fox should require contributors to terminate their Fox employment before participating in the May 5 South Carolina debate.

Santorum, a Fox News contributor who's testing the waters for a presidential run, added that he doesn't think it's a conflict of interest to be a part of the Fox debate. Watch:

Politico reported in September that Fox has "indicated that once any of the candidates declares for the presidency he or she will have to sever the deal with the network." Santorum suggested to Media Matters that if a Fox News contributor becomes a candidate, he or she will leave.

Fox's policy, however, doesn't prevent employees from building a campaign infrastructure in the months leading up to that declaration. Santorum, while regularly appearing on Fox, has recently hired two staffers for his PAC in Iowa; hired a staffer and named a volunteer chairwoman for his PAC in New Hampshire; and formed a New Hampshire advisory committee.

Santorum and other Fox News contributors, therefore, have little incentive to declare their candidacies early. After ABC's George Stephanopoulos noted that the Fox candidates may delay their announcements for as long as possible, reporter Claire Shipman replied that Fox's "very healthy platform" allows the candidates to keep visible without spending money early.

Media Matters found that last year, Fox News hosted Santorum for more than six hours, an amount of airtime estimated to be worth approximately $5 million in free advertising.

In an interview with National Review Online last year, Santorum said that his role on Fox has "been big" and "helped folks remember who I am... It's a great platform, being able to talk about the current issues of the day."

Santorum appeared as a guest today on Fox Business' Varney & Co. to discuss Egypt. Host Stuart Varney described Santorum as someone who is "probably" running for president -- a description Santorum didn't dispute.

Transcript:

STRUPP: Mr. Santorum, when should you and other Fox News contributors leave Fox to run for president?

SANTORUM: I think that's been pretty much laid out in all the contracts of -- the network had to sign --

(CROSS-TALK)

SANTORUM: -- a candidate, we'll leave.

STRUPP: How about this debate in South Carolina that Fox is hosting?

(CROSS-TALK)

STRUPP: Sir? Sir, should Fox require that you leave, and the other potential candidates leave Fox when that debate occurs in South Carolina?

SANTORUM: I don't think you have to be a candidate to be a part of the debate, at least that's my understanding.

STRUPP: No, but for you to be a Fox employee, and then be in their debate, doesn't that have a conflict, sir?

SANTORUM: I don't think so, any more than being a part of another debate.

STRUPP: Than any more than what, sir?

SANTORUM: Than participating in any of the other debates.

STRUPP: But if you're a Fox employee, and you're in a Fox debate, isn't that a conflict? For them or for you?

SANTORUM: I don't see it that way.

STRUPP: Thanks.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Rick Santorum
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.