Fox suspends contributors Gingrich, Santorum for presidential ambitions

Fox News has announced the suspension of two of its paid on-air contributors — former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) — due to their serious interest in running for president.

The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that Dianne Brandi, a Fox network executive, said Fox made the decision because Gingrich and his staff have informed the network that he is accelerating his process of deciding whether to run for president.

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"We can't have Speaker Gingrich on our payroll while he is in the midst of an exploratory committee to see if he's going to run for office," Brandi told the Times. "It's a clear conflict."

Fox later confirmed the report in an on-air announcement by anchor Brett Baier.

The decision comes after media reports surfaced this week that Gingrich would officially announce the formation of an exploratory committee during a visit to Georgia on Thursday. The former Speaker's team, however, denied those reports, saying that the trip was scheduled several months ago in his capacity as a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. 

With regard to Santorum, Brandi said that his suggestion that he could participate in GOP primary debates "leads us to believe he is seriously considering running."

The announcement suggests that Gingrich and Santorum are closer to making an official announcement for president than some other candidates in the field.

The network informed Gingrich and Santorum of their decision on Tuesday night.

"The suspensions are effective for 60 days until May 1, when their contracts will be terminated unless they notify Fox that they are not running for president," Baier said. 

"This had been contemplated from the start, from the very beginning," Baier said. "This is Fox policy."

Fox has declined to suspend two other paid contributors who are said to be considering presidential runs: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R).

"As soon as each of them shows some serious intention to form an exploratory committee, we would take the same action," Brandi told the Times. "Huckabee is on a book tour, so I think his present intention is to sell books."

Brandi said that Palin "hasn't yet shown a serious intention to form an exploratory committee."

But Baier said that, "The announcement today does not preclude other announcements that may be made in the future."

—This post was updated at 2:05 p.m.