FDR was lauded for his intimate, successful relationship with the press. Eisenhower held the press at arm’s length. Donald Trump has declared the press “an enemy of the people” with the exception of infotainment Fox News and its high priest Sean Hannity. That’s quite a different story. Washington Post:
The Fox News host, whose show averages more than 3 million viewers daily, is one of the few people who gets patched immediately to Trump. The two men review news stories and aspects of Hannity’s show, and occasionally debate specifics about whatever the president is considering typing out on Twitter. There have also been times when Trump has assessed the merits of various White House aides with Hannity.
The frequency of Hannity’s contact with Trump means that “he basically has a desk in the place,” one presidential adviser said.
It’s no secret that Trump uses Fox News as his employment agency, hiring their hosts to fill government posts, Larry Kudlow being the most recent. But it’s worse than you thought.
Advisers, at times, refer to Hannity as the “shadow” chief of staff, rivaling White House chief of staff John F. Kelly in terms of influence. Whenever Trump is irritated by his staff, he turns to outside allies, and Hannity is usually atop the call list.
Hannity’s relationship with attorney Jay Sekulow played a part in Sekulow signing on to Trump’s legal team on the Russia investigation, they said, adding that Hannity’s work with lawyers Victoria Toensing and her husband, Joseph diGenova, also contributed to the pair being considered to come aboard, although they did not ultimately do so.
This is terra incognita for any real journalist, flying in the face of every tenet of ethics as it does, and it must be rarified air indeed for a television personality with no expertise in either journalism or government. No wonder Hannity has been riding high in the saddle over at Fox for so long. He’s the Hand of the King, micromanaging a sitting president. Unfortunately, the show in U.S. District Court on Monday threw out a monkey wrench that nobody was expecting. Gabriel Sherman, Vanity Fair:
“What the fuck? This is the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen,” one staffer told me. “This is bad,” another Fox staffer said. “It violates every rule of journalism.”
Hannity’s closeness with Trump has given him immense power at the network, and he’s not afraid to show it. When he visited Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, Hannity bragged to a guest: “I’m the only thing holding this network together.” (Hannity denies saying this.)
Tuesday the network merely said that it was “surprised” but that Hannity “has our full support.” 21st Century Fox owner Rupert Murdoch came out of convalescence to address the situation.
Rupert Murdoch has not been pleased with the current Fox leadership team’s crisis-management abilities, sources said. The 87-year-old mogul has been recovering from a severe back injury at his Bel Air estate after falling on his son Lachlan’s yacht shortly after the Christmas holiday. Earlier this month, Murdoch was upset that Fox didn’t forcefully defend Laura Ingraham, who faced an advertiser boycott for mocking Parkland survivor-turned-gun-control activist David Hogg.
Now, Murdoch is back at work. According to a source, Murdoch returned to the office yesterday and appeared invigorated. “He looked taller,” the source said. In ultimately deciding how to handle the Hannity crisis, Murdoch is facing competing impulses. On the one hand, Hannity is a ratings machine and winds up liberals, including his son James, in a way that is entertaining to Murdoch. But Hannity is also Trump’s most unapologetic booster at a time when sources said Murdoch may be cooling on Trump. One person close to Murdoch told me Murdoch called Trump to complain about the trade tariffs. (A Murdoch spokesperson denies this.) Another source said Murdoch was not invited to the upcoming state dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron, and only was added to the list after calling the White House. (Murdoch’s spokesperson denies this.)
Most probably Murdoch feels it’s his due to party at the White House since he’s the one making possible the horse and pony show on Fox that Trump is attached to umbilically. Rupert Murdoch is no fool. He unquestionably knows that Trump is a novelty act that will burn out in due course and the same for his sidekick Hannity. He also must be wondering, as are the rest of us, exactly what else will happen before that takes place and after Monday he’s got to be worried. Hannity went from “reporting” the news to being the news and that’s bad.