Sean Hannity sought, received, and carried out marching orders from the Trump White House on what to say on Election Day 2020. At a normal news outlet, this would be cause for alarm and would trigger an internal investigation into how often such behavior was going on – but Hannity works for Fox News, which long ago accepted his sidegig as a Republican political operative whose primary loyalty is to Donald Trump.
Hannity’s communications with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are included in a trove of 2,319 text messages Meadows sent or received between November 3, 2020, which was Election Day, and President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021. The texts were selectively provided by Meadows to the January 6 select committee and obtained by CNN, which reported on them on Monday.
The texts show Hannity reaching out to Meadows and receiving instructions on what to tell his audience on the afternoon of Election Day. After Hannity asked Meadows about whether Trump would win the chief of staff’s home state of North Carolina, Meadows told Hannity to use his radio show to “Stress every vote matters. Get out and vote.” Hannity responded, “Yes sir[.] On it. Any place in particular we need a push[?]” Meadows wrote back, “Pennsylvania. NC AZ,” then added “Nevada,” to which Hannity replied, “Got it. Everywhere[.]”
Hannity followed through on his pledge to Meadows to exhort his radio audience to the polls in those key states, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted after reviewing that day’s edition of Hannity’s radio show, which airs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET:
“I am acting as though and knowing that every single, solitary vote matters,” Hannity said near the top of the show. He added that he was sharing insights after having “been on the phone all day with people all over the country.”
A bit later: “Every single vote in every one of these states that I have just mentioned absolutely, positively matters.”
And later still: “If you’re going to be voting, you know, please, if you’re online, please don’t say, oh, this is going to take too long. Your vote is necessary. Every vote matters.”
Bump also noted that three states Hannity mentioned most frequently on that broadcast were Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arizona – the three states Meadows first indicated to Hannity as priorities.
In short, Hannity appears to have said what the Trump White House told him to say. And there’s no reason to think this was the first time that happened – the exchange between Meadows and Hannity is casual, with no indication from either party that anything untoward was happening.
Such behavior would generally be interpreted by a responsible news outlet as a massive ethical breach. But Fox is a Republican propaganda outlet that has completely given up on enforcing anything resembling rules or journalistic ethics for Hannity, allowing him to moonlight as a key Trump adviser.
Hannity appeared in a promotional video for Trump’s campaign, was revealed as a secret client of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and a back channel between Trump and his embattled associates, spoke at a Trump political rally, and reportedly wrote one of his campaign ads. News reports indicated he was providing the president with political advice and receiving notes on his show in near-nightly conversations, and was so influential at the White House that aides called him “the ‘shadow’ chief of staff.”
Through it all, while journalists noted that such behavior would constitute firing offenses at other outlets, Fox stood by their man. At this point, there’s no question that Hannity does Trump’s bidding because that’s what the network wants him to do.