Did Fox dump Yee to spare Palin?

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Sarah Palin's "Real American Stories" debuted on Fox News Thursday, April 1.

Fox News seems to be having a hard time playing the victim card in the controversy over Sarah Palin’s upcoming speech at a cash-strapped California State University campus, for which she’s being paid an undisclosed -- but likely huge -- amount of money. And the network has been jerking around the chief critic of the deal, Sen. Leland Yee (D-SF), as it looks for a way to martyr poor Palin, a new Fox News commentator.

As we wrote, the issue that Yee raised and generated media attention for was why CSU-Stanislaus and its foundation were able to cut a secret deal with Palin. Yee was scheduled to appear on Fox’s America Live with Megyn Kelly on Wednesday about the controversy, but Yee chief of staff Adam Keigwin told us Fox News cancelled the appearance less than an hour before taping.

“They probably saw that this was indefensible and they didn’t want negative publicity for Palin,” Keigwin speculated.

But then Fox News representatives called again, and this time they wanted Yee to appear on tonight’s (April 2) The O’Reilly Factor with Bill O’Reilly, and Keigwin said Yee reluctantly agreed to do so: “I was a little hesitant to do it, knowing it's a no-win situation, but we decided to do it,” Keirwin said of the show that O’Reilly dominates in bullying fashion.

But then, a couple hours later, Fox called back. “The producer called to ask, ‘Now you’re saying she shouldn’t speak, right?’” No, Keigwin explained, the issue was one of disclosing how much she was being paid and whether public funds were involved, and nobody was trying to censor her.

“So he said, ‘We’re looking for someone who doesn’t think she should speak at all,’” Keigwin said. Eventually, the producers decided to nix Yee again and instead tap some CSU students who were allied with Yee. They’ve already taped their interviews, so we’ll see what happens once they’re edited over several hours and turned into tonight’s broadcast.

Meanwhile, Yee is still waiting for a response from CSU officials about the Palin gig, and Keigwin said CalAware and the California First Amendment Coalition have also formally requested public records associated with the appearance, the disclosure deadline for which is next week.

Yee is the chair of the recently created Senate Select Committee on California’s Public Records and Open Meeting Laws, and Keigwin said, “This could be the subject of our first hearing.”