How Sean Hannity Is Trying To Make Himself The Most Important Media Figure For The GOP Primary

Fox News host Sean Hannity invited former Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry for an exclusive interview following his announcement that he is running for the GOP nomination for president. The interview is Hannity's fourth exclusive interview with a GOP candidate this election cycle, highlighting his effort to position himself as a key media figure in the GOP primary. 

During the June 4 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity hosted Perry for a glowing and exclusive hour-long interview following his candidacy announcement from Addison, Texas.

At the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Hannity pledged to give “every single, solitary” presidential candidate access to his Fox News show. In April, CNN reported that the “Fox host has a lock on Republican candidates,” highlighting Hannity's interviews with Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Rand Paul (R-KY). With this latest interview, Politico's Dylan Byers reported that “In the last two months, four GOP hopefuls have given Sean Hannity dibs on their first interviews as candidates and been rewarded with hour-long 'special events' on his primetime Fox News program,” prompting Byers to call Hannity a “conservative kingmaker.”

But Hannity seemingly hasn't honored his pledge. 

Despite promising to give access to “every single, solitary” presidential candidate, Hannity has reportedly been denying access to his program to some based on his assessment of their merit. Politico reported that some candidates “have tried to land an interview with the conservative host, campaign sources said, only to be turned down -- either because they had given their first interview to another media outlet, or because they weren't popular enough.” 

Further, Hannity has used his platform to boost some candidates in the race while bashing others. When likely GOP candidate Jeb Bush faced backlash for comments he made about the Iraq war, Hannity helped Bush conduct damage control by allowing him to “clarify” his comments on his radio show. Hannity lashed out at journalists after Sen. Rand Paul was accused of sexism for repeatedly speaking over female journalists. But in May, Hannity questioned the seriousness of his former Fox News colleague Mike Huckabee's candidacy, arguing that “he's out there for name recognition.” And Hannity criticized Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) for not sitting down for him in an interview during CPAC, commenting that “I think the toughest question he has to answer is that the state of New Jersey since he has been governor has been downgraded eight times.”

The success of Hannity's efforts remain unclear. A Media Matters study found that even without Hannity's assistance, Mike Huckabee had significantly more airtime on Fox News than his competition during the month of May. The study also found that Megyn Kelly devoted 2 hours and 40 minutes interviewing likely Republican candidates, whereas Sean Hannity only devoted 32 minutes to interviewing candidates.