Shortly after Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro had finished speaking at a November 2018 campaign rally for President Donald Trump, the network issued a head-scratching statement: “Fox News does not condone any talent participating in campaign events. … This was an unfortunate distraction and has been addressed.”
Media Matters had spent years documenting Fox News personalities who have appeared at Republican campaign events and fundraisers before that statement. And in the months before that November 2018 rally, Hannity and Pirro both headlined Republican campaign events.
The Fox News speaking circuit has been lucrative to both Republican groups and Fox News hosts. In 2010, for instance, Hannity keynoted a National Republican Congressional Committee dinner which “raised over $7 million.” Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, Greg Gutfeld, Hannity, Pete Hegseth, Laura Ingraham, and Pirro have received over $500,000 combined in speaking fees from Republican groups while working at the network. And numerous Fox personalities have also enriched Trump by speaking at his properties.
In 2019, however, Fox News personalities began to mysteriously disappear from the schedule of GOP events after Media Matters reported on them. As the year went on, there were at least 11 instances in which Fox personalities scheduled and then withdrew from GOP-aligned events.
The Washington Post reported in early December that the network has struggled to prevent Fox personalities from campaigning for Republicans:
Fox declined to address specific instances, but a spokeswoman said the network has addressed the issue with its contributors and hosts, as well as third-party agents who book events. She did not say how it was addressed or why it continues to arise more than a year after Hannity and Pirro’s appearances at Trump’s rally.
However, behind the scenes, the network appears to have to gone to considerable effort to stop its on-air personalities from promoting Republican events and causes. Network executives have intervened to cancel a long string of fundraising appearances that were to have featured Fox News figures, according to people at Fox, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe its internal operations.
Here’s a list of the events which Fox News figures withdrew from in 2019 (the dates are listed for when the appearance was originally scheduled):
- February 16: A Brian Kilmeade event for the Williamson County Republican Party in Tennessee.
- April 3: A Shannon Bream event for the James Madison Institute in Florida.
- April 25: A Pete Hegseth event for the Bridgeport Republican Town Committee in Connecticut.
- September 18: A Jeanine Pirro event for the Trump fan club Trump Team 2020 Florida in Pensacola, Florida.
- September 19: A Pirro event for Trump Team 2020 Florida in Jacksonville, Florida.
- September 22: A Pirro event for Trump Team 2020 Florida in The Villages, Florida.
- September 24: A Pirro event for Trump Team 2020 Florida in Vero Beach, Florida.
- October 20: A Pirro event for the pro-Trump group Jexit.
- October 25: A Pirro event for the King County Republican Party in Washington state.
- November 7: Pirro event for the Valley Young Republicans in Fresno, California.
- February 21, 2020: A Lawrence Jones event for the Snohomish County Republican Party in Washington state.
At the same time, numerous Fox personalities have continued to appear at GOP-aligned events. For instance:
- Host Mark Levin headlined two campaign rallies for Geary Higgins’ Virginia state Senate campaign.
- Host Jeanine Pirro made two appearances at Republican fundraisers in November.
- Legal analyst Gregg Jarrett appeared at a gathering for a pro-Trump fan club in December and also headlined a Republican fundraiser in April.
- Contributor Jason Chaffetz has headlined numerous GOP fundraisers, including one in December.
- Contributor Dan Bongino appeared in a Trump campaign video and received money to appear at Republican fundraisers.
- Fox Nation hosts Diamond and Silk regularly appear at Republican events. Fox has bizarrely defended itself by claiming that “Diamond & Silk license short weekly videos to Fox Nation – they are not Fox News contributors or employees. When they appear on FNC and FBN, they do so as guests.”
- Fox Nation hosts Rachel Campos-Duffy and David Webb have both headlined Republican events.
Leading Fox personalities have demonstrated that they’re still intent on helping Republicans off the air. Levin said that he’ll continue to do campaign events if he wants to and “nobody on this planet is going to stop me. No corporation, no left-wing group, … nobody.” Pirro’s two fundraising appearances in November were unannounced, potentially in reaction to prior pushback from the network. And Hannity, who has a history of skirting media standards without any apparent reprisals, told Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) he’d “do a town hall with” him if he ran for the Senate; Hannity already campaigned with him in 2018.