Sean Hannity has a Roy Moore problem.
Initially, Hannity provided sympathetic coverage of Moore, comparing his case to other famous people who have been falsely accused. He hosted panelists who claimed that nearly every woman who comes forward with allegations of sexual assault is lying.
“People do it for money. People do it for political reasons. Is that more common than people think? They will lie to make money?” Hannity asked his panelist, attorney Mercedes Colwin. “Oh definitely,” Colwin replied, “You see this time and time and time again.”
“A lot these women, it’s all about money,” Colwin continued, “And they bank on the fact that these corporations have reputations they want to save.” Colwin said that women with legitimate claims of sexual harassment are “few and far between.”
This kind of coverage earned Hannity an interview with Roy Moore himself. During that interview, Moore made the situation worse, refusing to rule out that he dated teen girls as a prosecutor in his 30s. At the same time, advertisers noticed that Hannity was providing sympathetic coverage to a man facing credible accusations of child sexual abuse. As the number of woman speaking out against Moore increased, a number of Hannity’s advertisers departed.
That’s when Hannity changed his tune.
On Tuesday night, he issued the following ultimatum to Judge Moore: “Between this interview that I did and the inconsistent answers; between him saying ‘I never knew this girl’ and then that yearbook comes out—for me, the judge has 24 hours. You must immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies that I just showed. You must remove any doubt. If he can’t do this, Judge Moore needs to get out of this race.”
In response, Judge Moore wrote an “open letter” to Hannity. The letter attacked the “liberal media,” touted the length of his marriage and said that he was in the “process of investigating” the allegations. He made no serious effort to explain the inconsistencies in his story — other than to make a false claim about one of his numerous accusers.
Less than 24 hours later, Hannity addressed the letter on his Thursday night show. He claimed, oddly, that Moore provided answers to “the specific questions we asked.” (He did not.)
But Hannity also acknowledged that Moore had not “removed all doubt,” as he demanded the night before. He even suggested delaying the election so that more investigation into Moore’s behavior could take place. “The people of Alabama, they deserve to know the truth. They’ve got to have all the facts they need,” Hannity said.
Most significantly, however, Hannity made clear that he would not, as he promised, call on Moore to step aside. He would not take any position at all. Instead, Hannity said that he was “very confident” that Alabama voters would “make the best decision for their state.”
Hannity is clearly hoping all of this is enough to both satisfy his advertisers and placate his political allies on the far right.