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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: hannity

Having A Laugh At Walker's Big Promoters, Sean Hannity And Lindsay Graham

Fox News host Sean Hannity pulled former NFL star Herschel Walker into the race for U.S. Senate in Georgia, served as his campaign’s biggest asset, and bears responsibility for Republicans ultimately failing to oust Sen. Raphael Warnock, who beat Walker in Tuesday’s runoff.

Walker’s loss is another embarrassing defeat for Fox. The network’s influential prime-time hosts heavily promoted four unorthodox first-time candidates for U.S. Senate in the midterm elections — Walker, Blake Masters in Arizona, Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, and J.D. Vance in Ohio — helping them secure the Republican nominations for those races. Vance, the sole victor of the group, ran well behind the rest of his party’s slate in a red state; the other three lost winnable races in swing states, ensuring historic Democratic victories rather than a GOP “red tsunami.”

Hannity is a GOP kingmaker with the ear of top party leaders who spent Donald Trump’s presidency advising the White House. He is a relentless propagandist whose singular goal is electing Republican candidates. But when Hannity gets to pick those candidates, the results can be disastrous for his party.

For the last month, Hannity has been laser-focused on helping Walker to victory in the Georgia runoff. The Fox host has preached the importance of the race to his viewers, shielded the candidate from criticism, promoted his political ads, bolstered his fundraising, and savaged his opponent.

Walker has been a fixture on Hannity’s program even as he has hidden from credible journalists. Of Walker’s 12 weekday appearances on Fox since Election Day, five came on the host’s show — often, bizarrely, accompanied by Hannity regular Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The odd couple returned to the program on the eve of the runoff, with Graham using the opportunity to thank Hannity’s audience for their donations and promising them “a return on investment tomorrow.”

It didn’t turn out that way. And Hannity, who was Walker’s most important press supporter throughout the race, is a big part of the reason why Democrats will have 51 seats in the Senate rather than 50 when it convenes in 2023.

Walker’s introduction to Republican politics came as a regular on Hannity’s show during the 2020 election cycle, when his pro-Trump takes made him a MAGA sensation. Then, after Trump lost and Hannity turned his attention to the 2022 midterms, the Fox host recruited Walker to run against Warnock. In a series of interviews, Hannity urged Walker to seek the Senate seat and pushed other Republicans to support his candidacy.

GOP leaders knew from the start that Walker was a terrible candidate whose nomination would make it harder to win the seat. As I noted on the day he announced his candidacy:

Republicans have plenty of reasons to worry about Walker’s chances of winning a general election in a swing state: He’s a first-time candidate who is moving to the state for the race, he’s a conspiracy theorist, and his wife is currently under investigation by state authorities for allegedly illegally voting in Georgia while living in Texas.

And last month, The Associated Press revealed that the candidate has “repeatedly threatened his ex-wife’s life, exaggerated claims of financial success and alarmed business associates with unpredictable behavior.”

Hannity endorsed Walker on-air that very night, and his show became ground zero for the campaign. The candidate made 38 weekday Fox News appearances between his August 25, 2021, launch date and Election Day; 19 of them came on Hannity, including a purported town hall that was functionally a televised rally for Walker. With Trump and Fox both behind Walker, the Georgia primary field cleared for him.

But as Hannity was propping up Walker’s candidacy, GOP fears that he hadn’t been fully vetted were being proved correct. Journalists detailed Walker’s history of domestic violence, his previously unrevealed children, reports that he had paid for abortions, his involvement in scams, and his false claims about his academic, business, and military background.

On Election Day, Republicans won every statewide election in Georgia with at least 51% of the vote — except for the Senate race. There, Warnock secured a narrow lead that threw the race into a runoff, which he ultimately won.

Walker’s defeat makes his campaign the latest case study to demonstrate the limits of Fox’s influence. Its hosts can get their chosen candidates through the party’s primaries. But the toxic extremists who attract Fox stars' interest are often deeply alienating to normal people, and that is making it harder for the GOP to win elections. Meanwhile, the Fox personalities who wield the most influence over the party are pointing fingers at everyone but themselves.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Hannity Hosts Fake 'Town Hall' For Walker After He Skips Debate

Fox News host Sean Hannity turned his prime-time show into a full-on campaign rally Monday night for Republican U.S. Senate nominee Herschel Walker, after the former football star had skipped an official debate Sunday night. Walker’s appearance with Hannity was hastily announced Sunday evening, as incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) prepared to face Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver (and an empty lectern in place of Walker) on the debate stage in Atlanta.

The episode of Hannity was officially billed as a “town hall,” a label that the host used multiple times during the hour. But attendees in the audience never actually asked any questions of the candidate, instead simply delivering applause at various moments and engaging in call-and-response routines with Hannity or other speakers.

