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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: sean hannity

Far Right Pundits Urge 'Game Of Chicken' On Debt Ceiling

Prominent right-wing media figures are encouraging House Republicans to use the debt ceiling as leverage to extract their political aims from a Democratic White House and Senate. Their hostage-taking approach courts an economic catastrophe and the unraveling of the constitutional order.

Fox News prime-time host and Republican propagandist Sean Hannity used a Tuesday night interview with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the U.S. Capitol to urge him to ignore critics and play “a game of chicken” when the debt limit approaches later this year, without specifying what Republicans should demand as their price for raising it.

Hannity’s upmarket counterpart Hugh Hewitt, the Salem Radio host and Washington Post columnist, tweeted on Wednesday morning that House Republicans should “adopt the summary line: ‘We won't raise the debt limit until we close the border.’”

An hour later, he promoted National Review writer Jim Geraghty’s suggestion that they instead demand “repeal of the authorization of 87,000 new IRS personnel.” (Republicans and right-wing media oppose IRS funding included in the Inflation Reduction Act that would increase revenue by targeting wealthy tax cheats.) Hewitt added: “That may even be better than border security. Both building the wall and repealing the 87,000 are key priorities. Pick one.”

It’s not a great sign that right-wing media decided to take a hostage before settling on their demands.

Congress passes laws that dictate how the federal government raises and spends money. Since the revenues brought in by those laws are insufficient to cover the outlays, the U.S. Treasury funds the deficit by selling debt. Congress created the debt ceiling through a 1917 law, setting a statutory limit on the total debt the government can accrue.

Some have argued that the law is unconstitutional because the government can’t run up debts and then refuse to pay them. But the question has largely been moot since Congress has regularly raised or suspended that limit ever since, most recently in December 2021, when it was set to “just under $31.4 trillion”; a figure that will be reached some time in 2023.

The debt ceiling has at times been a focus of intense political debate. Congressional Republicans used the threat of a debt ceiling breach during President Barack Obama’s tenure to push for deficit reduction. That tactic faded from use under President Donald Trump, who was happy to run up large federal deficits.

But with a Democrat back in the White House, Republicans divulged in late 2022 that they would use debt limit brinkmanship to force big cuts to social safety net spending if they took back the House in the midterm elections. And after they won a narrow majority, the party’s right flank reportedly demanded that McCarthy pledge “to not raise the debt limit without major cuts — including efforts to reduce spending on so-called mandatory programs, which include Social Security and Medicare,” as their price for supporting his speaker bid.

The results of a debt ceiling breach would be calamitous.

“Once the government hits the debt ceiling and exhausts all available extraordinary measures, it is no longer allowed to issue debt and soon after will run out of cash-on-hand,” the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reports. “At that point, given annual deficits, incoming receipts would be insufficient to pay millions of daily obligations as they come due. Therefore, the federal government would have to at least temporarily default on many of its obligations, from Social Security payments and salaries for federal civilian employees and the military to veterans’ benefits and utility bills, among others.”

Hannity, in his comments to McCarthy, suggested that the impact would be negligible, but seems to be conflating a debt limit crisis with the sort of partial government shutdown that occurred most recently during the Trump administration. As CRFB notes, “many more parties are not paid in a default. … While a government shutdown would be disruptive, a government default could be disastrous.”

How disastrous? “An actual default would roil global financial markets and create chaos, since both domestic and international markets depend on the relative economic and political stability of U.S. debt instruments and the U.S. economy,” according to CRFB. “A Moody’s Analytics report released in September 2021 estimated that a default could have similar macroeconomic consequences to the Great Recession: a four percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline, nearly six million lost jobs, and an unemployment rate of nine percent. In addition, Moody’s predicted a $15 trillion loss in household wealth, with stocks dropping by as much as one-third at the depths of the selloff.”

There are options available to avert such a disaster. The White House and House and Senate leaders could agree on some sort of deal that provides Republicans with a fig leaf. If the House GOP leadership remains intransigent, some of its members could sign onto a dispatch petition putting a clean debt limit increase on the floor. The Biden administration could also act unilaterally by using its authority to mint a $1 trillion platinum coin so the government can pay its expenses; or adopt Matt Yglesias’ plan of “swapping out old bonds with high face values and low interest rates for equivalent-yielding bonds with low face values and high interest rates”; or say that the debt limit is unconstitutional and that Biden will violate it rather than violating all the other laws that require him to spend money.

