Someone in Sean Hannity’s office did a lot of archival work on Tuesday. The idea was to slam the U.S. media’s approach to the U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore between President Trump and Kim Jong Un. “No one in the mainstream media saw this coming, but they should have. We shouldn’t have been surprised,” said the Fox News host in his opening monologue, arguing that those media outlets were “completely obsessed with anything tabloid.”
Then came an impressive cascade of clips from competing cable-news providers. Hannity showed excerpts highlighting coverage of the Stormy Daniels issue, as well as the “shithole” countries remark from the president. (As a favor to the president, Hannity censors the Trump-uttered profanity throughout.) Next up were excerpted comments from pundit ripping the Trump-Kim summit: “It may be okay in the real estate business, but it’s odious and disgusting when he is fawning over one of the most vicious dictators on the planet,” said one commentator highlighted. Another: “You look at the polls, it’s really interesting because the more we’re talking about North Korea, you know, the — like the less we’re talking about Russia, right, the less we’re talking about issues at home.”
Feeding off the criticism, Hannity ripped away: “This hatred now clearly borders on psychosis. If this were a major summit featuring Robert Mueller and his Russian witch hunt, every anchor would be here 24/7 … and they’d travel 50 hours in the air for that.”
Hundreds of words of media criticism — it all led to Hannity’s post-summit chat with Trump, a moment that Fox News did quite a bit to promote. Sure enough, the host mentioned almost immediately that “I’m a pretty strong critic of our news media in our country.” But moments later, Trump upended the theme of Hannity’s whole intro: “Well, it’s sort of interesting because I noticed some of the press, and I’m not even knocking them, because honestly, they’ve been treating me very good on this subject. What’s to treat badly?” the president said. “But some of the press would say, he’s meeting with him and therefore he has a major loss. I said, since when?”
Dissonance between Trump and Hannity! At that point, the host could have insisted to Trump that he’d reviewed all these cable clips trashing the summit. He could have read some of the negative comments. Instead, he did what he does best: “I’ve known you for a lot of years, and I think one trait that I could say is brutal honesty,” said Hannity of the guy who has racked up more than 3,200 false or misleading statements since taking office. “In the room alone and then the subsequent talks with your team and their team — how honest? How brutal? What was said? Try and bring people into the room.”
It didn’t take too long for Trump to re-align with Hannity. On Wednesday morning, he tweeted:
Perhaps Trump was severed from his normal television diet while on his Singapore trip. Perhaps he sampled only a portion of the coverage of the summit, some of which, indeed, left open the possibility of a breakthrough in discussions with the North Korean dictator. Perhaps he merely liked the sound of “historic,” a term that outlets used quite justifiably to describe the first summit between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean ruler. Perhaps he was just too giddy about all the attention he was getting.
Whatever the case, the president in this episode is showing how poorly he does the job he’s best equipped to do: commenting on all the TV he watches. One day, he’s basking in what he views as positive treatment from the media; the next, the press is the country’s “biggest enemy.” As our colleague Dana Milbank says, “madman“!