Fox News suspends Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), speaks at the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC), on February 10, 2011 in Washington, DC. The CPAC annual gathering is a project of the American Conservative Union. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks at the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC), on February 10, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Updated 2:38 p.m. Eastern Time

Fox News' Bret Baier announced Wednesday that his network is suspending its contracts with two paid contributors, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, as they consider a run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Both Gingrich and Santorum are widely expected to seek the nomination. Fox News has said that if and when any of its contributors and personalities enter the race they will lose their contract with the network.

"The suspension is effective for 60 days, then on May 1st, their contracts will be terminated unless they notify Fox they are not running for president," Baier said on the air Wednesday, according to TV Newser. He added that the move "had been contemplated from the start, from the very beginning."

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Santorum said he "will make an announcement on my final decision sometime in the coming months."

"Over the past few years, I have appreciated the opportunity to work with many great professionals at Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network to discuss the critical issues facing our country," he added. "I share in their commitment to ensure news organizations provide balanced coverage of the issues of the day."

Not included in the suspension is former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, a paid Fox News contributor who is also publicly considering a presidential run. Mike Huckabee, who hosts his own show on the network and is flirting with a 2012 bid, was also not suspended. Nor was former ambassador John Bolton, who is also paid by the network and is considering a run.

Rick Santorum speaks at CPAC.

Asked why Palin, Huckabee and Bolton were not included in the suspension, Fox News pointed to comments by Dianne Brandi, Fox News' executive vice president of legal and business affairs, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. Brandi suggested to the Times that Fox views Gingrich and Santorum are closer to a run than other contributors based on their public and private comments.

On Palin and Huckabee, Brandi said that "[a]s soon as each of them shows some serious intention to form an exploratory committee, we would take the same action." She noted that Huckabee is on a book tour, saying "his present intention is to sell books," and argued that Palin "hasn't yet shown a serious intention to form an exploratory committee."

Baer said on the air that Wednesday's announcement "does not preclude other announcements that may be made in the future."

Gingrich, the former House speaker, had been expected to announce he was forming a presidential exploratory committee Thursday, though his office has since indicated he will not yet take that formal step. He has declined interviews from a variety of media outlets in recent months by citing his commitment to Fox News.

Fox maintains that its contributors will not be given preferential treatment if they do enter the race and will be covered like any other candidate. All five of the contributors considering presidential runs are Republicans.

Gingrich earns nearly $1 million per year from Fox while Santorum gets slightly less than $100,000. The network pays Palin $1 million and Huckabee $500,000 each year. All four are in the middle of multi-year contracts with the network. 

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