It’s become fashionable to blame the media for Donald Trump’s rise to the top of the Republican presidential field. While Trump has garnered lots of free press, this argument is largely an oversimplification. Much of the coverage of Trump by the media has been critical. Even when cable networks simply use Trump events as free programming, his incendiary comments on immigrants, Muslims, women don’t typically result in the business mogul being portrayed in a positive light.
Indeed, after billions in free exposure, Trump is one of the most unpopular presidential candidates in history. A recent poll by the Associated Press found that about 70 percent of Americans view him unfavorably.
Yet, Trump has still won the most votes, states, and delegates in the Republican field. Clearly, some people are receiving a different message about Trump. Those people are probably watching Sean Hannity on Fox News.
Trump has appeared on Hannity an astonishing 41 times since he announced his campaign last June, often for the entire hour. (On five occasions, Hannity replayed extensive excerpts from previous appearances by Trump.) In other words, you can watch Hannity interview Trump about once a week.
Hannity’s role is less of an interviewer than a member of Trump’s campaign staff. During his appearances, Hannity seeks to tamp down controversies, talk up Trump’s poll numbers, and tout his policy proposals. Hannity’s Trump is a reliable conservative with specific ideas who isn’t afraid to take on “PC” culture. Trump’s critics in the media, according to Hannity, are “dumb” “idiots” who don’t understand what’s happening in America.
Hannity has managed to interview Trump for hours without ever coming even close to making news.
Effectively, Hannity has given Trump something that is unprecedented in American politics: A serialized infomercial spanning nearly an entire year, targeted at the most reliable Republican voters, but presented to the public as “news.”
Here is a sampling of the things Hannity has asked (or sometimes just said to) Trump:
Hannity asks Trump to explain how he’s so ‘right’ about terrorism
I’m sure you wish you were wrong, Mr. Trump, but you were right. What did you see that maybe others didn’t see about what was happening in Brussels and Belgium? [3/22/16]
Hannity probes Trump on China
Do [the Chinese] buy Trump steaks, too? [3/21/16]
Hannity on the peacefulness of Trump rallies and ‘ignorant so-called journalists’ who suggest otherwise
I don’t see any violence at Trump rallies. And I’ve been watching and flipping the dial tonight, and somehow, people have been trying to flip this on you, some of your competitors, and frankly, some pretty ignorant so-called journalists have been trying to do the same thing, as if you stating your political opinions is responsible for this. [3/11/16]
Hannity on whether Trump’s campaign talks enough about what a great guy he is
I’m hearing a very different side of you. I’ve known you for over 15 years now. And I sense a real pain in there about how bad things are. Do you think maybe you communicate that enough to people, that you — that this is a — that your campaign is about people? [3/11/16]
Hannity asks Trump how he’ll feel if he wins all the states
If you win Florida and Ohio, you are well on your way to the nomination to be the Republican nominee for president. How would that make you feel? [3/9/16]
Hannity dives deep on Trump’s business interests
Is there any state you don’t have property in? [3/9/16]
Hannity on the Trump ‘revolution’
Are you really committed to — to creating a political earthquake — that’s the best term I can come up with — a revolution — a revolution in DC where you are going to break down the core of corruption that exists in that city? Do you think you can do that? [3/9/16]
Hannity asks Trump how he stays so cool under fire
Let me start with tonight and the debate itself. You — somebody just said they love you. But I want to ask you this, as you answer the questions, you obviously are the frontrunner so you’re going to get most of the fire. You seemed at ease there tonight and it didn’t seem to bother you. You went in expecting it, I assume. [3/4/16]
Hannity on the dumb pundits who think Trump might lose
You know what’s funny? I was watching some of the coverage of the other primaries, and I see these pundits. Some of them are so dumb. And they actually say, Well, if his person leaves or that person leaves, you take all of those numbers, every one of them, and give it to them, and Donald Trump may lose. [2/29/16]
Hannity on how specific Trump is and the idiots who don’t watch his interviews with Trump
You know, I find it amazing. I watched on primary night. I’m flipping the dials. I’m watching all these idiots that get paid for their commentary and they don’t seem to really know a thing about politics. And the narrative was, Oh, Donald Trump doesn’t give specifics. And I’m, like, Well, I’ve asked you very specific questions. For example, you have said to me you want to balance the budget. [2/11/16]
Hannity asks Trump why he doesn’t talk about what an amazing guy he is
