Sean Hannity starred in a Trump ad and Fox execs are somehow surprised

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

Fox News executives aren’t happy that Sean Hannity, who hosts Hannity week nights on the network, has appeared in an official campaign ad for Donald Trump.

“We were not aware of Sean Hannity participating in a promotional video and he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election season,” a spokesman told multiple news outlets.

The ad in question premiered over the weekend on the Trump campaign’s official YouTube channel. In it, Hannity is billed as a “TV personality” and spends about 30 seconds explaining the reasons that he’s “supporting Donald Trump this year” — which include putting “originalists” on the Supreme Court,” eliminating Obamacare, and building “that wall.”

The tone of Fox News’ official response seems to indicate that they aren’t happy with Hannity’s appearance in the ad, which further blurs the line between political advocacy and network’s legitimacy as a news organization.


But considering that Hannity has been using his Fox News platform to advertise for Donald Trump for nearly a year now, it’s hard to take their reaction seriously.

As of the end of August, Media Matters calculated that Hannity has given Trump the equivalent of $31 million in free publicity since Trump started his campaign— over 22 hours of airtime, including (now more than) 51 original interviews and over a dozen re-airings. He has also given even more time to Trump surrogates and pro-Trump pundits, effectively turning his show into a year-long Trump campaign infomercial.

In those interviews, Hannity asks softball questions that help the candidate smother controversies, talk up polls, and tout policy proposals without scrutiny.

“I’m sure you wish you were wrong, Mr. Trump, but you were right.”

In the month of March 2016 alone, Hannity’s questions included asking Trump whether “[the Chinese] buy Trump steaks, too?” and asking Trump to explain how he’s “right” about terrorism — “I’m sure you wish you were wrong, Mr. Trump, but you were right.”


(Note — nobody bought Trump steaks, and Trump bragged about “being right” on terrorism immediately after a devastating attack in Brussels, while insulting Brussels itself).

Also in March, Hannity’s questions about Trump’s business dealings included “Is there any state you don’t have property in?” He also took the opportunity to dismiss claims of violence at Trump rallies — “I don’t see any violence at Trump rallies.”

(Reporting suggests that Trump’s business dealings, including his charitable foundation, were rife with shady deals and unpaid contractors, the candidate has continued to refuse to release his tax returns, and violence at Trump rallies, by Trump supporters and tacitly encouraged by the nominee, is extremely well documented.)

In June, Hannity declared on air that he was voting for Trump, and that “journalism is dead.”

“You can tell me whatever you want. You’re Donald Trump. You can say anything you want.”

It’s not unusual for political candidates to use cable news interviews to get free airtime, but it’s usually a trade-off: The candidate gets exposure and a chance to promote their message, while the interviewer tries to make news and add something to the public knowledge of the candidate by asking critical questions and pushing the candidate on the facts. But on Hannity, in Hannity’s own words, Trump can “tell me what every you want. You’re Donald Trump. You can say anything you want.”

Hannity’s defense is that he’s “not a journalist,” so his continued shilling for Trump doesn’t cross any lines. Fox News, however, bills itself as a news network — giving any platform the network gives Trump, no matter the caveats, a sheen of legitimacy. Fox News is hosting the last presidential debate, which will be moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace.


Yet until now, the network hasn’t objected to Hannity’s continued, open Trump cheerleading, nor the hours of free promotional airtime Hannity has given Trump through his show. Hannity’s on-air promotion of Trump is ultimately far more valuable to the Trump campaign, and far more likely to sway voters, than his 30-second appearance in an official ad.

On Wednesday, Hannity is scheduled to moderate a “town hall” style event with the candidate in Cleveland.