Barack Obama seldom earned praise from Sean Hannity while in office, but the 44th president said something in 2009 that Hannity applauded for “bringing the country together.” Kanye West, Obama said at the time, is a “jackass.”
Hannity ate up the insult directed at West, who over the years has been an occasional target of criticism on Fox News. In 2011, for example, Hannity mocked West and other wealthy celebrities who made appearances at Occupy Wall Street protests.
“Kanye earned an estimated $16 million in the past year, according to Forbes magazine,” Hannity said. “You got Russell Simmons. … Why aren't [the protesters] mad at them?”
In 2012, Laura Ingraham listed West among the liberal “crazies” whom conservatives, supposedly besieged after Obama's reelection, were not permitted to question.
Now, however, some Fox News opinion hosts have discovered a new appreciation of West, whom Hannity described on his program Wednesday as “one of America's most iconic rappers.”
“While Kanye West takes a stand for freedom of thought and freedom of expression, we should all support this,” Hannity instructed viewers.
The turning point, of course, was West’s progressively tighter embrace of President Trump in recent days. West on Saturday tweeted support for pro-Trump commentator Candace Owens.
On Wednesday, West professed his love for his “brother” Trump.
“We are both dragon energy,” West tweeted.
“This story will blow you away,” Hannity gushed. “It's amazing.”
“Kanye West goes full ‘Make America Great Again,’ ” enthused Ingraham, author of a book called “Shut Up and Sing,” in which she contends that celebrities should stay out of politics.
“He must have watched our ‘Defending the First’ series that we've been doing on the ‘Ingraham Angle’ because we've been defending people’s rights to just have a different opinion,” Ingraham added.
Tucker Carlson called West’s pro-Trump tweets “kind of amazing” and “a pretty bold move.”
“It seems maybe Kanye West decided that he is allowed as a citizen of a free country to say exactly what he wants to say.”
Carlson was not quite so supportive of West’s right to “say exactly what he wants to say” in 2005, when West wanted to say (and did say) that President George W. Bush “doesn’t care about black people.”
Carlson, an MSNBC host at the time, went on the air shortly after West made the memorable remark during a televised fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Carlson’s show that night included an interview with Al Sharpton, who said, “I salute Kanye West for what he said on this telethon tonight, and we are not going to, in any way, shape or form, water down the facts. George Bush has set a climate in this country that makes you feel there are different strokes for different folks.
“I think it’s a shame,” Carlson replied. “Rev, I’m going to cut you off there because we’re out of time but also because I so disapprove of what you’re saying. I think you can point a finger at the federal government fairly and say to the Bush administration, ‘You failed’ — because they did fail — without bringing race into it.”
In the prime-time slot that Carlson now occupies on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly made bashing West a nightly feature during the week that followed the comment about Bush.
“Look, Kanye West, the dopey little rapper, we don’t care what he says,” O'Reilly said in one segment. “I just want to illustrate how insane it was.”
Fox News hosts suddenly do care what West says, and they don’t consider it insane at all.