One of the most curious developments at the Republican convention took place far away from the delegate floor. Two events appeared for a short time to be part of the same story: the announcement of the “mystery speaker,” and the sudden cancellation of Sarah Palin’s interviews on Fox News. Palin, the Republican Party’s previous VP nominee, would have provided some intriguing commentary on the night when her successor spoke, and so some — myself included — thought Palin’s spots must have been canceled because she had become a participant in this convention. When it became clear that Clint Eastwood had agreed to speak, it left many of us wondering exactly why Palin’s Fox appearances had been canceled at the time when she had the most value as a commentator.
New York Magazine reported yesterday that the cancellations were due to a power play in contract negotiations, and that Palin might find herself in search of a new platform:
Essentially, Palin and Fox are in the early stages of an elaborate contract negotiation. Palin earns roughly $1 million per year from Fox, making her the highest paid contributor at the network. Fox executives have been disappointed with her ratings; Palin has been disappointed by Fox’s decision to not give her top billing on bookings. According to sources, the relationship at times has gotten so bad that much communication has been conducted via Palin’s husband Todd. One thing is clear: It’s risky for her to push the envelope too far. Fox has been a central pillar of Palin’s national reach since quitting the governorship, and without the network’s platform, it’s unclear how she could maintain even her current, much-diminished level of visibility.
Palin’s Facebook outburst surely didn’t endear her to Roger Ailes, who prizes message discipline and loyalty among his troops.
Well, that cuts both ways, does it not? Palin posted her Facebook “outburst” in response to a large amount of curiosity as to why she’d been removed from the air. Did Ailes believe that no one would notice if Palin the political correspondent suddenly stopped being present during one of the two biggest political events of the year? It’s a little presumptuous to think that Palin would maintain “message discipline” after being dumped from the programming.
The outburst had its predictable impact, and Palin apparently returned to the air on the final day of the convention:
For now, both sides are making peace. Fox offered an olive branch this afternoon and returned Palin to the conversation via a phone interview with Megyn Kelly. Later tonight, she’ll be on with Sean Hannity and Neil Cavuto.
Palin probably needs Fox more than Fox needs Palin, but that doesn’t mean that Ailes can just dump Palin and expect to suffer no damage, either, especially with bizarre decisions like this. If you’re paying a million bucks a year for the previous VP nominee to provide political analysis, why take her off the air during the conventions to make a point? Why not do it when such a move will send the message to Palin but not be as obvious to everyone else, and still allow Fox to get maximum value from Palin when it counts? It’s strange, and it looks more like personal animus than business sense.