But Republican extremists and their right-wing media supporters are unlikely to take any of those options lying down. They want chaos and massive, unpopular spending cuts, and are already signaling that they will fight to get them.

And that means we may be looking at two years of a very chaotic Congress.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Speaker Fight Shows Fox Shift From GOP Insurgent To Establishment

In September 2015, after then-House Speaker John Boehner announced that he would resign from Congress in the face of a coup from an intransigent caucus faction, half a dozen members of the group that had brought him down took a curtain call on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. The host, who had called for a new speaker earlier that year, toasted the efforts of the House Freedom Caucus in securing Boehner’s political demise.

Seven-odd years later, some members of the House Freedom Caucus are again demonstrating their influence as they blocked Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from securing the speakership. But this time, Hannity was among the most prominent media supporters of the GOP leadership, championing McCarthy’s ultimately (and narrowly) successful bid and hosting his opponents only to berate them for having no plan and making Democrats and the “media mob” happy.

Hannity’s shift reflects a larger evolution in Fox’s role within the Republican Party. Commentators who once served as champions of the GOP’s insurgent wing are now aligned with its establishment, denouncing the attempted “hijacking” of the party by ”insurrectionists” and “blackmailers.” And rival right-wing media figures are filling their old role as a megaphone for the rebels, savaging “CCP RINO” McCarthy – and Fox for supporting him.

The GOP factional divide dates back to the 2008 election, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted, when Republican presidential nominee John McCain selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, ushering in an era of “hard-right, media-adept politicians more interested in responding to the base’s whims than in directing them.” After their defeat to Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Palin decamped to Fox. From there, she joined Hannity, Glenn Beck, and others at the network in boosting the insurgent tea party movement, which the GOP harnessed to win sweeping gains in the 2010 midterms. Mitt Romney, formerly an establishment figure, moved to the right to garner tea party support and, with Fox founder Roger Ailes pulling the strings, Fox backed his 2012 presidential campaign.

But after Romney’s defeat, Fox again sided with the party’s outsider wing. Its personalities lashed out at Boehner (particularly over immigration reform), campaigned for his ousting, and celebrated his 2015 resignation. To Hannity, others at the network, and future hosts Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, Boehner was a “failure” and a “tear factory” with “no one to blame but himself,” while his opponents were courageous patriots reminiscent of the American revolutionaries. This revolt was not anomalous – a year earlier, Ingraham had led a talk radio campaign that helped defeat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), while Boehner’s replacement, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), drew scorn from the same figures.

Then everything changed when a party outsider immersed in Fox talking points was elected president – thanks in no small part to support his candidacy received from the network. Donald Trump gave the network’s personalities real power; the former insurgents gained speaking slots at the Republican National Committee, meetings at the White House, and regular phone calls with the president in which he solicited their advice on politics and policy. And after Ryan suffered through a few years of factional fights, he retired and McCarthy stepped up.

McCarthy worked harder than Cantor and Ryan, his fellow members of the establishment-friendly troika known as the “Young Guns,” to stay in Fox’s good graces. While Ryan had no idea what was happening on Trump’s beloved Fox & Friends morning show, McCarthy launched his campaign for House Republican leader on the program. He’s worked to maintain his relationship with the network since gaining that role, making at least 259 weekday appearances on the network since January 3, 2019 – nearly half of which came on the prime-time shows of Hannity and Ingraham.

Now, with House Republicans gaining a slim majority in the 2022 midterms, McCarthy is trying to convert that effort into the speakership. But he’s been foiled by recalcitrant members of his caucus, losing vote after vote this week (until late Friday night). The fight seems to offer low stakes for policy; hardline conservatives are represented on both sides of the divide and the party’s agenda is unlikely to either deviate from the whims of the right-wing press or become law with Democrats in control of the Senate and White House. Right-wing media-friendly members of Congress are similarly split – Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) staunchly opposed McCarthy while Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) strongly supported him.

