Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity aired another one of his supposed candidate “town hall” episodes Wednesday night, this time with Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz. But the real star of the show was Hannity himself, as he pushed his own preferred Republican messaging for the midterm elections.
Hannity’s show is currently a prominent speaking platform for Republican candidates in the midterm elections, hosting so many nightly rallies that an analysis by The Washington Post found that the free airtime provided by the Fox host would be worth over $2.4 million in paid advertising.
The latest example followed the same format as Hannity’s previous “town hall” event on Monday, which featured Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker. Hannity opened each episode with a lengthy monologue in which he delivered partisan diatribes against the Democratic nominee in the race. Then at roughly 10 minutes into the show, Hannity would give an effusive introduction and friendly solo interview with the Republican candidate. Further programming blocks then featured joint interviews with the candidate plus other supportive Republican politicians to sing the candidates’ praises and attack the Democrats. Finally, Hannity teased his next upcoming “town hall” episode, scheduled for Monday with Arizona gubernatorial and Senate candidates Kari Lake and Blake Master. (These episodes, billed as “town halls,” have featured no questions from the live audiences, which are simply there to applaud.)
An analysis by Media Matters found that across the two pseudo-“town hall” episodes with Herschel Walker and Mehmet Oz, respectively, Hannity’s speaking time dwarfed that of the candidates he was hosting, aided by his lengthy opening monologues. Moreover, the other Republican politicians brought in to speak on the candidates’ behalf in each instance had a combined total speaking time that was also greater than that of the candidate who was supposedly being featured.
In a somewhat surprising result, Oz actually had slightly less speaking time in his respective Hannity “town hall” than the notoriously gaffe-prone former football star Walker had on Monday. (The times listed in the bar graph are rounded to the nearest minute, but in more granular detail, Walker had 36 seconds more speaking time than Oz.) This even though Oz had an entire previous career in public speaking and as host of a popular syndicated TV show, where he pushed medical misinformation and quack cures for years.
Both pseudo-“town halls” featured Hannity spoon-feeding the candidates the issues that he wants Republican candidates to talk about, such as in this exchange below.
Both episodes also featured direct fundraising appeals in which Fox News viewers were asked to donate to the candidate’s campaign. On Wednesday night, one of multiple such instances was instigated by Oz himself, followed later on by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) delivering a call-and-response routine with the audience. (Scott previously appeared on Hannity’s “town hall” with Walker, during which fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham delivered the fundraising appeals.)
“If you want inflation coming down, Dr. Oz has to go up — DoctorOz.com,” Scott exclaimed, telling viewers to “match fire with fire” against Democratic fundraising and spending on the race.
“By the way, you're in the wrong business,” Hannity quipped. “You need to be a talk show host. You are really good at what you're doing.”
“Yes, sir. You taught me,” Scott responded.
That exchange, in which a TV host and a politician exchanged quips about each other’s careers, actually revealed quite a lot about Hannity himself, as well as Fox News. Hannity is in fact a longtime Republican operative, known as “shadow” chief of staff in the Trump White House, who also took direct orders from the administration about what to say on his show.
So, while Hannity and Scott might have joked about switching jobs, they are actually in the same job of campaigning for Republicans — one of them openly as a politician, and the other as the Republican Party’s media arm, masquerading as a news network.