Sean Hannity (Fox News)

Fox News host Sean Hannity has been assisting the Tea Party Patriots with fundraising activities, the Huffington Post reported yesterday. Here’s what the popular Fox News personality wrote in a recent appeal: “Please make a generous contribution of $15, $25, $50, or whatever you can afford to Tea Party Patriots’ 5 Years for Freedom $1.2 million-dollar money bomb.”

After the Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone started asking questions about the arrangement, Hannity on Wednesday night told his viewers, “The Tea Party Patriots are partners on the radio show. I consider myself a tea party conservative. I’m a registered conservative.” And those words pretty much jibe with the Fox News official position on the matter, which TVNewser has outlined: “Fox News tells us Hannity’s involvement with the Tea Party group is for his radio show, and has nothing to do with his FNC show or role with the network.”

What a brilliant and meaningless distinction. So Hannity’s radio show will have a financial connection to and a rooting interest in the Tea Party Patriots, but presumably “Hannity” on Fox News will not. When the star commentator moves from radio mic to television camera, his institutional ties to the Tea Party Patriots will go poof in a cloud of media-platform dust.

The defense for such arrangements is predictable and lame: Hey, Hannity believes in tea party principles — what’s the problem with supporting them in the guise of an activist? Oh, just the fact that he’s deeply staked in the movement’s viability and in the integrity of a specific group. If the Tea Party Patriots becomes ensnared in some scandal, we know one place where the news won’t get a fair hearing.

The other night, Hannity said of the movement, “I think it’s going to be stronger than ever.” With your contribution, that is!