Instead, the main fault line seems to be between insiders who stand to benefit from McCarthy’s speakership and outsiders who are seeking more power. More moderate members of the House think McCarthy’s fundraising and mien will help them win reelection, while members like Greene and Jordan can expect plum committee assignments. The holdouts seem largely to want to boost their own internal power within the party, either by securing a deal that makes McCarthy speaker or by showing they can deny him the position, while garnering attention for themselves.

Fox’s right-wing stars are largely aligning with the GOP insiders. In addition to Hannity, who lauded McCarthy for supporting “the America First, MAGA agenda that so many of you I know like,” hosts Ingraham and Levin, who backed the insurgent revolt against Boehner, stood behind the would-be speaker. Levin has criticized the “kamikaze Republicans” opposing his bid, while Ingraham has argued that they are “playing with fire” and that “blocking McCarthy” doesn’t accomplish their aims. Others at the network have bemoaned the chaos on display as the party failed to appoint a speaker thanks to a “televised hijacking” by “selfish” people who “want the hostage dead.”

The primary holdout at the network was Tucker Carlson, a longtime McCarthy critic who called for new House Republican leadership after the midterms but has nonetheless straddled the divide. The Fox star criticized McCarthy after the first night of failed votes as “not especially conservative” and “ideologically agnostic,” while nonetheless calling him “perfectly suited’ for the role because he is “skilled at politics.” He offered up proposals McCarthy could make to secure more votes; the next night, after more failed votes, he hammered McCarthy’s congressional supporters for instead “using threats and fear to force people to support the candidate.” On Thursday night, he touted the debacle as “what democracy looks like.”

Carlson has positioned himself to either be a kingmaker or to fall in line with whichever Republican ascends to the role. That said, he seems less interested in who wins the speakership than he is in leveraging the televised collapse of an NFL player to convince his viewers that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous or fomenting anger against trans people.

Fox’s near-total support for the GOP establishment has created an opening for competitors who are eagerly seeking influence and market share by backing the insurgents.

Hosts on the far-right One America News Network have savaged McCarthy as “a lying, cheating, good-for-nothing D.C. parasite, leeching off of globalist elites for money and influence” and “the court jester conservative for the kingdom of liberalism,” while demanding “a better-suited speaker that will be more in line with America First and the MAGA movement” – perhaps even Trump himself.

Other far-right media figures are taking a similar tack, with Infowars host Owen Shroyer declaring that “it makes no difference whether it’s McCarthy or Pelosi [as speaker] to me; it’s the uniparty,” Newsmax’s Benny Johnson chronicling “loser” McCarthy’s ongoing humiliation from Gaetz and Boebert going “Savage mode,” and The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft authoring a slew of pieces taunting “RINO McCarthy.”

Fox’s rivals weren’t just pummeling McCarthy – they were also hitting Fox for supporting him. Fox has been deemed “controlled opposition” that is “out to crush” McCarthy’s critics and has been “lying to you forever,” while Hannity has been tarred as “the Praetorian Guard of the establishment,” “embarrassing,” and a “sellout.”

In short, they gave Fox the treatment it typically gives to the mainstream press, warning explicitly that the network can’t be trusted to tell the truth and implicitly that its viewers and the power they bring should go elsewhere. It’s a return to the situation Fox had to deal with following the 2020 election, as Trump slammed the network for being insufficiently supportive of his election theft claims and urged his supporters to switch to its competitors.

That’s the conundrum Fox will face for the next two years: how to maintain its right-wing audience and GOP influence amid a fractious media ecosystem filled with players interested in taking both of them away.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Far-Right Media Scorch Fox News Over Support For McCarthy

As the House of Representatives continues to struggle to elect a speaker, Fox News has received backlash from its further right-wing media counterparts over what those critics describe as the network’s general support for Rep.-elect Kevin McCarthy, (R-CA) who has so far lost the speaker vote eight times. Media figures from Real America’s Voice, One America News Network, and Newsmax, among others, claim that Fox News is engaging in a blind, embarrassing defense of the Republican establishment with its coverage of McCarthy.

The attacks against Fox intensified when Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert (R-CO) appeared on the January 4 edition of Fox host Sean Hannity’s show, where he pressed against her refusal to vote for McCarthy. (Boebert is one of the 20 House representatives-elect who are refusing to support McCarthy’s bid for speakership.) The network drew more criticism after Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade called House Republicans who oppose McCarthy “insurrectionists.”

