Hannity Hands Radio Show To Congressional Candidate

In recent months, Sean Hannity has repeatedly handed the reins of his national radio show to Dan Bongino, an active congressional candidate. During his guest hosting stints, Bongino used the prominent platform to promote his political views, send listeners to his campaign website and Facebook page, and encourage people to watch a campaign ad.

Bongino is a former Secret Service agent who left duty in 2011 to run for Senate in Maryland. The fact that he left the presidential detail during Obama's first term in order to run as a Republican immediately endeared Bongino to conservative radio and Fox News, though he drew criticism from his former Secret Service colleagues. After losing his 2012 Senate election by roughly 30 points, Bongino announced in June 2013 that he planned to run for Congress in Maryland's 6th district against Democratic Rep. John Delaney.

Bongino's campaign has since gotten a big publicity boost from conservative media outlets like Fox News, which has hosted him several times over the past twelve months. He's also been endorsed by Fox employees like Allen West and Sarah Palin. But perhaps his biggest ally has been Sean Hannity.

The media relationship between the two dates back to Bongino's 2012 run. In a Facebook post promoting an appearance on The Sean Hannity Show shortly before that year's election, Bongino wrote that Hannity had been a “good friend and great supporter to the campaign.”

Since announcing his congressional bid last June, Bongino has been invited to guest host Hannity's three-hour national radio program at least five times (on August 22November 27December 23February 20, and May 5). Bongino officially filed to run on February 21, 2014.

According to TALKERS magazine, Hannity has an estimated cumulative audience of at least 12.75 million a week. Hannity's show is produced by Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks.

While he mostly avoided directly discussing his active congressional race, during Bongino's two most recent hosting gigs he railed against Democrats and touted conservative principles, both of which are naturally themes of his campaign.

Bongino also used the hosting opportunities to direct listeners to his campaign's Facebook page and his official campaign website.

For example, hosting the show on May 5, Bongino told listeners to “go to my Facebook page, give us a Like.” Bongino's Facebook page is identified as the “Official page of Dan Bongino for Congress. Paid for by Citizens for Bongino,” his campaign committee. Bongino asked listeners to “give me your comments on our ad.” The same day, Bongino's campaign had released its first TV ad of the election cycle.

Talking to a show producer while on-air, Bongino asked, “you liked it, right? You thought it was good? Different, right?” She responded, “I loved the ad. It gave me chills.” Bongino explained, “I like to do things a little different, kind of an outside the box operator here. But, yeah, give me a comment on it. I'd love to get your opinion. I promise, you haven't seen anything like it before.”

In his previous guest host appearance in February, Bongino concluded the show with a speech about how “November is coming up folks.” According to Bongino, “There is absolutely, absolutely no excuse to stay home, none.” He continued, “Let nothing keep you from the polls. I'm Dan Bongino folks, if you want to learn more about me you can check me out at Bongino B-O-N-G-I-N-O.com.” 

The Maryland Republican's pleas seem to have worked with listeners. Media Matters found numerous posts on the campaign's Facebook page from individuals who said they heard him guest hosting on The Sean Hannity Show.

Bongino's campaign has also sent out fundraising emails promoting his Sean Hannity Show guest hosting appearances. His campaign website features a clip of him arguing about the merits of socialism with a caller during one of the hosting stints, along with the encouragement to “take a listen and use it as a reminder to stay vigilant. The fight for liberty is a perpetual one.”

Bongino has also filled in as guest host for Mark Levin's Cumulus Media radio show at least twice since he announced he was running for office.