On Tuesday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s web show in yet another attempt to rehabilitate his former colleague, who was fired from Fox in 2017 following revelations about sexual harassment settlements.
It was mostly a banal interview in terms of content; the pair joked about Hannity’s workout routine and O’Reilly tried to act tough at times, emphasizing Hannity’s close relationship with President Donald Trump. (This led to the interview’s weirdest point, when O’Reilly said that Trump is “much more overweight than he used to be.”) They also reminisced about when Fox co-founder Roger Ailes hired both of them years ago.
The interview’s most telling point was Hannity saying that he watches Fox & Friends in the morning, but aside from that he likes to “quietly reflect and study” before starting his radio show. Put another way, Hannity has no time for Fox’s “straight news.”
The worst part was when O’Reilly, citing a part of Hannity’s book, claimed that Trump and anyone who works with him or plays golf with him is subjected to hatred like threats of sexual assault. (O’Reilly pivoted to this point after telling an anecdote about a horrendous threat of sexual assault against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.) Hannity and O’Reilly discussed all of this without ever mentioning the sexual harassment settlements against O’Reilly for tens of millions of dollars.
But even with all that discussion, the interview never revealed more than the obvious: O’Reilly needed Hannity, and Hannity was more than willing to help out. It even concluded with Hannity promising to come on the show again when O’Reilly’s next book comes out.
Let’s put this chummy interview in its proper context.
As we’ve documented for years, there are no rules for Sean Hannity at Fox News. He can promote conspiracy theories about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer all he wants without ever having to retract a thing. He can show up in a Trump ad, on stage at a Trump rally, or in a Trump email. He can allegedly share an attorney with Trump without ever having to explain why. He can use his Fox show to promote the fundraising efforts of a paid sponsor of his radio program. He can secretly counsel Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen on how to respond to probes from Robert Mueller and the House of Representatives, while serving as a “back channel” to Trump, according to Manafort, without ever disclosing any of that as he talked about their cases on the air. He can use his show as the central hub in obvious propaganda and smear campaigns even as an internal network memo points out that he’s pushing disinformation.
As bad as all of that is, Hannity’s ongoing attempted rehabilitation of former Fox host Bill O’Reilly is at a different level. O’Reilly was fired from the network in 2017. That happened only after multiple sexual harassment settlements became public thanks to The New York Times and intense pressure was put on the network by progressive organizations, including Media Matters and Color of Change.
It didn’t take long after O’Reilly was fired for Hannity to rally to his cause. Mere months later, Hannity hosted O'Reilly on his radio show and the two attacked women who reported O’Reilly for sexual harassment. Hannity also hosted O’Reilly in-studio on Fox, and O’Reilly was even aided by a tidal wave of publicity on the network. Hannity let O’Reilly be a regular guest on his radio show (O’Reilly even began his interview with Hannity on Tuesday by acknowledging that he is on Hannity’s radio show every Wednesday.)
To the extent that sexual harassment comes up during these interviews at all, it’s mostly implied. Even then, Hannity and O’Reilly agree that they are the ones who are the victims.
In November 2019, during one of these appearances, Hannity told O’Reilly to “go back on Fox.” This prompted sexual harassment survivors who had worked at the network to issue a statement blasting Hannity:
Nothing has changed since then. Hannity himself was recently named in yet another sexual harassment lawsuit involving Fox News.