    • Newsmax’s Benny Johnson said Hannity’s “schtick” is to be “the Praetorian Guard of the establishment,” and called his on-air disagreement with Boebert “embarrassing,” because Johnson said McCarthy can’t win. [Newsmax, The Benny Report, 1/5/23]
    • On former Trump aide Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast, right-wing radio host John Fredericks accused Fox News of being “a 24/7 shill for Kevin McCarthy. That’s all they are. They’re not even reporting the news.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 1/5/23]
    • Bannon said that Boebert “bench-pressed Hannity” during her interview and that “it was embarrassing.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 1/5/23]
    • Bannon also claimed that Fox News is “out to crush” and “destroy” members of Congress who do not support McCarthy for speakership. [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 1/5/23]
    • During his show Outside the Beltway, Fredericks said that Fox News is full of “fakers” who have been “lying to you forever” and that the network is “a money-making machine” which “was a shill for McCarthy.” [Real America’s Voice, Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks, 1/5/23]
    • On OAN, white nationalist podcaster Stew Peters claimed that Fox News and its personalities are “melting down” over the speaker vote. [One America News Network, In Focus with Addison Smith, 1/4/23]
    • The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft called out Fox’s “controlled opposition,” which he said “came completely unglued” following Tuesday’s votes, as McCarthy had been “hand-picked by failed former Speaker and FOX News board member Paul Ryan before he left office.” [The Gateway Pundit, 1/4/23]
    • Hoft also wrote that Hannity “jumped the shark” when he launched a “full frontal assault” on Boebert “for not supporting Kevin McCarthy.” [Twitter, 1/4/23]
    • Infowars host Owen Shroyer called Rep. Michael Lawler (R-NY) “a new swamp creature” and mocked him for “hemming and hawing” and “stumping for McCarthy on Fox News.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 1/4/23]
    • BlazeTV host Chad Prather complained that the “Fox News talking heads continue to shill for the GOP do-nothing establishment.” [Twitter, 1/5/23]
    • Michael Quinn Sullivan, publisher of right-wing blog Texas Scorecard, replied to Prather’s tweet, writing, “Fox News is now WORSE than CNN and MSNBC, because the Fox crew knows better.” [Twitter, 1/5/23]
    • Turning Point USA ambassador Alex Lorusso tweeted “Hannity is insufferable” following Boebert’s appearance on his show. [Twitter, 1/4/23]
    • Right-wing host Todd Starns described Fox as “the propaganda wing of the McCarthy team.” [Twitter, 1/4/23]
    • Anti-Muslim activist Brigitte Gabriel tweeted: “It’s pathetic to hear all the Fox News talking heads blaming and attacking the 20 Members of Congress opposing McCarthy.” [Twitter, 1/4/23]
    • Former Newsmax host Emerald Robinson called Fox & Friends hosts “uniparty swamp rats” over their support for McCarthy. [Twitter, 1/5/23]
    • Right-wing personalities the Hodgetwins also attacked Fox and Friends for “calling people INSURRECTIONISTS if they don’t support Kevin McCarthy for speaker.” [Twitter, 1/5/23]
    • Women for Trump co-founder Amy Kremer tweeted that it was “sad to see” how Hannity treated Boebert on Fox News and that “she should be shown some respect.” [Twitter, 1/4/23]
    • Hate preacher Greg Locke, who spoke at the January 5 “Rally for Revival” in Washington the night before the January 6 attack, tweeted, “The only difference between the corruption of CNN and Fox News is their logo.” [Twitter, 1/5/23]
    • Conspiracy hub National File called Hannity “a LYING BULLY. Just like Kevin McCarthy.” [Twitter, 1/5/23]
    • Right-wing podcaster Mike Crispi called Hannity “a hack” and a “sellout.” [Twitter, 1/4/23]

    Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

    Cable News Mocks GOP 'Fecal Festival' As House Adjourns With No Speaker

    Cable news anchors and commentators across the political divide ripped into Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) late Tuesday after the House Republican leader -- who had made multiple concessions to GOP extremists and prematurely moved into the Speaker’s office -- was not elected speaker because of dissension in his caucus.

