In those days, however, the folks in Fox News headquarters exerted a bit of control over their prime-time talk-show star. For instance: When Hannity decamped to Cincinnati in April 2010 to cheer on the tea party, he was recalled to New York. The reason? Ethics, believe it or not. Executives at the network grew concerned that tea party organizers were using Hannity’s presence to raise funds. “I’m doing a big post-mortem and trying to get to the bottom of it,” said Bill Shine (then Fox’s executive vice president of programming, now a White House aide) at the time.
Safe to say that no one at Fox News will be trying to “get to the bottom” of Hannity’s latest flurry of activism. As announced on Sunday, Hannity will be a “special guest,” along with talk radio host Rush Limbaugh and country singer Lee Greenwood, at a rally with President Trump in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on the eve of the 2018 midterm elections. Here’s how the sign-up form appears on the Trump campaign website:
Carly Shanahan of the Fox News PR department didn’t respond to questions about the arrangements. However, a “spokesperson” for the network told the Hill that “Hannity will be hosting his show from the rally location and interviewing Trump.”
Hannity himself has sought to bring clarity to whether he’d be appearing onstage with Trump:
Such proximity isn’t altogether unprecedented. In October 2017, Hannity “interviewed” Trump at a rally in Pennsylvania for Trump’s tax plan. Hannity: “Is he going to win Pennsylvania in 2020, too?” Crowd: “Yay!”
And in September, Hannity “interviewed” Trump at a Las Vegas rally. The tone was propagandistic from the very start. “There he is, the commander in chief, and here comes the music, and here come the flags. Obviously, a lot of — the crowd in this arena is huge as we come to you from the Vegas Convention Center,” said Hannity, who began with these pleasantries: “Mr. President, how are you sir? It is an honor to see you. Wave to the fake news media.”
Through his promotion of Trump at events such as those; through his nightly fealty to Trump talking points and utter Trump worship; through his craven and successful attempt to lead Trump supporters in a round of applause for Trump’s Muslim ban; through his status as an unofficial adviser to Trump the candidate and later Trump the president; through the provision of Hannity’s private jet to take a vice-presidential candidate to meet with Trump; through the sheer coincidence that his good friend and former colleague — Shine, that is — snagged a top job in the White House; through his appearance in a Trump campaign video promotion during the 2016 race; through those frequent phone calls, Hannity has become every bit as invested in the Trump presidency as a White House adviser or even the president himself.
One pro-Trump cheer after another has solidified “Hannity” as the No. 1 program on cable news. And that consideration appears to outweigh any ethical concerns at Fox News that “Hannity” has become a wholly owned subsidiary of WhiteHouse.gov.
All signposts are arrayed in one direction: Hannity owns Fox News. He owns the Fox News identity. He owns the Fox News management. He owns the Fox News branding. He owns the Fox News standards guide, if indeed such a thing still exists. He owns the Fox News programming. He owns the Fox News everything.
Whenever discussing the line-crossing of Hannity or the craziness of Tucker Carlson, it’s customary to include a nod to the more newsy stretches of the Fox News schedule. Hosts such as Shepard Smith, Harris Faulkner, Bill Hemmer, Chris Wallace and Sandra Smith, that is. Lachlan Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, mentioned the network’s straight-news cluster last week in defending Fox News from critics.
Sure, great: Those folks don’t do what Hannity does. And they’re powerless to stop him from doing so.