Media critic

The @realdonaldtrump Twitter account tallies 50.5 million followers. There are plenty of cable-news hosts, accordingly, who would appreciate the bump in viewership that comes from a promo tweet from President Trump, like this one from Wednesday night:

Fox News host Sean Hannity, with his 3.6 million followers, retweeted the message.

The “big show” delivered. The ever-frothing Hannity started by airing an ABC News promo for an interview by George Stephanopoulos with fired FBI director James B. Comey, who’s about to launch a book tour. In the promo, Stephanopoulos asks Comey, “How strange is it for you to sit here and compare the president to a mob boss?”

If Comey was going to compare Trump to a mob boss, decided Hannity, he was going to adopt the same standard, for polemical purposes. “Mob boss, let’s think about this. Of all the people, the former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the person responsible for taking down actual deadly criminal gangs — shouldn’t James Comey know better to make an outrageous comparison like that?” asked Hannity, who then proceeded to cite murderous mob bosses and float charts of the “Mueller Crime Family” and so on. The thought experiment lit up social media, via condemnations:

After spotting the outrage, Hannity added context via Twitter:

If the president didn’t appreciate Hannity’s monologue on Comey’s rhetorical excesses, he surely appreciated a subsequent discussion. Former federal prosecutor Joseph diGenova, who nearly joined the president’s legal team, sounded on “Hannity” as if he, in fact, had indeed joined the president’s legal team:

First of all, it is now clear that no matter what James Comey says about the president of the United States, which are disgraceful comments by a former FBI director and he has besmirched forever his term as FBI director, what we now know and have known for almost two years is James Comey is a dirty cop. He is a completely dirty cop who was compromised from the very beginning of the investigation in the Hillary Clinton.

And it is also very clear that Rod Rosenstein is so incompetent, compromised and conflicted that he can no longer serve as the deputy attorney general. And Jeff Sessions now has an obligation to the president of the United States to fire Rod Rosenstein after Rosenstein authorized the unconstitutional and unprofessional search of the office of Michael Cohen in New York.

Jeff Sessions, tomorrow morning, should fire Rod Rosenstein. It is not up to the president to fire Mr. Rosenstein. It is Mr. Sessions’ job and he has a duty to fire Rod Rosenstein.

A “big show,” indeed.

Or, perhaps, call it collusion — media collusion. Just how it gets transacted isn’t always clear. An inquiry to Fox News about Trump’s heads-up fetched a referral to Hannity’s tweet denying any heads-up about what Hannity said in his monologue about crime bosses — a disclaimer that leaves a hole or two. The White House hasn’t yet responded to a question about whatever Trump knew about the “big show,” if anything.

Not that answers to those questions much matter. The broad outlines of this wholly legal form of info-collusion are, by now, quite familiar. We’ve known Hannity is a Trumpite for some time. Starting in the campaign, Hannity distinguished himself as a booster of Trump both on air and off: participating in a video promotion, providing political advice and even paying for a potential vice-presidential candidate to fly to an interview.

So why belabor all of this? Because it really is astounding: A sitting president chooses to use his enormous Twitter following — his official position — to pluck a single program from the roster of cable news programs — and promote it to the country. The show then proceeds to air specific talking points that align with his own, previously stated wishes. Hannity’s ratings, already tops in his slot, will likely get an extra jolt.

When CNN’s Jeff Zucker said of Fox News, “TASS has nothing on them,” he was surely referring to incidents like this: a cable news host and a president of the United States, tossing a demographic back and forth from platform to platform, hardening their preconceptions and clearing the way for very possibly ruinous designs on the country.

And, to finish, a stray thought. A guy with the fire and defiance of Sean Hannity — wouldn’t you suppose that he might just buck and bridle at the expectation — “big show” — that he’ll do the bidding of anyone, including the president?

Read more from Erik Wemple:

The ‘horror’ of President Trump’s dependence on ‘Fox & Friends’

Tucker Carlson’s news ‘judgment’

Fox News Radio reporter: Trump mouthed ‘thank you’ for question about firing Mueller