The Fox News host Sean Hannity was criticised for appearing at a Trump rally in 2018 but according to a new book he was involved again with Trump’s campaign in 2020, helping write an ad that aired on his primetime show.
Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story Of How Trump Lost, by Mike Bender, senior White House reporter for the Wall Street Journal, will be published in August.
News of its contents, including “some amazingly hilarious revelations” about Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani, Roger Stone, Tucker Carlson, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump “and the rest of the Trump posse”, was reported by Punchbowl News.
According to the news site, the ad known to Trump insiders as “the Hannity ad” and “the one Hannity wrote” ran only during Hannity’s show.
An anonymous Trump aide is reported as saying “Hannity said this is our best spot yet” but Bender reports: “Inside the campaign, the spot was mocked mercilessly – mostly because of the dramatic, over-the-top language and a message that seemed to value quantity over quality.
“Donald Trump himself, in a post-election interview with Bender, did not dispute that Hannity wrote the ad, which called [Joe] Biden a ‘47-year swamp creature’ who had ‘accomplished nothing’ and supported a ‘radical, socialist Green New Deal’.”
Such language attacking Biden’s long career in the Senate and as vice-president to Barack Obama was used by Trump advisers.
In October, for example, senior adviser Jason Miller told reporters: “The contrast between a 47-year swamp creature in Joe Biden and a businessman in President Trump has been a major theme of this campaign and I would expect it to be so through election day.”
Bender reports that the Trump campaign thought the Hannity ad “so useless that they limited it to exactly one show: Hannity … If Trump and Hannity watched the spot on television – and were satisfied enough to stop asking about the commercial – that seemed to be the best result of the ad. The cost of that investment: $1.5m.”
Hannity denied writing the ad, telling Bender: “The world knows that Sean Hannity supports Donald Trump. But my involvement specifically in the campaign – no. I was not involved that much. Anybody who said that is full of shit.”
But Hannity has form. In 2016, he was reprimanded by Fox News after he endorsed Trump in a campaign video. In 2018, he appeared with Trump at a rally in Missouri – and was reprimanded again.
Before the event, shortly before the November midterm elections, Hannity tweeted: “To be clear, I will not be on stage campaigning with the president. I am covering final rally for the show.” He then presented his show from the venue, telling viewers to vote Republican and echoing party slogans.
On stage, Trump praised his allies at Fox News, saying: “They’re very special. They’ve done an incredible job for us. They’ve been with us from the beginning.”
He then called Hannity up to join him. As reported by the Associated Press, Hannity “hugged the president … and, after echoing Trump’s traditional epithets about the media, recited some economic statistics.”
Another host, Jeanine Pirro, also appeared on stage.
Amid a storm of criticism, Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog, said Hannity’s behaviour was “dangerous for democracy and a threat to a free press”.
Hannity said he had been surprised to be invited on stage.
Fox News said it did not “condone any talent participating in campaign events … This was an unfortunate distraction and has been addressed.”