Donald Trump would not be president today were it not for the donation of millions of dollars of free airtime to his candidacy by Fox News. The broadcast of his hate-filled cult rallies in their entirety for the months preceding the election allowed Trump to disseminate his message of divisiveness and bigotry to an audience he would never have been able to reach otherwise.
Since the election Fox News has continued to serve Trump as his own personal propaganda outlet with hosts and guests who furiously defend everything he says and does, while fiercely attacking his critics. And he continues to get preferential treatment with regard to airtime and interviews. He has done more than forty interviews as president with Fox News, but zero with CNN and MSNBC. And he has another Fox interview next Monday with Laura Ingraham.
However, Trump’s biggest booster on Fox News is indisputably Sean Hannity, who has even appeared on stage at his rallies in violation of Fox News “standards,” such as they are. Hannity devotes most of his program to his sycophantic admiration for Trump and deranged conspiracy theories about everyone from Hillary Clinton to special counsel Robert Mueller. Last summer Hannity let two of Trump’s lawyers guest host his three hour radio show. And, of course, Trump has granted him more interviews than any other television personality.
None of that, however, has prevented Hannity’s show from declining in the ratings. What used to be the number program on cable news now loses on an almost nightly basis to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Hannity’s total ratings crashed nineteen percent since the midterms in November. His fall in the coveted, advertiser-friendly 25-54 year old demographic was a massive thirty percent. He is also suffering from an exodus af advertisers along with his colleagues Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham due to their offensive and racist rhetoric.
Consequently, Trump is coming to the rescue of his friend and “shadow” chief-of-staff. On Saturday morning Trump retweeted three of Hannity’s tweets that were typically flattering to the President. The first was an article from Hannity’s website about remarks by the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee concerning his opinion that no evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia has been found. That opinion was refuted by the ranking Democrat on the committee, but Trump was interested in that. Nor was he interested in the mountains of evidence found by the special counsel, other than to whine incessantly that it’s a hoax.
The second retweet was an article on Hannity’s website asserting that Ford was investing a billion dollars in two Chicago-area factories, and giving Trump credit for it. But as with every other announcement of this kind, it was either something that had been planned long before Trump was president, something that was merely a proposal with no guarantee, or something that would never actually come to pass. And none of that has ever stopped Trump from taking credit anyway.
The third retweet was Hannity’s posting of an article on TheHill by right-wing shill and Trump flunky, John Solomon. The article posited a ludicrous conspiracy theory that Rep. Adam Schiff, the new Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, had met secretly last year with GPS Fusion founder Glenn Simpson, whose company hired the author of the Steele Dossier. No such meeting ever took place, and the article provided no evidence of it. Nevertheless, Hannity posted it and Trump retweeted that posting.
Trump often live-tweets what he’s watching on Fox News. And by the frequency of it, he seems to do nothing else all day long. But he rarely posts multiple tweets in succession promoting a single program. Doing so now, at a time when Hannity’s show is sinking like a rock, seems like Trump is throwing a life preserver to his drowning pal. But this can’t possibly help. If Trump’s followers on Twitter aren’t already watching Hannity, they aren’t ever going to start now. And his retweets certainly aren’t going to slow the rapid growth of Maddow’s program.
The problem with Hannity’s show isn’t that there aren’t enough Trump supporters watching it. It’s that Hannity is a repugnant jerkwad whose asskissing is so tedious that even conservatives and Republicans are sickened by it. The problem is that Hannity offers the same noxious blend of lies and insults every night, aimed at the same “villains” he’s been attacking for years. His program is both annoyingly repetitive and presented by an angry mouth-breather who seems less coherent than the schizophrenic on the street corner shouting at passing cars. That has never been a winning formula for television viewing.