Sean Hannity | Media Matters for America

Sean Hannity

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  • Steve King has been racist for years, and right-wing media have defended him every step of the way


    Despite his extremism, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has drawn on-air praise from right-wing media figures for years, with terms like “true warrior,” “great mentor,” and “hero.” Fox News figure Tucker Carlson once defended King’s white supremacy by stating, “Everything you said I think is defensible and probably right," while Laura Ingraham has said she understood “his point.”

  • These conservative media figures are pushing Trump to declare a national emergency over a border wall

    ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    As President Donald Trump’s government shutdown continues with no clear end in sight, some in right-wing media have been clamoring for the president to use the powers under the National Emergencies Act of 1976 “to move funds around to build this border wall” and “release the shutdown.”  Conservative media figures have argued that if Trump were to do so, “nobody can second-guess him” and that he has “unfettered authority” to declare a national emergency.

  • Trump is doing a Hannity interview because the entire shutdown is a show aimed at the Fox News audience

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump began the 19th day of his partial government shutdown by live-tweeting a Fox & Friends segment about his supporters encouraging him not to “cave” by reopening the government without funding for a southern border wall (“I won’t!” he promised). He will end it by sitting down for an interview with Fox host Sean Hannity, one of his most fervent supporters, as the capstone of his visit to the border city of McAllen, TX.

    Trump remains firmly trapped in the Fox News bubble, even as 800,000 federal workers are furloughed or working without pay, largely unsupervised national parks are in disarray, Native American reservations are crippled, and some food safety inspections, environmental review processes, and federally funded scientific research has ground to a halt. Tonight’s interview further establishes that the entire shutdown is a response to -- and a performance for -- the nation’s Hannitys.

    The shutdown wouldn’t have happened without the effort of Fox’s right-wing personalities -- many of whom simultaneously operate as on-air propagandists for the president’s agenda and off-air presidential advisers. In September, they urged the president to shut down the government in order to create leverage to enact his immigration policy, only to be overcome by congressional Republicans who thought that strategy was foolish. But the conflict returned in December, when the White House signaled that it would back off its demand for wall funding as its price to keep the government open. The president’s right-wing media supporters at Fox and elsewhere revolted, urging him to reconsider and warning him that he risked damaging his relationship with his base. Reportedly “panicked” about the criticism from his on-air allies, Trump reversed course, took their advice, and shut the government down.

    With the shutdown now well into its third week and no end in sight, Trump remains concerned primarily with retaining the support of his base and the Fox hosts who help mediate that relationship. That’s because the “emergency” at the border is largely a political one -- Trump made a promise to his base that most Americans oppose and experts say wouldn’t work, and then he did nothing to achieve it over the two years in which he had unified control of government. Now, with Democrats having taken over the House of Representatives, the opportunity to keep that pledge is slipping away.

    With that political emergency looming, Trump has refused to budge. Instead, he’s spent the shutdown watching Fox and tweeting about it, seeking strategic advice from the likes of Hannity and fellow Fox propagandist Lou Dobbs, giving an Oval Office speech in which he ripped talking points from their programs, and lashing out at the press for purportedly allying with the Democrats against him.

    And now, with negotiations flailing after the president walked out of the last meeting with Democrats (who rejected his demand for wall funding in exchange for nothing), Trump is granting a major interview at the border to one of the people telling him not to back down.

    The Fox-Trump feedback loop is thus playing a crucial role in ensuring Trump’s shutdown continues. His closest media allies keep telling him he’s doing the right thing, so he keeps doing it. It’s hard to see how that cycle breaks -- unless Trump again takes the advice of Hannity and the rest of his Fox cabinet and declares a national emergency to acquire wall funding.

    The interview also underscores the point that Fox has abandoned all pretense that it operates as a news organization rather than a presidential propaganda tool. Just two months ago, Hannity appeared on stage as a “special guest” at one of Trump’s rallies, praising his administration and denouncing the journalists there to cover the president’s speech. At any legitimate news outlet, that would be a breach of journalistic ethics that might lead to termination. Instead, Fox issued a statement calling the incident an “unfortunate distraction,” Hannity didn’t apologize or admit that what he did was wrong, and tonight, he’s interviewing the president.

    There are no standards for Hannity at Fox. The network lets him do what he wants, and he wants to do whatever Trump wants. What the president wants now is a risk-free interview to push his agenda, so that is what he’ll get.

  • Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity advised Trump on shutdown strategy. His Oval Office speech reflected it.

    Trump’s address ripped language from their Fox shows

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Shortly after Donald Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office, The Daily Beast reported that the president has sought advice on the government shutdown from Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs. The pair reportedly told Trump to “push forward for the wall funding and break the Democrats’ will.”

