Controversy brews at Cincinnati Tea Party rally

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - Thousands of supporters packed the University of Cincinnati Fifth Third Arena for the second annual Cincinnati Tax Day Rally. Many hoped to see Fox News Host Sean Hannity. He was expected to tape his show live at the event, but he was a no-show.

"I liked it," said Bruce Lowe. "Other than Sean Hannity not showing up."

Lowe, like the estimated 7,000 others at Fifth Third Arena, came to talk lower taxes, smaller government and to watch Hannity tape his show. Hannity was scheduled to start signing books at 4:30 p.m. and then tape his show live from the floor of the arena at 9 p.m.

The news of his absence starting filtering through the crowd around 4:30 p.m. About an hour later, tea party organizers confirmed Hannity would not show up for his book signing or to tape the show. Organizers say the show producers told them Hannity had a personal emergency.

Many Tea Party supporters said they were disappointed.

"Oh absolutely," said Jeannette Craven Justice. "I think everybody is. That was the main reason we came"

And Lowe agreed.

"I think the excuse was it was due to the price of the seating of something or whatever," Lowe said. "Yadda, yadda."

Bill Shine, Executive Vice President of Programming for FOX News released this statement: "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. When senior executives in New York were made aware, we changed our plans for tonight's show."

Justin Binik-Thomas, vice president of national affairs and strategy for the Cincinnati Tea Party, said the organization never looked to profit from the event.

The Tea Party estimated it sold 2,000 of the $20 tickets and 5,000 of the $5 tickets. Organizers said $1.50 of each ticket goes right back to the University of Cincinnati to cover costs. Organizers also said the total budget was estimated at $40,000 and if you include the $1.50 from each ticket, estimated expenses totaled $67,000. The hope was to break even.

The Cincinnati Tea party has responded to the allegations and says that Fox News was responsible for all aspects of the book signing and the television show staffing, funding and producing, while the Tea Party was responsible for all of the aspects of the Tea Party. According to the group, there was no funds or contracts signed between Fox News and the Cincinnati Tea Party.

Tea Party officials say that no member of the organization has personally profited from any event and that all of the members are volunteers. The Tea Party also says that the costs of tickets were designed to offset the cost of the event. The group says they did not make a profit from the event.

The Tea Party say they will honor requests for refunds. A special email address will be set up within 48 hours.

Local tea party organizers said Fox News has promised that every person standing in line for Hannity to sign his or her book will receive a personalized copy.

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