Fox News host Sean Hannity returned from a lengthy holiday break on Tuesday night, airing his first broadcast on the network since mid-December. Over the course of the hour, he discussed the chaotic House GOP leadership fight, previewed its upcoming investigation into the business activities of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, talked with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith about the NFL, and even found time to take calls from fans grading his performance over the last year.
But the Fox star left unmentioned last month’s revelation that he had never believed the conspiracy theory that the election technology company Dominion Voting Systems had swung the 2020 election against then-President Donald Trump.
“Fox News star Sean Hannity – one of former President Donald Trump's strongest allies on the air and one of his closest advisers off it – admitted under oath that he never believed the lie that Trump was cheated of victory in the 2020 presidential election by a voting tech company,” NPR reported on December 22. “‘I did not believe it for one second,’" Hannity testified, according to an attorney for Colorado-based Dominion Voting Systems, who was offering it as a precise quote.”
Hannity and his colleagues spent the weeks following Trump’s defeat aiding his effort to sow doubt about the results and subvert the election. Dominion is suing the network over its hosts’ promotion and endorsement of the particularly unhinged conspiracy theories about the role the firms supposedly played in stealing the election from the then-president. The claims were popularized by Trump allies like his lawyer, Sidney Powell, and prevalent in far-right media at the time.
Hannity, a close Trump adviser, did not personally adopt the most outlandish views, but neither did he discredit them. Instead — after using his Fox platform to declare that “it will be impossible to ever know the true, fair, accurate election results” — he told his viewers that based on his show’s purportedly comprehensive “investigation” of Dominion, they have good reason to be skeptical of results tabulated from its machines, and they should ignore anyone telling them otherwise. Hannity thus primed his audience to believe the absurd fantasies coming from Trump, his allies, and others in the right-wing press.
Hannity discussed Dominion in eight Fox broadcasts between Election Day 2020 and the end of that year. Each time, he tried to inculcate doubt in his audience regarding the credibility of the company’s voting machines.
Hannity first mentioned Dominion while cataloging purportedly suspicious aspects of the election on his November 9, 2020, show. “In the state of Michigan, Republicans are moving in to investigate this software glitch called Dominion that actually changed thousands of votes from Trump to Biden. They caught it,” he said. In reality, “issues in the unofficial vote counts in Michigan’s Antrim and Oakland counties were caused by human error, not software glitches, according to reviews by the Michigan Department of State, county clerks and election security experts.”
But Hannity nonetheless went on to suggest that the glitch raised questions about the results in dozens of other states. “Now, the same software also, quote, ‘glitched’ in Georgia and was used in as many as 28 states, according to John Solomon,” he said. “We need real answers. Why should we, as a country, be OK when that happened? And shouldn't we investigate it so that every American has confidence in the outcome?”
Hannity returned to the subject of Dominion and the Michigan vote on November 11, 2020, again while listing off purported problems with the 2020 election. “And let's not forget the software error. We are going to be focused on this a lot. Wrongfully awarded Joe Biden thousands of ballots that were cast for President Trump until the problem was amazingly fixed,” he said. “And according to a report, that very same software from -- it's from a company called Dominion Voting Systems. Yes, that was used in 28 states, including, for the very first time, all of Georgia's 159 counties.”
The next morning, Trump made Dominion a centerpiece of his lie that the election had been rigged against him, tweeting, “STATES USING DOMINION SYSTEMS SWITCHED 435000 VOTES FROM TRUMP TO BIDEN.” Hannity took his cue from Trump to go after the company – and, without directly addressing the then-president’s falsehood, he created a permission structure for his viewers to believe it.
Hannity opened his show that night by declaring that “many Americans do not believe that this election was fair” and that “every American has a right to feel that way. I feel that way.” He then presented what he called “a special Hannity investigation” of Dominion Voting Systems.
After introducing the Michigan vote swing, he said that “we did reach out to Dominion and they were claiming that this was caused by a human error. It had nothing to do with their operating system.” But Hannity went on to ask, “Are Dominion systems prone to human error? Seventy-two million Americans voted for Donald Trump. All of them, all of us deserve an answer, and that's not the only concern being raised.”
The Fox host went on to detail reports from years earlier that Dominion software was vulnerable to hacking that, according to one expert’s testimony, “could steal elections without detection for years to come.” Hannity added: “Now, am I saying tonight this happened with Dominion in this cycle? No. How would I possibly know?”
Hannity ran through the same points on his broadcasts on November 16, 2020, November 17, 2020, and November 19, 2020. He stressed on the latter program that he had “been looking and doing a deep dive, giving you every bit of information we have found about it” but that “now, if you bring up Dominion, you are [called] conspiracy theorists from the biggest conspiracy theorist in Washington, the media.”
The host largely moved on after that on his Fox show, though he returned to the subject and made the same points on November 30, 2020 — when he discussed Dominion with Powell – and criticized the company in passing on December 15, 2020.
As Hannity reportedly revealed while under oath, he knew all along that none of this really mattered — that Biden had won the election without any assistance from Dominion. But as Trump continued to raise the temperature and his allies spun out convoluted claims of his victimhood, Hannity nonetheless helped them along.