I read a story today that you sent your plane to help a 3-year-old kid in California because the airlines wouldn’t fly him because of the medical equipment that was needed. How often do you do those things? And why don’t you ever talk about them? [2/11/16]
Hannity on the ground rules for Trump when appearing on his program
You can tell me whatever you want. You’re Donald Trump. You can say anything you want. [2/8/16]
Hannity asks Trump whether he’s just as resolved to fix the mess in Washington as when he announced his run or more resolved
You know, when you got into this race, I remember interviewing you and you were very clear — and I even went back and looked up — that you’re fed up with career politicians. They talk and talk, make promise after promise… from your perspective — and they’re making a total mess out of everything and that was what drove you into this race. Are you more resolved now that you’ve been through this process to this point? [2/2/16]
Hannity on how he and Trump just want the American dream for everyone
This country is in decline, and it’s sad to see. The American dream that I’ve had, that you’ve had, I want that for everybody, and it sounds like you do, too. Mr. Trump… [12/17/15]
Hannity on how Trump was totally right about Muslims in New Jersey cheering after 9/11
Let me go to this whole controversy over the fact that you talked about people in New Jersey, that there were reports that, in fact, there were celebrations after 9/11. Now, if we go to The Washington Post — — and this was just seven days after 9/11 on the 18th — The Washington Post says in Jersey City, within two hours of two jetliners plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation from the other side of the river.
…But the way this was reported is that you made this up whole cloth. You did not make it up whole cloth. [11/25/15]
Trump’s claims were completely false.
Hannity on how Trump felt about the ‘extraordinarily unfair’ questions asked by him during a debate
I’ve got to be honest. We spent a lot of time talking about this. Right out of the gate I felt John Harwood was extraordinarily unfair to you and attacking you… I’ve got imagine that that’s pretty aggravating for you. What’s your reaction to it?*
Hannity asks Trump to explain how easy it would be to get Mexico to pay for the wall
The media seems to have a real hard time grasping the idea that you’re going to build a wall and that you’re going to make Mexico pay for it. And as you were trying to give your answer tonight I wanted to hear the rest of it. And I want you to explain to our audience exactly how that would happen because the media seems to lack a comprehension about how Mexico’s economy is so tightly tied to our economy and that it would be in their best interest to do so. [10/28/15]
Hannity starts speaking exactly like Donald Trump
We’re a stupid country. That’s the answer. We negotiate bad deals. I agree with you. [10/20/15]
Hannity on how he visited Trump Towers and learned how much Trump loves women
You know, another thing that came up — I noticed that you spoke at the No Labels event. I think it was in New Hampshire. And a woman said, Well, I don’t think you’re a friend of women. I’ve been to Trump Towers. I’ve spent time with both your wife, a lot of time with your daughter. I’ve seen her every time I’ve been over there.
I know she loves her dad. I look around your massive offices, and I see men and women and people young and old. [10/12/15]
Hannity asks Trump to talk about how unfair it is that Jimmy Fallon can make fun of his hair but he can’t make fun of Carly Fiorina’s face
Last night, there was a battle, got a lot of press, the match-up between you and Carly Fiorina. You said she’s a beautiful woman.
Do you think there’s a bit of a double standard in terms of, people make fun of you all the time, make fun of your hair all the time. They did it on Jimmy Fallon with Hillary Clinton last night. Is there a double standard? Do you think maybe we’re too sensitive about comments? And is that changing in politics? [9/17/15]
Hannity asks Trump to explain how he’s leading the fight against political correctness
When the issue of tone came up. You said — I think the quote was, “Excuse me, they’re chopping off our heads. We don’t have time for tone.” Is it time for all American politicians to get rid of political correctness? Are you kind of leading the way? [8/6/15]
Hannity asks Trump to explain why he’s the only one who will tell the truth
Why are people so resistant to acknowledge what is a simple, you know, unadulterated truth that crimes are happening because our border is not secure? Why do you think there’s so much difficulty and controversy in just stating that fact? [7/15/15]
Hannity just starts repeating Trump’s campaign slogan
I’d like to see America great again. I’d like to see Americans back to work. I’d like to stop robbing future generations. And I’d like to tough on the world stage once more. So I agree, we’re in tough shape right now. Mr. Trump, good to see you. [7/15/15]