    Trump’s address, just short of 10 minutes, ripped language from both of their shows.

    During his speech, Trump also said, “They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside.” The line has been floating around conservative media since at least April and a variation of it was used by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) during the 2016 election. After Trump's speech, right-wing pundits Tomi Lahren and Jack Posobiec scrambled to take credit for it.

    Hannity and Dobbs have long served as close advisers to Trump, and their shows have been rank propaganda for his administration. Bill Shine, the former Fox News co-president and current top Trump adviser, used to be Hannity’s producer and is his close friend.

    Welcome to the Fox News shutdown.

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and our warped discourse on taxation

    Media coverage of tax policy privileges GOP extremism while marginalizing progressives

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    It’s been several days since CBS News tweeted out a clip of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) floating a 70 percent marginal tax rate on income over $10 million to finance a Green New Deal program, and her comments are still generating news stories, commentary, and bluntly dishonest attacks from the right. It’s unusual to see such a media frenzy surrounding a proposal from a newly elected member of the House. But the glut of coverage has provided a needed lesson in how media discourse on taxes is heavily distorted by conservative policy priorities and right-wing political messaging.

    For decades, we’ve been told that tax cuts of any stripe are good, popular, and a political winner. Tax hikes, on the other hand, are presumed to be a political non-starter and something to tiptoe around. The Republican Party obviously bears primary responsibility for this: Anti-tax extremism is a mainstream Republican position, and most GOP politicians will eagerly sign a pledge to never vote to raise taxes. The United States is a low-tax country both by historical and international standards, and yet we’re constantly told that taxes are too high and that economic prosperity can be realized only with still another round of tax cuts.

    One consequence of this dynamic is a persistent double standard that treats Republican tax extremism as de rigueur while Democratic proposals to hike taxes on the rich are met with shock, incredulity, and the knee-jerk assumption of political radioactivity. Anderson Cooper’s immediate reaction to Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks was to call them “a radical agenda compared to the way politics is done right now.” Political analysts like CNN’s David Gregory said Ocasio-Cortez wants to “really soak the rich with the idea that that’s ultimately going to help the economy” and that “it’s out of sync with a lot of Americans.”

    The assumption that any public discussion of tax increases is politically toxic for Democrats is baked in even though polling shows that strong majorities of Americans believe that the wealthy don’t pay enough in taxes. (The Republican position of slashing taxes for the rich and businesses, meanwhile, is deeply unpopular.) Jacked-up rates on the super wealthy is a historically moderate policy that would help reduce income inequality, which has ballooned since the Reagan era. In spite of all this, pundits and reporters default to treating tax rhetoric like Ocasio-Cortez’s as extreme and unpopular.

    This mode of thinking is helped along in part by the fact that Democrats in general don’t aggressively make the case for sharply increasing taxes on America’s ultrarich. But mainly it is perpetuated by bad-faith conservatives who lie and deliberately misunderstand tax policy.

    Ocasio-Cortez’s explanation of her thinking on tax policy included a breakdown of the basics of progressive taxation. “Your tax rate, you know, let's say, from zero to $75,000 may be 10 percent or 15 percent, et cetera,” she said. “But once you get to, like, the tippy tops -- on your 10 millionth dollar -- sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent. That doesn't mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that as you climb up this ladder you should be contributing more.”

    My guess is that she included this explanation as a means of inoculating herself against scurrilous accusations that she was proposing a 70 percent rate on all income. Either way, that’s exactly what happened.

    Grover Norquist, anti-tax propagandist and president of Americans for Tax Reform, posted a deliberately obtuse tweet arguing that “slavery is when your owner takes 100% of your production” and “Ocasio-Cortez wants 70%.” Sean Hannity (who is very concerned that rich people be able to buy their luxury seacraft of choice) complained that Ocasio-Cortez “wants a 70 percent federal tax rate for the rich” and warned that “would mean no businesses, no wealthy individual would ever invest, spend money, create jobs in a place where they are taking $0.70 or $0.80 of every dollar.”

    A top-ranking House Republican got in on the disinformation as well:

    It feels safe to assume that all these people know how progressive taxation works and understand what a marginal tax rate is. Even if they don’t, the person they attacked spelled it out for them in basic terms. They’re all just pretending to be ignorant in order to whip up anti-tax sentiment.

    The critical thing to understand about this poisonous dynamic is that it will persist so long as figures like Hannity and Norquist remain the loudest voices in the room and are given the space to dishonestly frame any talk of tax increases as extreme and politically damaging for the left. These cretins aren’t going to stop lying, which means if progressives want to change the media discourse on taxation then they'll have to set ambitious policy goals and make unflinching, affirmative cases for them.