- Fox News says it doesn't condone "any talent participating in campaign events."
- It's not the first time Hannity has been rebuked by network executives for his political activism.
- Still, it's not clear whether the network plans to penalize Hannity, partly because he's the most-watched host in cable news.
On the morning of President Donald Trump’s last rally before the midterm elections, Sean Hannity tweeted that he planned to attend the event so he could cover it for his TV show on Fox News. Trump’s campaign had billed Hannity as a “special guest” at the event, but the conservative commentator made sure to write in his tweet that he would not “be on stage campaigning with the President.”
Covering rallies, after all, is something Hannity has done “in every election in the past,” he had tweeted.
But shortly after Trump appeared in front of thousands of his supporters, some of whom had been waiting for hours in the packed Show Me Center at Southeast Missouri State University, the president called on Hannity to join him on stage.
“Sean Hannity, come on up, Sean Hannity,” Trump said, as if maybe the Fox News host had just won a new car.
The crowd roared. Hannity walked up, shook the president’s hand, hugged him and turned toward the microphone.
“By the way, all those people in the back are fake news,” Hannity said about the reporters stationed in the back of the arena. He then went on to deliver a short speech to support the president.
It’s unclear how the “fake news” comment landed with his Fox News colleagues who were in the back of the arena with the other press. (Hannity later tweeted that he was not referring to Fox News journalists.) But what is certain is that Hannity’s onstage appearance with the president annoyed some executives at Fox News, which released the following statement Tuesday:
“Fox News does not condone any talent participating in campaign events. We have an extraordinary team of journalists helming our coverage tonight, and we are extremely proud of their work. This was an unfortunate distraction and has been addressed.”
Hannity insisted that the appearance wasn’t planned.
It’s not the first time Hannity has vexed executives at Fox News with his political activism. In 2010, he used his TV show to promote his scheduled appearance at a Tea Party rally in Cincinnati. But Fox News executives later cancelled his appearance after learning rally organizers had been raising money based on Hannity’s promotion.
In 2016, Hannity appeared in a Trump campaign video. Network executives said they were unaware of Hannity’s involvement and told him not to do it again. It’s unclear whether Fox plans in any way to punish Hannity, who is the most-watched host in cable news.
Also present at Monday’s rally were Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh. Pirro, standing in front of thousands of cheering Trump supporters, pleaded with the crowd to get out and vote red in Tuesday’s elections.
“Do you like that this man is the tip of the spear who goes out there every day, who goes out there and fights for us? If you like the America he is making now, you have to make sure you get out there tomorrow, if you haven’t voted yet.”