Sarah Palin is interviewed by Fox News' Sean Hannity in 2009. (Shealah Craighead / Fox…)
Reporting from Washington — While her just-announced national bus tour would seem to place Sarah Palin a step closer to a 2012 presidential run, her bosses at Fox News are not yet ready to cut ties with her.
“We are not changing Sarah Palin’s status,” Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming for Fox News, said in a statement Thursday.
Fox News, where Palin earns $1 million a year as a commentator, does not appear convinced that she is making plans to run. The network, which has suspended other political pundits once they started pursuing presidential bids, is keeping her on the air — for now.
In March, Fox News suspended the contracts of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, saying they both had demonstrated an intent to run for president.
Gingrich aides had told network executives that he was stepping up his exploration of a presidential bid, and Santorum had indicated that he planned to participate in Republican primary debates, the network said.
Dianne Brandi, the network’s executive vice president of legal and business affairs, said at the time that Palin wasn’t one of those being suspended because she hadn’t “shown a serious intention to form an exploratory committee.”
While Palin’s upcoming bus tour has been described in media coverage as the launch of a nontraditional exploratory campaign, Palin has not set up a federal presidential exploratory committee that would allow her to raise money for a White House bid.
She is currently collecting money for her leadership political action committee, which cannot be used to finance a presidential campaign.
Palin plans to begin the tour this weekend in Washington and later head to the Northeast on a tour of American historic sites — but her representatives aren't using the word "exploratory" to describe her outreach efforts.
"We'll celebrate the good things that bring Americans together; those things that will give us the needed strength to meet the heady challenges ahead," Palin said Thursday in a statement on her PAC website. "I've said many times that America doesn't need a 'fundamental transformation,' instead we need a restoration of all that is good and strong and free in America! So, together let's prepare ourselves for the days ahead by reminding ourselves who we are and what Americans stand for."