To be clear, this was simply a campaign rally for Walker, organized and promoted by Hannity and Fox News, and featuring special guests such as Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott from neighboring South Carolina. (Hannity closed out the program by promoting another supposed “town hall” episode of his show scheduled for Wednesday, featuring Pennsylvania GOP Senate nominee Mehmet Oz — another candidate whose campaign Hannity was instrumental in boosting — as well as Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, a favorite of far-right media.)

Walker’s appearance with Hannity followed his participation in another debate that took place Friday, which is likely to be the only televised face-off between the two major-party candidates in the Peach State. During that debate, when Warnock made comments about Walker’s documented history of violence, including when he had threatened a “shoot-out with police,” Walker responded by producing an honorary “prop” police badge from his jacket pocket as alleged proof of his close relationship with Georgia law enforcement.

Walker appeared on Hannity on Monday after he didn’t attend Sunday’s debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club. Hannity opened the pseudo-“town hall” with Walker by declaring that Sunday’s debate was an attempted “ambush,” citing an article in the right-wing Washington Free Beacon that attacked some of the organization’s members who had donated to Democratic candidates in 2020. (The debate moderator was radio host Scott Slade, who has been a fixture of Georgia political news for more than 50 years.)

Dismissing other media coverage, Hannity further declared that “in Friday night's debate, Herschel Walker proved them all wrong and he won that debate,” followed by a clips reel of Walker speaking on stage. (Walker has actually been widely lampooned for his stunt involving the prop badge, a moment that Hannity’s team did not include in the clips reel.)

Of course, Hannity’s protests of alleged press bias for Democrats really ought to ring alarm bells for anyone who has observed both Hannity and Fox News in general.

Hannity is a longtime political operative who practically recruited Walker into the Georgia Senate race, and he has repeatedly used his show to promote other Republican candidates in the midterm elections. In addition, the rest of Fox News also helped pick the Republican Senate candidates while burying negative stories about Walker in its running coverage.

The pseudo-“town hall” was also marked by Hannity feeding Walker talking points for their discussion. Following Hannity’s lengthy opening monologue, the host finally brought the candidate onto the show around 10 minutes into the program, then proceeded to recount a conversation the two supposedly had about Walker’s dedication to public service. (Walker didn’t remember it.)

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): So, I told you before you ran, I said, this is going to get ugly, they’re going to attack you, they’re going to smear you, they’re going to slander you. And do you remember what you said to me?

HERSCHEL WALKER: No.

HANNITY: You said to me, “Sean, I have fought my whole life, and they can do whatever they want. But I’m going to go and be the — I'm going to go be a public servant for the people of Georgia.”

The campaign rally atmosphere continued midway through the program, when Graham and Scott joined the stage, urging viewers to help elect a Republican Senate majority.

“If we want to help Georgians and all of America, let's start winning the majority right here in Georgia,” said Scott.

Graham also repeatedly asked viewers to go to Walker’s campaign site and donate money. “TeamHerschel.com, folks,” he said. “Help this man.” (Graham’s plea for contributions from Fox’s audience is nothing new; he was notorious for begging for donations to his own campaign during appearances on Fox in 2020.)

During this entire programming block that lasted nearly 15 minutes, Walker began speaking for himself only at around the six-and-a-half minute mark, after lengthy partisan jeremiads from the other men.

Hannity later revved up Walker, and the crowd, by asking a series of simple, loaded questions toward the end of the block, essentially directing the candidate to accept the policy agenda being handed to him live on-air.

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): If you're elected, you're promising the people of Georgia — I want to make sure I'm right — lower taxes, controlled borders, re-fund the police, get rid of this —

HERSCHEL WALKER: Energy independence.

HANNITY: — idiotic no-bail laws.

WALKER: Yes.

HANNITY: You will support energy independence.

WALKER: Yes.

HANNITY: And you will support reading, writing, math, history, science —

WALKER: Yes.

HANNITY: And get rid of the woke agenda.

WALKER: Yes. And our military — I want to continue to say I will support —

GRAHAM: Amen.

WALKER: — our military because our military is our strength.

SCOTT: Amen.

WALKER: And we have to continue to support our military.

An analysis by Media Matters found that Walker himself only spoke for roughly 8 minutes — in what was supposedly a “town hall” with the candidate. Hannity, by contrast, had 19 minutes of speaking time. Another way of looking at this is that Walker’s speaking time was still less than the combined total for the other two major guests, Graham and Scott, who collectively spoke for 9 minutes. (All times were rounded to the nearest minute.)

By comparison, in the hourlong debate that Walker skipped Sunday night, a count by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that Warnock and Oliver dominated the speaking time, distantly followed by the moderators.

