It’s not exactly news that Sean Hannity is an infauxtainment propagandist. But still. His current iteration, as Donald Trump’s most slavish bootlicker, appears to be unprecedented in the annals of contemporary media.
It’s not exactly news that Sean Hannity is an infauxtainment propagandist. His infamous ’08 devotion to veep pretender Sarah Palin was arguably best illustrated by the right-wing softballs he helpfully lobbed her way at approximately three miles an hour. For instance: “Why does everyone benefit if the rich pay less? Why is that good for the economy?” To which the info-free nominee replied: “That is a great question!”
No, it’s not exactly news that Hannity is nothing more than a partisan troll — so shameless, in fact, that even his employers at Roger Ailes’ sexual harassment shop ordered him to cancel his planned headline speaking gig at a 2010 Tea Party fundraiser.
But still. His current iteration, as Donald Trump’s most slavish bootlicker, appears to be unprecedented in the annals of contemporary media. His backstage role as a Trump adviser (which he has confirmed) and his willingness to use his shows to amplify every last shred of Trumpian nonsense, are so repugnant that even conservatives confess to being nauseated. Bret Stephens, the deputy editorial page editor at The Wall Street Journal, says that Hannity is Fox News’ “dumbest anchor,” and Charlie Sykes, a popular right-wing talk show host, says, “I feel dumber every time I listen to Sean Hannity.”
In other words, the rifts within the conservative media — precipitated by Trump — are just as profound as the rifts within the Republican Party. Heck, there are rifts even within Fox News. Some hosts, like Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly, hew (much or most of the time) to the tenets of factual, skeptical questioning. But they have to share air time with the likes of Hannity, who, at last check, has interviewed Trump more than 40 times since the guy launched his candidacy.
And rest assured, Trump won’t sit with a host 40 times unless that person is kissing the royal ring or metaphorically offering to fetch the candidate’s slippers. You can see the evidence for yourself, if you have the wherewithal to watch the series of “town halls” that Hannity is currently staging with his master.
His modus operandi is to ask questions that embed Trump talking points, like so: “You said yesterday that anyone who could not name the enemy was not fit to lead the country, anyone who could not condemn the hatred, the oppression, the violence of radical Islam, lacks the moral clarity to serve as our president.”
OK, that wasn’t even a question. Which is fine with Trump, because what he seeks, from his servants, is an echo. Like so: “The refugees, you’ll help them, food, water, supplies, medicine, baby formula, but it will be a safe zone that’s protected, you won’t bring them here …. You’d also provide food, water, medicine, supplies, cots, baby formula, that sounds pretty liberal and compassionate.”
And all too often, Hannity’s questions whitewash Trump’s lying demagoguery. Like so: “Let me ask you this: I know it was deemed controversial when you said that the founder of ISIS was Obama and the co-founder was Hillary, but yesterday you went into a lot of detail …”
As commentator Caleb Howe says today on the conservative RedState website, “If Donald Trump decided to campaign on nuking all of middle America, Hannity would be on his radio show that afternoon talking about how great all that new elbow room would be …. There’s nothing Trump can say at this point that Sean won’t get tattooed on his private area.”
Actually, the hot news at the moment is something that Trump said in the town hall taped yesterday. During an exchange about the deportation of immigrants who entered America illegally (one of Trump’s most durable promises), Hannity asked how Trump would treat those who have “contributed to society.” And Trump replied: “There certainly can be a softening” of his deportation stance.
Wait, what? Was Trump signaling a leftward tiptoe, hoping to narrow his disastrous chasm with Hispanic voters in key states? Did his advisers tell him to do that? Did Hannity, one of his advisers, tee him up for that very purpose? Or was this just another Trump riff, fresh evidence that this guy really believes in nothing? We have no idea, because Hannity didn’t follow up. But why would he? Whatever Trump says in the moment is fine with him.
He lives to serve. His job is amplification, and he’s been doing that so well.
For instance, when Trump started to invent excuses for a November defeat, Hannity said on the radio that if Trump loses, “I am pointing the finger directly at people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and John McCain and John Kasich and Ted Cruz.” When Trump attacked the Khans, Hannity booked an anti-Muslim extremist to attack the Khans. When Trump dropped insinuations about Hillary Clinton’s health, Hannity did a weeklong series about her supposedly “seizure-esque” symptoms. And when Trump tried to walk back his remark that “Second Amendment people” might put a target on Clinton — claiming instead that he was referring to those people only as voters — Hannity scored another “exclusive” interview and did spin duty with this hard-hitting question: “So obviously you’re saying that there’s a strong political movement within the Second Amendment and if people mobilize and vote they can stop Hillary.”
The good news is that Hannity’s hackery, a new low even for Fox, appears to be a fruitless endeavor – as evidenced by the news that Trump and Clinton are now effectively tied in, of all places, South Carolina. Consider that to be a metaphor for this race; only once since 1960 has a Democrat won South Carolina. Heck, any Republican with minimal fitness creds would be 10 points ahead by now in South Carolina. It’s surely a ray of light in a dark year when a media figure’s unprecedented abetting of ignorance fails to move the needle.