Fox News host Sean Hannity called his show “the stop-Hillary express” during the 2016 presidential campaign because of its relentless focus on defeating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But more than two years after President Donald Trump took office, that train is still running.
Hannity mentioned Clinton on 505 of the 587 episodes of his Fox show that he hosted between Trump’s inauguration and the end of August 2019 -- 86% of the total -- according to a Media Matters review. On 31 additional broadcasts, Hannity did not mention Clinton, but one of his guests did. Altogether, that means that the former secretary of state was mentioned on 91% of the episodes Hannity hosted during that period, a total of 536 editions of the program.
The Fox host’s Clinton fixation is largely a reflection of his show’s focus on the dizzying conspiracy theory he constructed to defend Trump from the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Hannity places Clinton at the center of several key strands of that web. In his telling, 1) federal investigators should have been charging Clinton for crimes related to her email server rather than looking into Trump’s associates; 2) some of the attorneys involved in the probe had conflicts of interest because they supported her election; and 3) the investigators ignored the “real” collusion with Russia that she supposedly engaged in through the Uranium One pseudoscandal and via an anti-Trump dossier that became part of the investigation.
As one might expect given Clinton's recession from the political stage, Hannity’s references to the former candidate decreased in each of the first four months of Trump’s administration. In 2017, he mentioned her in 88% of episodes he hosted in January after Trump’s inauguration, 76% in February, 70% in March, and a mere 39% in April, the lowest total over the course of the study.
In May 2017, however, the figure jumped to 79%, reflecting the host’s response to a spate of damaging stories about Trump and Russia and Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel. Hannity’s mentions haven't dropped below 60% in any month since October that year.
Hannity also takes every opportunity to lash out at Clinton whenever she speaks publicly. In October 2017, for example, in addition to airing several segments about Clinton’s links to either the dossier or Uranium One, Hannity also criticized Clinton’s comments responding to the Las Vegas mass shooting, her denunciation of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, and her support for NFL players who knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
The Fox host’s Clinton obsession generates some truly gob-smacking statistics, including:
Hannity mentioned Clinton on every episode he hosted in nine separate months: June 2017, March 2018, May 2018, June 2018, August 2018, November 2018, December 2018, May 2019, and June 2019.
Clinton was mentioned (by Hannity or a guest) on every episode he hosted in 11 separate months -- all the months above plus February 2017 and March 2019.
Hannity referenced Clinton on 60 consecutive episodes that he hosted between April 8, 2019, and July 12, 2019 -- the longest streak we observed. During the same stretch, he mentioned Vice President Mike Pence in two episodes.
Hannity mentioned Clinton on every single show he hosted from April 16, 2018, through June 28, 2018 -- a total of 47 consecutive episodes. He then went on vacation, with his show anchored by guest hosts other than a July 4 pretaped special on Trump's accomplishments in which Hannity did not mention Clinton. When he came back from the holiday, Hannity mentioned Clinton in the next 12 episodes.
The longest consecutive streak in which Hannity did not mention Clinton on shows he hosted was five -- from April 26, 2017, through May 2, 2017. His most recent consecutive nights during the study without mentioning her were February 21 and 22 of this year.
When Hannity takes a night off, the “stop-Hillary express” rolls on, as the show typically features the same guests and themes, including the Clinton-focused anti-Mueller conspiracy theory. His guest hosts mentioned Clinton in 63% of their episodes, and she was mentioned in 85% of the episodes they hosted during the period of the study.
Media Matters reviewed transcripts via the Nexis database of every episode of Fox News’ Hannity between January 20, 2017, and August 31, 2019, and coded for whether Hillary Clinton was mentioned, whether Sean Hannity or a guest host moderated the program, and whether Hannity mentioned Clinton. Media Matters reviewed the iQ media video database in cases where Nexis transcripts were unavailable.