Hannity’s TV episode with Walker, by contrast, perfectly illustrates a propaganda display that featured a candidate for public office only as a supporting character on the show.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Dr. Oz Thanks ‘True Friend’ Hannity For Advising His Campaign

Senate candidate Mehmet Oz thanked Fox News host Sean Hannity for advising him “behind the scenes,” helping to bring him to the cusp of a potential victory in Tuesday night’s primary in Pennsylvania — a revelation that further illustrates Hannity’s position as a Republican operative who leverages his media presence for political influence.

The Republican primary race could potentially go to a recount, with Oz currently ahead of former hedge fund manager Dave McCormick by a slender margin. The winner will face Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who won his primary by a landslide. During a speech on Tuesday night, Oz first thanked his wife, his children, and his campaign staff and then called out two key political figures who endorsed him and advised him throughout the campaign: former President Donald Trump and Hannity.



MEHMET OZ (U.S SENATE CANDIDATE): And I want to thank some other individuals who are actually unbelievably close friends, made a big difference in my life, are always there at every moment. Let's start with 45, President Trump. President Trump, after he endorsed me, continued to lean in to this race in Pennsylvania. He knows all the subtleties of it. He was willing to participate with tele-town halls, which he advised that I do, it was a brilliant idea. He participated in a massive rally out in Westmoreland County. God bless you, sir, for putting so much effort into this race. I will make you proud.

I want to thank Sean Hannity. Sean is like a brother to me. When Sean punches through something, he really punches through it. He understands exactly how to make a difference, and he's been doing that this entire campaign — much of it behind the scenes, giving me advice on late night conversations — again, the kinds of things that true friends do for each other.


Hannity previously had an eerily similar role during the Trump campaign and administration, serving as the “shadow” chief of staff to the then-president and often holding late-night phone conversations in which he functioned as a sounding board for Trump’s policies.

Hannity also endorsed Oz’s Senate campaign, helping Oz launch his candidacy with a nearly ten-minute interview on his prime-time Fox show in late November. Hannity also reportedly lobbied Trump to endorse Oz, which may have made the difference if indeed Oz’s currently thin lead holds up through the vote count.

Hannity also used both his TV show and his radio show last week to attack the campaign of insurgent candidate Kathy Barnette, telling his audience that Barnette should not win in the primary due to her history of anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ statements. (Hannity did not acknowledge his own history of spewing similar bigotry.)

During one such segment trashing Barnette, Hannity reiterated his endorsement of Oz, saying he would “always tell you how I feel,” before interviewing Oz to continue attacking Barnette. But, while Hannity might acknowledge his candidate preference, he did not reveal that he had been advising Oz behind the scenes, nor admit his role in securing Trump’s endorsement for the candidate.

Oz’s revelation Tuesday night should also be placed in further context of how Hannity uses his Fox platform to spread misinforming Republican campaign talking points.

Previously released text messages between Hannity and then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows revealed that Hannity took direct instructions on coordinating get-out-the-vote messaging on Election Day in 2020, and Hannity later described himself as being “at war with” the network’s purported news figures such as then-Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace over the network’s declaration that Joe Biden had won the election. (The network undermined its own decision desk’s election call nearly 600 times in just nine days after that call was made.)

The texts have also shown the extent to which Hannity wears two faces along with his two hats. On the one hand, he publicly claimed the attackers who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, were left-wing infiltrators. On the other hand, he urged Meadows during the attack to ask Trump to call off his supporters, and afterward, he worked on damage control with the White House.

Whether Oz even wins or loses in the final result is almost beside the point. Hannity’s role in elevating his candidacy and orchestrating another instance of the Trump-Fox feedback loop provides yet another example of Fox's evolution from its earlier role as a propaganda outlet on behalf of the Republican Party to a major engine of the party itself.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Craven: Hannity Obeyed Election Day Commands From Trump White House

Sean Hannity sought, received, and carried out marching orders from the Trump White House on what to say on Election Day 2020. At a normal news outlet, this would be cause for alarm and would trigger an internal investigation into how often such behavior was going on – but Hannity works for Fox News, which long ago accepted his sidegig as a Republican political operative whose primary loyalty is to Donald Trump.

Hannity’s communications with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are included in a trove of 2,319 text messages Meadows sent or received between November 3, 2020, which was Election Day, and President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021. The texts were selectively provided by Meadows to the January 6 select committee and obtained by CNN, which reported on them on Monday.

The texts show Hannity reaching out to Meadows and receiving instructions on what to tell his audience on the afternoon of Election Day. After Hannity asked Meadows about whether Trump would win the chief of staff’s home state of North Carolina, Meadows told Hannity to use his radio show to “Stress every vote matters. Get out and vote.” Hannity responded, “Yes sir[.] On it. Any place in particular we need a push[?]” Meadows wrote back, “Pennsylvania. NC AZ,” then added “Nevada,” to which Hannity replied, “Got it. Everywhere[.]”


