Earlier this year, Slate's David Weigel offered a new definition to the neologism “Hannitize”: “to clean up a messy situation with a softball interview.” With his conservative audience and track record of easy questions, Hannity has unsurprisingly become the go-to interviewer for Republican politicians.
So what better place than Hannity and Fox News to kick off a Republican presidential campaign? Of the nine major contenders in the race, four have conducted their first, sit-down television interviews after announcing with Hannity.
In his June 15 interview with Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, Hannity offered her several opportunities to take easy pot shots at President Obama while propping herself up, such as this set-up:
HANNITY: We just played President Obama mentioning, “Well, shovel-ready jobs weren't as ready as we thought.” And the people around him are laughing. And I'm thinking, “You know something, what about -- we have 9.1 percent unemployment. If we include real unemployment it's much higher than that. His policies have failed. Every metric he's losing in the polls, and he's making jokes that his trillion-dollar stimulus failed.” What did you make of that?
And the Fox host gave Mitt Romney enough wiggle-room in a question during his June 2 interview that addressed the former governor's health care legislation in Massachusetts, which has been a big sticking point for conservatives:
HANNITY: The one issue that you know keeps coming up is the issue of what they call Romney-care. Your health care bill in Massachusetts. I really want to give you an opportunity today to address the conservatives, the Tea Party movement, and explain to them -- because that keeps coming up again and again. What happened? What the bill was about? How you differentiate that from Obama-care?
Hannity's May 11 interview with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was no less uncritical thanks to the host's repeated failure to challenge any of Gingrich's answers. In some cases, Hannity set up Gingrich so he could reinforce the tried-and-true Republican strategy of painting Democrats as weak on foreign policy:
HANNITY: How much would you worry about another 9/11? How vulnerable -- do you think we've become more vulnerable? Would you view the president as timid, indecisive, weak -- what are your adjectives for him on foreign policy?
Hannity's June 21 interview with former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman gave his guest an easy opportunity to link his campaign to former President Ronald Reagan -- a favored tactic of Republican candidates -- with the first question: “You know -- it's pretty historic place. There was a predecessor ran for the presidency, Ronald Reagan -- same backdrop. Why did you choose here?”
So who's winning the Fox Primary? Each week at Media Matters, we watch the interviews, crunch the numbers, and tell you what Fox is up to in the presidential campaign.
Last Week's Results
Total time: 3:09*; Total appearances: 26*
Most Total Airtime on Fox: John Bolton (40 minutes)
Most Total Appearances: John Bolton (8 appearances)
Fox Show with the Most Appearances: America's News Headquarters and America's Newsroom (3 appearances each)*
Longest Candidate Interview: Glenn Beck (25 minutes with Rick Santorum)
Softball Question(s) of the Week: The O'Reilly Factor's June 23 interview with Newt Gingrich, where host Bill O'Reilly allows Gingrich to alone “define” the reasons his campaign staff have left in recent weeks.
O'REILLY: But why would people who signed on to help you, who believed in you -- your message hasn't varied -- I mean your message is the same now as it was a year ago when you were doing commentary on this network.
So I don't understand how this happened. Why these people quit. And I don't want to take other press reports and throw them at you. I want you to define it. There's got to be a reason. A specific reason that so many people said, “You know what? I don't want to work for the Speaker anymore. I'm going to go someplace else.”
(A table of the June 20-26 data is available here.)
The Numbers Since June 1
Total time: 12:02*; Total appearances: 87*
Most Total Airtime on Fox since June 1: John Bolton (1 hour and 27 minutes)
Most Total Appearances since June 1: John Bolton (19 appearances)
Fox Show with the Most Appearances since June 1: Fox and Friends (12 appearances)
Longest Candidate Interview since June 1: Stossel (40 minutes with Gary Johnson)
(A table of all the data since June 1 is available here.)
Updated: Declared And Potential Presidential Candidates
Thad McCotter. Representative from Michigan. Politico reported that “McCotter said he's seriously considering a White House bid and will decide within the next two weeks” on May 24. “McCotter has said he realizes that the window for declaring a candidacy is closing, but wouldn't reveal his timeline. He'll decide, he said, 'right before the window closes.'” [ABC News, 6/14/11]
Previous Fox Primary Reports
Media Matters searched the Nexis database for appearances on Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and Fox News Sunday for the 15 declared and potential presidential candidates in question: Michele Bachmann, John Bolton, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Thad McCotter, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Donald Trump.
For programs where a transcript was unavailable, Media Matters reviewed the raw video.
Changes to the reports
Media Matters added McCotter to the data beginning on June 20.
*Correction: We have dropped all DeMint data from the report. During Laura Ingraham's June 14 show, DeMint told the conservative talk radio host that he is “not considering” a run for president in 2012. Media Matters regrets the error.