During major inflection points in Donald Trump’s campaign, the advisers, family members and friends who make up his kitchen Cabinet burn up their email accounts and phone lines gaming out how to get his candidacy on track (and what counsel he might go along with).
But one person in the mix brings more than just his political advice. He also happens to control an hour of prime time on the Fox News Channel.
That person is Sean Hannity.
Hannity uses his show on the nation’s most-watched cable news network to blare Trump’s message relentlessly — giving Trump the kind of promotional television exposure even a billionaire can’t afford for long.
But Hannity is not only Trump’s biggest media booster; he also veers into the role of adviser. Several people I’ve spoken with over the past couple of weeks said Hannity has for months peppered Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging.
So involved is Hannity that three separate denizens of the hall of mirrors that is Trump World told me they believed Hannity was behaving as if he wanted a role in a possible Trump administration — something he denied to me as laughable and contractually prohibitive in an interview Friday.
But he did not dispute that he lends his thoughts to Trump and others in his close orbit whom Hannity has known for years.
“Do I talk to my friend who I’ve known for years and speak my mind? I can’t not speak my mind,’’ he said.
But, Hannity said, “I don’t say anything privately that I don’t say publicly.’’ And, he acknowledged, it’s unclear how far his advice goes with Trump, given that “nobody controls him.”
Hannity is unapologetic about his aim. “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.” After all, he says, “I never claimed to be a journalist.”
That makes Hannity the ultimate product of the Fox News Channel that Roger Ailes envisioned when he founded it with Rupert Murdoch 20 years ago, as a defiant answer to what they described as an overwhelmingly liberal mainstream news media that was biased against Republicans. Hannity was there from the beginning with Ailes, who was forced out over sexual harassment allegations last month.
Hannity’s show has all the trappings of traditional television news — the anchor desk, the graphics and the patina of authority that comes with being part of a news organization that also employs serious-minded journalists like Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly.
But because Hannity is “not a journalist,” he apparently feels free to work in the full service of his candidate without having to abide by journalism’s general requirements for substantiation and prohibitions against, say, regularly sharing advice with political campaigns.
Excerpt above from an article by Jim Rutenberg