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Bret Baier announced the suspensions on air yesterday. (Credit: YouTube, "FoxNewsInsider")

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have been suspended for 60 days and may lose their contracts with Fox News while they flesh out potential presidential campaigns.

However, Fox News didn’t suspend Fox News employees Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee or John Bolton, “three other possible Republican candidates for president.”

The suspension is significant because it shows an effort by Fox News to separate its staff from political candidates.   Christian Science Monitor reported that “Federal Communications Commission guidelines point toward a network severing financial ties with someone running for federal office, as his or her time on the air could be construed as free advertising.”

Tribune Washington Bureau added “While there are no laws prohibiting federal candidates from being employed by a television network, the Federal Election Commission could view their time on the air as an in-kind contribution. The network also could be forced to provide equal air time to other White House hopefuls under Federal Communications Commission regulations.”

The suspension was announced by Fox News’ political anchor Bret Baier.

 “The suspension is effective for 60 days.  Then on May 1, their contracts will be terminated unless they notify Fox that they are not running for president.”

Baier added that the suspension and possible contract termination has “been contemplated from the start, from the very beginning, but that is effective today.” Christian Science Monitor noted that Santorum’s and Gingrich’s contracts will be ended “if they don’t indicate their intentions either way” by May 1.

According to the New York Times, Gingrich is “expected to take the first step in the process of becoming a 2012 Republican presidential candidate” today.

Santorum intends to “participate in Republican primary debates” and Gingrich is “expected” to announce that he is “meeting with advisors to explore seeking the 2012 Republican presidential nomination,” The Los Angeles Times noted.

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Santorum has commented in a statement that he plans “to continue my evaluation of a potential presidential run, and I will make an announcement on my final decision sometime in the coming months.”

Fox News’ executive vice president of legal and business Dianne Brandi told the Los Angeles Times:

“We can’t have [former] 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. It’s a clear conflict.”

Regarding Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee:

“She hasn’t yet shown a serious intention to form an exploratory committee.”

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

The Los Angeles Times noted that Gingrich earns “nearly $1 million a year as part of his latest two-year contract, which would have expired in 2013” and Santorum earns “a little under $100,000 a year” in a three-year contract also ending in 2013.

Meanwhile, Palin’s $1 million a year contract ends at the end of 2012  and Huckabee’s $500,000 a year contract ends in 2012.

StinkyJournalism is writing Fox News for comment.

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FOX News suspends Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum for 60 Days

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