Six Months Of Authoritarian Press Proposals From Trump Shill Sean Hannity
Hannity and Co.'s eight-point plan to protect the Trump administration from reporters
Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ
Fox News host Sean Hannity, one of President Donald Trump’s most loyal propagandists, has spent the months since the election railing about how the press won’t give Trump the same unyielding support he provides on a nightly basis.
Soon after Trump’s election, Hannity declared that journalists should no longer be permitted to cover the new president because they supposedly sided with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. His rhetoric has only gotten more heated as the Trump administration has floundered over the past months. “The propaganda media is exactly that,” the Fox host said on Friday, after another brutal week for the president. “They're out to destroy Trump. That is their main purpose. They want to advance the interests of liberal Democrats and the left. ... They're not journalists.”
Hannity has done more than rant about the press. Over the past six months, his show has regularly floated and vetted authoritarian ideas for bolstering the president by curtailing the access and influence of journalists. With Trump casting about for ways to reduce press access to help salvage his presidency, he may soon turn to the ideas generated by his friends at Fox.
Hannity and his guests have recommended requiring reporters to submit press briefing questions in writing or eliminating the briefings altogether, dropping presidential press conferences and interviews with outlets that are not loyal to Trump, kicking the press corps out of the White House, and punishing journalists who are excessively confrontational.
These proposals are dictatorial impulses married to a strategic hatred of the news media, meant to further undermine the press’s standing among Americans and limit journalists’ ability to provide an impartial narrative that rebuts the administration’s lies. On a more fundamental level, they reduce accountability and transparency, allowing the White House to answer only the questions the president’s aides choose.
Hannity’s contempt for reporters is not new, and it’s in line with his decades of conservative commentary. But now he has a friend in the Oval Office -- one who watches his show, shares his belief that the press is unfair to conservatives, is willing to act on it.
Here’s what Hannity and friends have called upon the president to do.
Press Office Should Hand-Pick Briefing Topics And Require Reporters To Submit Questions In Advance
“Week after week, we see the liberal media using White House press briefings to cause confusion and controversy and chaos,” Hannity declared last night. “I think it's time to restructure these daily briefings so that all members of the press corps end up serving you, the American people, and not themselves.” Hannity’s plan is to allow White House officials to choose a series of topics they consider appropriate for questions, demand the media submit their questions ahead of time, and answer the ones they deem worthy of responses.
Since the briefings had become what Hannity termed a “dog-and-pony show,” the Fox host proposed the following: “The White House press team should regularly develop a list of the top and most important 15, 20, 25 issues of the day. Next, the media should be able to submit questions about these issues in writing, give the White House time to respond with clarity and specificity, and if Sean Spicer then wants to take a couple of questions from the briefing room podium, that's fine. But only on those specific topics.”
In a follow-up segment, Fox contributor Laura Ingraham, whom Hannity floated to replace the White House communications director, agreed with the host’s plan, but said that the press office should allow questions on only three to five preselected topics per briefing. She added, “There's no need to do these every day. It should only be on an as-needed basis.”
No More Presidential Press Conferences
Responding to the media firestorm after Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that he had intended to fire Comey regardless of the recommendation from the Justice Department -- and that he did it in part because of the investigation Comey was leading into whether his campaign associates colluded with the Russian government -- Hannity said the administration should punish the press for its reporting.
“As long as they keep reporting fake news, bizarre conspiracy theories and show this bizarre fascination and paranoia about Russia, how about no more press conferences for the Hillary Clinton-colluding media?” Hannity argued on May 12.
Stop Giving Interviews To Hosts Who Are Not Sycophants
Hannity also argued that Trump should “go directly to the American people” by communicating on social media “and don't do any more interviews with Lester Holt, which then is sent over their cable channel and CNN so they can rip it apart.”
“Don't do interviews with the networks so they can spend hours and hours and hours tearing up every word this president says, something they'd never do to Obama,” Hannity added later in the broadcast. “End it. He doesn't need the press.”
Trump has repeatedly gone to Fox for fluffy interviews provided by hosts who are clearly rooting for him, while occasionally sitting down with real journalists like Holt. Hannity would apparently prefer that Fox have a monopoly.
Hold Briefings But Ban The Reporters
During the same May 12 broadcast, Hannity guest Newt Gingrich, who has deep ties to the president and shares the host’s animosity for the press, suggested that the White House hold briefings in which the press secretary and other administration figures “take the country through all the positive things they're doing, and then leave, but not have the press corps there.”
“It'll be on YouTube. It'll be on Facebook. It'll be -- may well be on C-SPAN every day -- and say to the press corps, ‘You take any part of this you want, but we're not answering your questions,’” Gingrich added.
Kick Reporters Out Of The White House
Gingrich urged the administration to “close down the press room, send the reporters off. They can sit over at the Hay-Adams. They can go to Starbucks across the street. I don't care where they go.”
Instead, Gingrich suggested the Trump administration “create an entire new tradition of reporting directly to the American people” by answering questions submitted by non-journalists (who are presumably hand-picked by the press office).
Hannity replied that he loved the idea because “the media will implode! They would not know how to deal with this.”
Have A “Garbage Man” To Briefly Respond To “Nonsense” Stories Like Trump-Russia
Before settling on banning reporters from the press briefing room altogether, Gingrich had argued in March that the White House should appoint someone to deal with what he termed “nonsense” stories like the Russia investigation. That “garbage man,” as Hannity put it, would “start Spicer's press briefing with a five or 10-minute list of that week's nonsense. Then they'd leave.” After that, the press would have to focus on “the kind of things that matter to the average American.”
Suspend Aggressive Reporters And Pack The Press Room With Less Confrontational Ones
During a January 11 press conference, Trump lashed out at CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who repeatedly sought to ask a question, declaring, “I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news!”
In response, Gingrich told Hannity that the White House should use the incident as an opportunity to “close down the elite press.” He suggested that Acosta be banned from reporting on Trump events for 60 days “as a signal, frankly, to all the other reporters that there are going to be real limits” for proper behavior. He also suggested that Trump “extend the privileges to reporters from out of town, folks that fly in from all over the country to be allowed to be at a briefing” because those reporters would be more “courteous” and less “adversarial.”
Get Rid Of White House Press Briefings And Take Calls On Hannity’s Radio Show Instead
Back in December, Hannity argued that Trump should eliminate press briefings because the media has an institutional bias against him. Instead, Hannity suggested, “I'd offer my 550 radio stations and my show, let him take calls from people around the country, right? And if the The New York Times gets through, God bless them.”