Fox News host Sean Hannity appears committed to checking off all the boxes for pro-Donald Trump advocacy. He routinely has Trump on his Fox News program and feeds him easy questions. He has advised the candidate on an informal basis. He once paid to fly Newt Gingrich to Indiana to discuss a possible vice-presidential candidacy with Trump.
Now Hannity is putting his loyalties to work for a promotional video from the Republican presidential nominee’s campaign. #HEARTLAND4TRUMP is an eight-minute-plus promotion featuring testimonials regarding Trump’s Second Amendment policies and the ravages of contemporary politics. Mark Geist, one of the security contractors who valiantly defended U.S. interests in the 2012 Benghazi attacks, sets the tone for the video as he discusses values such as going to church, respecting law and order, hard work and honesty. “When I enlisted to serve our country, I did so because I deeply believed in those American values,” says Geist. “I believe those American values are worth fighting and dying for. Unfortunately, a politically correct America has abandoned those values. Just like me and my fellow Americans were abandoned in Benghazi.” Ted Nugent, a National Rifle Association board member, says in the promotion, “Hunting, fishing, trapping — we the people own these precious renewable natural resources. It’s a way of life, which is why conservation is the greatest success story in the world here in America. Hillary Clinton is against all these things. She will destroy the freedom that is uniquely American. Donald Trump will safeguard the things that make America the greatest place in the world.”
The shout-out from Hannity comes about six minutes into the production. The entirety of the pitch is here:
One of the reasons I’m supporting Donald Trump this year is No. 1, he’s going to put originalists on the Supreme Court, people that believe in fidelity to the Constitution, separation of powers, co-equal branches of government. He’s a guy that will vet refugees to keep Americans safe. And of course he’s gonna build that wall. He says he’s gonna have Mexico pay for it. That’s fine, as long as we secure the country and of course we don’t want people competing for jobs. He said he will eliminate Obamacare, make us energy-independent. And as somebody who’s been a marksman since I’m 11 years old, protecting our Second Amendment rights are paramount to me.
In all, it’s a 32-second endorsement from the veteran broadcaster and radio talent.
For months and months now, critics have been saying, in effect, Whoa, Hannity has really crossed a line here! At this point, it’s unclear if there are any more lines out there for Hannity, though leave it to him to find another and hop right over it. Tomorrow Hannity will host Trump for a town-hall discussion in Cleveland focusing on “African-American concerns.” Expect to hear Hannity uncork many of the same pro-Trump talking points that he unfurls in the Trump promotion.
The Erik Wemple Blog has asked Fox News whether Hannity had to secure permission from Fox News to participate in the ad, whether other opinionators at Fox News could do likewise and whether Hannity wrote his talking points or read a script provided by the Trump campaign. We haven’t yet heard back. That said, Hannity has been more transparent than many of his peers in cable TV of late, giving interviews to this blog and BuzzFeed as well as answering queries on Twitter.
“We had no knowledge that Sean Hannity was participating in this,” says a Fox News spokesperson, “and he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election.”