April 15th, 2010 By | News | Posted In: Media Criticism, Tea Party, Campaign Finance

SPJ, Others Blast Cincy Tea Party Deal (Updated)


(UPDATE AT BOTTOM) Fox News commentator Sean Hannity’s participation in a Cincinnati Tea Party event today is drawing sharp criticism from experts on journalism ethics.

Hannity will be taping his TV show tonight during the local Tea Party’s second annual Tax Day rally, which is being held at the University of Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena.

Admission is being charged to attend the event. The cost is $5 for the general public and $20 for “premium reserved seating by the Hannity show,” according to the Tea Party’s Web site.

In an article by Joe Strupp for the Media Matters Web site, the president of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) criticizes the deal, stating it’s unethical that a news show that regularly covers the Tea Party movement would seek to raise money for the event during a production of the show.

"Unequivocally, from our standpoint, this is wrong," SPJ President Kevin Smith told Media Matters. "For a news organization to charge people for access, then take that money and roll it over to a political action group that they cover quite a bit."

Smith continued, "It has gotten to the point where you cannot delineate between Fox News and the Tea Party movement — it is incestuous. There is a clear conflict of interest here."

Smith wasn’t alone in his assessment. Several journalism experts also criticized the arrangement.

"If the job of a news organization is to present the facts in an unbiased way and if Fox is charging people to raise money for a political cause, then they are undermining their mission to be fair and balanced," National Public Radio ombudsman Alicia Shepard told Media Matters. "Is Sean Hannity's mission to be fair and balanced or to be a pundit with a political bent? It is clearly new territory."

Frank Sesno, an ex- CNN Washington correspondent who now is director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, said, "It violates virtually every rule of every ethical guideline that journalism covers. The idea that you would support a (political) movement and ask your audience to pay for it."

Hannity’s guests during tonight’s taping will be actor Jon Voight and Joe the (not quite a) Plumber.

UPDATE: Fox News executives canceled the event due to the controversy. “Fox News never agreed to allow the Cincinnati Tea Party organizers to use Sean Hannity’s television program to profit from broadcasting his show from the event," Bill Shine, the network’s executive vice president of programming, told The Los Angeles Times. "When senior executives in New York were made aware of this, we changed our plans for tonight’s show.”

04.15.2010 at 10:30 Reply
Kevin, you absolutely nailed the ethical problems of FauxNews and the TeaBaggers. However, in this case, there is an additional wrinkle involving Head Teabagger Mike Wilson's state representative campaign. I am hearing, albeit third-hand, that Wilson was pushing for face time on Hannity's show and endorsement from Hannity, and Hannity didn't want to do that. Hannity is close friends with Bill Cunningham, who is very tight with and supporting Tom Weidman, an opponent of Wilson's in the primary. There is another candidate, inconsequential doofus and Sarah Palin lookalike and former city councilmember in Wyoming Vicky Zwissler. Wyoming voters booted her when she voted to build a $23,000,000 pool for the city of Wyoming in Woodlawn. Everyone hated this: conservatives because it was in Woodlawn and liberals because the Republican wouldn't let Woodlawn residents use it. Anyhow, there is a lot more to this than meets the eye. Where is the Tea Party's money going?


04.24.2010 at 10:00
Wow.....how can anyone take you seriously with that kind of animosity and name calling?


04.16.2010 at 05:52 Reply
Finally, someone telling the "whole" story! Woke up this morning and watched the morning local news stations. They barely said anything about this and what they did report was vague. No mention was made about SPJ or Media Matters. Once again FOX is trying to rebrand news. Fair and balanced? Hardly. Thank you for good reporting.


04.16.2010 at 02:00 Reply
Sean Hannity is not a news reporter, he is a commentator and it is his job to share his opinion. I really don't see what the fuss is all about this is nickel and dime nonsense. The actual story here is the Tea Party — love them or hate them they are just a bunch of people pissed at the ever expanding role of big brother in our lives.


04.19.2010 at 09:26 Reply
There's a hell below....