The New York Times’ media columnist Jim Rutenberg wrote that while Sean Hannity uses his radio and television shows to “blare Mr. Trump’s message relentlessly” as he “veers into the role of adviser,” the last two weeks have shown signs of “the start of a possible reckoning within the conservative media” as others criticize Hannity for his Trump shilling.
Hannity has repeatedly used his platforms on Fox News and talk radio to boost Trump by pushing the widely debunked claim that Donald Trump opposed the Iraq invasion before the war, repeating false conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s health, and other assorted false claims. According to Rutenberg, Hannity is “work[ing] in the full service of his candidate without having to abide by journalism’s general requirements for substantiation and prohibitions against, say, regularly sharing advice with political campaigns.” Rutenberg reported that “Hannity had for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging,” and that some in the Trump camp “believed Mr. Hannity was behaving as if he wanted a role in a possible Trump administration,” which Hannity denied.
Rutenberg also explained that some other conservative media figures have turned to criticizing Hannity over his repeated falsehoods in support of Trump, with Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens lamenting that Hannity is contributing to a national debate that’s “divorced from reality.” Rutenberg also cited complaints from Wisconson talk radio host Charlie Sykes, who told Politico, “I feel dumber every time I listen to Sean Hannity. I don’t want to be that guy.”
From Rutenberg’s August 21 column in The New York Times:
Mr. Hannity uses his show on the nation’s most-watched cable news network to blare Mr. Trump’s message relentlessly — giving Mr. Trump the kind of promotional television exposure even a billionaire can’t afford for long.
But Mr. Hannity is not only Mr. Trump’s biggest media booster; he also veers into the role of adviser. Several people I’ve spoken with over the last couple of weeks said Mr. Hannity had for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging.
So involved is Mr. Hannity that three separate denizens of the hall of mirrors that is Trump World told me they believed Mr. Hannity was behaving as if he wanted a role in a possible Trump administration — something he denied to me as laughable and contractually prohibitive in an interview on Friday.
Mr. Hannity is unapologetic about his aim. “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.” After all, he says, “I never claimed to be a journalist.”
Mr. Hannity’s show has all the trappings of traditional television news — the anchor desk, the graphics and the patina of authority that comes with being part of a news organization that also employs serious-minded journalists like Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly.
But because Mr. Hannity is “not a journalist,” he apparently feels free to work in the full service of his candidate without having to abide by journalism’s general requirements for substantiation and prohibitions against, say, regularly sharing advice with political campaigns.
That’s the ultimate result of the hyperpoliticized approach Mr. Hannity and so many others use in today’s more stridently ideological media: A fact is dismissed as false when it doesn’t fit the preferred political narrative.
But while this informational nihilism appears to have hit a new high, the last two weeks have signaled the start of a possible reckoning within the conservative media.
First there was The Wall Street Journal’s deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens, who, after trading insults with Mr. Hannity over Mr. Trump, said on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe” that “too much of the Republican Party became an echo chamber of itself.”
Those who spend an inordinate amount of time “listening to certain cable shows” and inhaling the conspiracy theories promoted on “certain fringes of the internet,’’ he said, wind up in a debate that’s “divorced from reality.”
Then there was the conservative radio host Charlie Sykes, who lamented in an interview with the Business Insider politics editor Oliver Darcy, “We have spent 20 years demonizing the liberal mainstream media.”
That criticism was often warranted, Mr. Sykes said. (Just take a look at the decision by the former Clinton White House aide and current ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos to give some $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation, for which he apologized last year.) But, as Mr. Sykes said, “At a certain point, you wake up and you realize you have destroyed the credibility of any credible outlet out there.” Therefore any attempt to debunk a falsehood by Mr. Trump, he said, becomes hopeless.
Mr. Hannity told me his support for Mr. Trump makes him “more honest” than mainstream reporters who hide their biases. It turns out even “honesty” is a relative concept these days. For some people more than others.