Hannity Robert F Kennedy Jr 101023

Fox News

Sean Hannity ambushes Robert F. Kennedy Jr. with Trump campaign talking points after months of fawning coverage on Fox News

When anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced his presidential run in April 2023, Fox News hosts and personalities hyped the Democratic candidate in hopes that he would siphon votes from Joe Biden’s reelection campaign.

On October 9, Kennedy announced that he would run as a third-party independent candidate, drawing condemnation from Donald Trump’s campaign amid concerns that he would take more votes from Trump than Biden. The following day, Fox News host Sean Hannity ambushed Kennedy on-air with a list of Trump campaign talking points enumerating Kennedy’s liberal policies and endorsements in stark contrast to the network’s frequent praise beforehand – including Hannity himself in September 2023 urging Kennedy to run as a third-party candidate.

Below are some examples of Fox News’ endorsements of Kennedy and his conservative policies before he announced his party switch.

  • After Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. announced an independent run for the White House, Fox host Sean Hannity grilled him about his liberal positions; Kennedy accused Hannity of following the Trump campaign's lead

    Hannity ambushed Kennedy on-air by characterizing him as “very liberal” and listing positions and endorsements where he aligned with Democrats, and Kennedy countered that Hannity was copying from the Trump campaign, which he said published “the exact same list.” Hannity devoted an entire segment to characterizing Kennedy as “very liberal,” mostly focusing on the candidate’s environmental policy positions: “Fracking, you wanted to eliminate it. You called it a victory for democracy. You want to curb U.S. fossil fuel extraction. ‘Keep it in the ground,’ you once tweeted.” Hannity also listed prominent Democrats that he said Kennedy had endorsed: Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. Kennedy said that “there’s a lot of things about those candidates … that I was disappointed in” and said he no longer believes that the NRA is a “terror group,” and Hannity offered Kennedy another hourlong Fox News town hall. [Fox News, Hannity, 10/10/23; Twitter/X, 02/17/18]

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    Citation From the October 10, 2023, edition of Fox News' Hannity

  • Kennedy had used Fox News and right-wing media to promote his Democratic candidacy – until he announced a third-party run

    Kennedy marked the first few months of his campaign with a tour of various right-wing media outlets, including multiple Fox News appearances. In an attempt to leverage Kennedy’s presidential run to weaken Biden’s reelection campaign, Fox News hosts and other right-wing media personalities offered Kennedy-friendly interviews to promote his anti-vaccination conspiracy theories and other right-wing policies. At one point, Kennedy’s Fox News appearances were so numerous that they eclipsed coverage of Trump’s GOP challengers. [Media Matters, 8/1/23, 7/24/23]

    On October 9, Kennedy officially announced he would be running as a third-party independent candidate rather than as a Democrat. [The Associated Press, 10/9/23]

    The Trump campaign responded to Kennedy’s party switch by attacking him as a radical liberal. Even though Trump himself described Kennedy as “a very smart person” on Fox in June, Trump’s campaign attacked the candidate after his party switch as having “a disturbing background steeped in radical, liberal positions.” Polling suggests Kennedy is actually favored more among Republicans than Democrats, thus threatening Trump’s campaign more than Biden’s. [CNN, 10/10/23; Semafor, 10/6/23; FiveThirtyEight, 8/4/23]

  • Fox News personalities had hyped Kennedy’s Democratic campaign

    Hannity begged Kennedy to run as a third-party candidate in the general election. [Fox News, Hannity, 9/12/23]

    Host Jesse Watters praised Kennedy’s “hot anti-corporate streak.” Watters continued, “Unlike Biden, he's against the deep state, obviously, because of what happened to his dad and uncle.” Watters also claimed the Biden White House “censored him over vaccines.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 4/6/23]

    Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt described a Kennedy speech as “refreshing,” while co-host Brian Kilmeade noted former Trump strategist Steve Bannon’s support of Kennedy as a spoiler candidate to Biden. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/20/23]

    Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy called Kennedy a “truth-teller in many ways.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Sunday, 4/23/23]

    Kilmeade fawned over Kennedy’s visit to the U.S. southern border, saying he “wants to solve” issues there. Earhardt also noted Kennedy’s assertion that “Biden should’ve closed the borders.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/7/23]

    Fox host Greg Gutfeld deemed Kennedy “the real deal,”  while Fox host Jesse Watters expressed that he liked Kennedy “a lot.” Gutfeld said: “I can’t believe how much I like this person because I could never stand the Kennedys, but I might have to switch my party just so I can vote for him in the primary, because I honestly do think he is a serious breath of fresh air. … This dude is a powerhouse.” Co-host Jeanine Pirro praised Kennedy for questioning elections: “He's not the kind of guy who’s going to say, ‘Oh, you know, I believe in the assault weapons ban and, you know, I think the election process is perfect.’” [Fox News, The Five, 6/7/23]

    Hannity praised Kennedy for “delivering a much-needed dose of reality to the entire Democratic Party” with his visit to the southern border. Hannity then described his candidacy as “getting very interesting” and a “strong performance.” [Fox News, Hannity, 6/7/23]

    Guest and former Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) praised Kennedy for appearing on Joe Rogan’s podcast, which he said “appeals to a very independent audience,” and for “debating” vaccines. Later in the segment, Outnumbered co-host Emily Compagno defended Kennedy as a legitimate candidate, not “crackpot” or “fringe.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/20/23]

    Gutfeld raved about Kennedy being “in amazing shape.” [Fox News, The Five, 6/26/23]

    Fox host Steve Doocy said to Kennedy, “You've gone viral not only with your message – but just your sheer masculinity.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/14/23]

    For his exclusive town hall with Kennedy, Hannity introduced the candidate as a “free thinker with classic liberal principles.” [Fox News, Hannity, 7/25/23]

    Kilmeade claimed Kennedy “was right on COVID.” [Fox News, The Five, 8/11/23]

    Then-host Tucker Carlson endorsed Kennedy the day he formally announced his candidacy: “Bobby Kennedy is one of the most remarkable people we have met.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 4/19/23]