Media critic

For a moment there, Fox News host Sean Hannity pretended to adhere to something resembling journalistic ethics. He was listed as a “special guest” at President Trump’s rally Monday night in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Yet he tweeted that he wouldn’t appear onstage to boost Trump and his midterm agenda:

So much for that.

President Trump called Hannity to the podium at the rally. Hannity came right up. With some autocratic gusto, too. “By the way, all of those people in the back are fake news,” said Hannity, sounding as if he’d been wanting to deliver just that message for quite some time. We’ve asked Fox News if Hannity might have been addressing any Fox News journalists in attendance at the rally. Correspondent Kristin Fisher covered the event for Fox News. “I’ve covered a lot of President Trump’s rallies,” said Fisher in an 11 p.m. report from the venue. “And I’ve got to say, this rally, the energy in this room — people here are really fired up.”

Perhaps some of that fire came from Hannity’s involvement. He placed the Fox News brand more squarely behind Trump’s agenda than anyone at network had ever done before, and that’s some feat. “Mr. President,” said Hannity, “I did an opening monologue today and I had no idea you were going to invite me up here.”

No idea! This shellshocked TV host still managed to deliver a short and punchy endorsement of the president. Lots of nightly practice came through for him: “The one thing that has made and defined your presidency more than anything else: Promises made, promises kept. Four and a half million new American jobs, 4.3 million Americans off of food stamps, 4 million Americans out of poverty and we’re not dropping … cargo planes of cash to Iranian mullahs that chant ‘Death to America.’ Mr. President, thank you.”

Fox News host Jeanine Pirro also appeared onstage to praise Trump’s pugnacity. “Do you like the fact that we are now in the longest, strongest economic growth streak in American history? Do you like the fact that this man is the tip of the spear who goes out there every day and fights for us?” asked Pirro.

And with that, the Fox News hosts continued an ongoing project. They have been campaigning for Trump for quite some time. If there’s a prominent critic of Trump, that critic will come in for a battering from Hannity and Pirro. If there’s an argument that Trump wants to float, Hannity and Pirro will take care of that formality. And if there’s an entire group of people that Trump wants to discredit — such as the mainstream U.S. media — he’s assured of help on that front as well.

Appearing before a cheering throng, however, brings greater transparency to the relationship. In the 2016 campaign, for instance, Hannity served as an informal adviser to candidate Trump; he helped fly a vice presidential candidate to meet with Trump; and he even gave a 32-second testimonial in an eight-minute video promotion for Trump on the topic of Second Amendment rights:

In the presentation, Hannity says:

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.

For that bit of boosterism, Hannity received a rebuke from his employer. “We had no knowledge that Sean Hannity was participating in this,” said a Fox News spokesperson at the time, “and he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election.”

Now: If Fox News had a problem with Hannity appearing in some interminable Trump campaign video, wouldn’t it stand to reason that it might also have a problem with him appearing onstage at a campaign rally with the president? We have placed that question before Fox News PR reps. We have not yet received a response but will update this post when/if we do.

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