Fox News said the Hannity appearance was canceled over admission fees charged by organizers, and the conservative host returned to New York instead of taping his television show at the rally.
"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," Bill Shine, Fox News executive vice president for programming, said in a statement.
Tea party organizers announced to the crowd Thursday evening that Hannity had a "personal emergency." Cincinnati Tea Party spokesman Justin Binik-Thomas later said organizers were getting conflicting information on the reason. He said admission fees that started at $5 were meant to cover the event's costs and the party wouldn't even break even.
At least 7,500 tickets were sold, including some 2,000 at $20 each for seats near Hannity as he did interviews for his show.
One of the remaining stars was Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, a Toledo-area man who became nationally known for questioning Barack Obama about his tax plan during the 2008 presidential campaign. Wurzelbacher and Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight were scheduled to be Hannity's guests; Wurzelbacher stayed and spoke to the rally.
He drew an ovation with a talk emphasizing patriotism, taking responsibility and getting involved.
"We need to get behind real Americans," he said, warning the crowd not to let "a bunch of liberal pansies" take away their rights.
"Illegal immigration?" he said. "Put a fence up and start shooting."
People began arriving hours before the rally at the University of Cincinnati basketball arena, many lining up for a planned book signing by Hannity.
Workers took down the names and addresses of those in line with Hannity's "Conservative Victory" book and said signature plates signed by Hannity would be sent to them. Workers also handed out tiny red, white and blue footballs with Hannity's name on them.
Despite disappointment over Hannity's absence, the crowd showed that the tea party was connecting with people opposed to bigger government and politicians who don't keep their promises, organizer Mike Wilson said.
"The people who are passionate about this movement are sick of being lied to by elected officials," Wilson said.
Terris Mullenix, 42, said he was attending his first tea party event. He had a book for Hannity to sign but said he wanted to come to the rally anyway because he agrees that the government is getting too big, intrusive and taxing too much.
"I support it in every way," he said.
Some had such signs as "Will Work for Liberty," and tables were set up to sell tea party T-shirts, bumper stickers and magnets. One vendor sold "Obama Express" fake credit cards, supposedly meant for "spreading the wealth."
ProgressOhio, a liberal policy group, said in a Tax Day statement that Obama's policies have given tax breaks to most working Ohioans and helped the state with stimulus funds