Hannity followed through on his pledge to Meadows to exhort his radio audience to the polls in those key states, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted after reviewing that day’s edition of Hannity’s radio show, which airs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET:

“I am acting as though and knowing that every single, solitary vote matters,” Hannity said near the top of the show. He added that he was sharing insights after having “been on the phone all day with people all over the country.”


A bit later: “Every single vote in every one of these states that I have just mentioned absolutely, positively matters.”


And later still: “If you’re going to be voting, you know, please, if you’re online, please don’t say, oh, this is going to take too long. Your vote is necessary. Every vote matters.”

Bump also noted that three states Hannity mentioned most frequently on that broadcast were Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arizona – the three states Meadows first indicated to Hannity as priorities.

In short, Hannity appears to have said what the Trump White House told him to say. And there’s no reason to think this was the first time that happened – the exchange between Meadows and Hannity is casual, with no indication from either party that anything untoward was happening.

Such behavior would generally be interpreted by a responsible news outlet as a massive ethical breach. But Fox is a Republican propaganda outlet that has completely given up on enforcing anything resembling rules or journalistic ethics for Hannity, allowing him to moonlight as a key Trump adviser.

Hannity appeared in a promotional video for Trump’s campaign, was revealed as a secret client of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and a back channel between Trump and his embattled associates, spoke at a Trump political rally, and reportedly wrote one of his campaign ads. News reports indicated he was providing the president with political advice and receiving notes on his show in near-nightly conversations, and was so influential at the White House that aides called him “the ‘shadow’ chief of staff.”

Through it all, while journalists noted that such behavior would constitute firing offenses at other outlets, Fox stood by their man. At this point, there’s no question that Hannity does Trump’s bidding because that’s what the network wants him to do.

Printed with permission from MediaMatters.

Gun Outfit Hired Hannity And Others As Paid Shills

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

 

Right-wing radio hosts such as Sean Hannity and Mark Levin have been acting as paid pitch people for a company that promises to help train members on how to use guns to “survive a mass shooting.” Hannity has been especially vocal about the company and used the recent Las Vegas mass shooting to shill for it on his radio program.

The U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) is a pro-gun company that sells membership plans featuring“education, training, and self-defense insurance” for gun owners. It also criticizes attempts to enact gun control laws and publishes Concealed Carry Magazine. The group claims to have over 250,000 members and has attempted to grow its membership over the years through numerous advertising buys with conservative media.

Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Ben Shapiro are all part of the association’s latest advertising campaign for a “100% FREE Complete Concealed Carry & Family Defense Guide,” which includes tips on “how to survive a mass shooting” and “the safest AND most dangerous places to sit in a restaurant” (the sign-up takes people to a page that urges them to pay for a membership).

The USCCA created dedicated landing pages for each individual host participating in the advertising campaign, including the following identical quote which was cut and pasted for each person:

Prior to the Las Vegas shooting, these media personalities did advertisements for the campaign that aired in late September. Here are those ads, along with their dedicated website URL: ​Beck (ProtectAndDefend.com), ​Hannity (DefendFamily.com), ​Levin (DefendThem.com), and ​Shapiro (DefendMyFamilyNow.com) .

Hannity has continued to tout USCCA as a solution to surviving a mass shooting following the Las Vegas tragedy. During his October 5 radio program, Hannity segued from talking about the mass shooting to introducing “our friends at the United States Concealed Carry Association,” saying, “I’m proud to be associated with them. They have offered a family defense guide. You’re going to learn — and this is 164 pages — how to survive a mass shooting. How to detect attackers before they see you.”

Previously, Hannity used the shooting at a congressional baseball practice in June to push USCCA membership.

The association, which did not respond to requests for comment, features a Hannity testimonial on its websiteunder the headline: “Why Sean Hannity Joined The USCCA… Hear Why One Of The Most Trusted Conservative Voices In America Is A Proud Card-Carrying Member.”

Hannity used his October 4 Fox News program to advocate for concealed carry while discussing the Las Vegas shooting. He praised right-to-carry laws and said that “having more citizens that are armed leads to a decrease in violent crime.” He did not mention he’s being paid by a pro-right-to-carry group during the program.

Despite Hannity’s claim, as The Atlantic noted in June, “academic studies have strongly suggested” that right-to-carry laws “lead to higher rates of violent crime. The latest — and, at least according to one of its authors, most comprehensive — was released earlier this month by the non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research.” The study concluded, “There is not even the slightest hint in the data that [these] laws reduce violent crime.”

Media Matters previously documented that Hannity repeatedly used his Fox New program to push his radio sponsor’s concealed carry agenda without any disclosure about his financial relationship. He similarly used his Fox News program in 2014 to promote the fundraising efforts of the Tea Party Patriots, which sponsored his radio program.