TV news is losing its mind after Sean Hannity hugged and praised the president on stage at a rally Monday night, breaking a cardinal rule of political journalism, but the Fox News host’s support for Trump isn’t exactly a surprise.
Despite a pre-rally tweet stating he was only interviewing President Trump for Fox and not campaigning with him onstage at the Missouri event, Hannity mounted the stage when the president called him up by name. He recited a list of Trump’s achievements after calling his fellow media “fake news” and sparking a backlash from Trump arch-nemesis CNN.
In spite of reports, I will be doing a live show from Cape Girardeau and interviewing President Trump before the rally. To be clear, I will not be on stage campaigning with the President. I am covering final rally for my show. Something I have done in every election in the past.
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) November 5, 2018
News organizations are not supposed to endorse candidates, and while Fox is generally considered a right-wing news organization, it always strived to be perceived as more news organization than right-wing. Still, its political coverage is solidly pro-Trump, and it’s doubtful that any viewers were surprised to see Hannity embracing the president.
After Hannity spoke, Jeanine Pirro, another Fox News personality, joined the president on stage. A spokesperson for Fox News said the network had addressed the “unfortunate distraction,” but did not reveal whether the two commentators were disciplined.
CNN panelists expressed shock at Hannity’s utter disregard for the agreed-upon rules of the game. Alisyn Camerota, herself a former Fox News reporter, wondered aloud if Fox could even still be called a “news organization.” “They’re having a schizophrenic moment over there trying to figure out what their role is going to be with the Trump presidency,” Camerota said on CNN.
This isn’t the first time Fox has reprimanded Hannity about his political activities, though as cable news’ most popular host, he’s arguably just giving the audience what they want. He appeared in a 2016 Trump campaign video and was forced to cancel a 2010 appearance at a Tea Party fundraiser when the network learned of his planned participation.
What I said in my tweet yesterday was 100% truthful. When the POTUS invited me on stage to give a few remarks last night, I was surprised, yet honored by the president’s request. This was NOT planned.
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) November 6, 2018
Hannity defended his actions, claiming he was “surprised, yet honored” to be invited onstage and that the stunt was not planned. Angelo Carusone of Democratic watchdog group Media Matters for America proposed a celebrity-enhanced attack campaign to punish Fox News for its partisanship.