    According to The Daily Beast, McCarthy and the House GOP were lambasted by anchors from dueling cable news channels CNN and Fox News for devolving into a chaotic and unsightly debacle on the first day of their new and very narrow majority rule.

    Fox News' Sean Hannity weighed in on the bedlam Tuesday night, admitting on his show that “House Republicans are on the verge of becoming a total clown show” -- but somehow insisted the situation isn’t dire.

    Indeed, the hashtags #McCarthy and #GOPClownshow trended for hours on Tuesday as the House Republican conference bickered amongst themselves with unhinged rants, squandering what was once a prime opportunity to dispel voters’ concerns about their ineptitude.

    As McCarthy smirked during failed vote after failed vote to secure the House’s top position, enduring the sort of humiliation not seen on the House floor in a century, Fox News anchor John Roberts said, “This is, I don’t want to say, an unmitigated disaster for Kevin McCarthy, but it’s close.”

    Tucker Carlson, Fox News’ resident Russia propagandist and MAGA star, filleted McCarthy, saying “twenty of his colleagues have public disavowed him, loudly and again and again” for delivering only “airy promises, which he specializes in.”

    Karl Rove, a political contributor on Fox News, called the Republican display an “utter, unmitigated disaster.”

    “Chaos tends to bring about chaos until it no longer brings about chaos. We’re a long way from the point at which chaos stops bringing around more chaos,” Rove said.

    While members of the hard-right GOP held out for servile Trump ally Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) as speaker in the second round of voting Tuesday, CNN political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson suggested that the ultra-conservatives seemed more intent on humiliating McCarthy than anything else.

    “I mean, their goal seems to be wanting to humiliate Kevin McCarthy and run him out of town,” Henderson said.

    “Mission accomplished,” agreed David Axelrod, CNN political commentator and former Obama adviser.

    “It seems like McCarthy’s willingness to be humiliated knows no bounds,” added CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

    While Tuesday’s voting was ongoing, CNN political commentator Jonah Goldberg offered a unique take on the fiasco many had succinctly described as a “shit show.”

    “We’ve heard this phrase which defies standards and practices of an ‘s-show’ — let’s call it a ‘fecal festival,’” Goldberg said. “It is symbolic of the mess of the GOP.”

    In further embarrassment for McCarthy late Tuesday, a prominent member of the “Never Kevin Five,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), wrote a note to the Architect of the Capitol demanding to know why the House Republican leader already was occupying the speaker’s office after the defeats he suffered on Tuesday.

    House lawmakers are expected to reconvene at noon on Wednesday after adjoining Tuesday’s “fecal festival” without a speaker.

    Deposition Looms For Lachlan Murdoch In Dominion Defamation Lawsuit

    Lachlan Murdoch, the executive chairman and CEO of Fox News‘ parent company, Fox Corporation, is set to be deposed next week in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit. Dominion Voting Systems, which manufactures voting machines, claims the eldest Murdoch son and his father, Rupert Murdoch, bear responsibility for Fox News promoting pro-Trump false election fraud claims it says has caused its company harm.

    The younger Murdoch is “scheduled to face questions from Dominion’s lawyers on Monday in Los Angeles, according to multiple reports, and will be the highest-ranking official at Fox to be deposed by Dominion,” The Hill reports.

    Fox News propagandists Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson have already faced Dominion’s attorneys.

    After a federal judge in June ruled the case could move forward, Law & Crime explained, “Dominion’s lawsuit contends that Rupert and his son Lachlan Murdoch personally caused Fox News to broadcast false claims about their role in the 2020 election, even though the Murdochs knew former President Donald Trump’s election fraud narrative was false.”

    Rupert Murdoch reportedly spoke with Donald Trump just days after the 2020 presidential election to tell him he had lost.

    Judge Eric M. Davis ruled there is “a reasonable inference that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch either knew Dominion had not manipulated the election or at least recklessly disregarded the truth when they allegedly caused Fox News to propagate its claims about Dominion.”

    “Dominion has successfully brought home actual malice to the individuals at Fox Corporation who it claims to be responsible for the broadcasts,” Judge Davis added, according to Law & Crime.

    A federal judge has rejected Fox News’ First Amendment defense. The case is expected to reach a jury trial early next year.

    Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

    Watch This Hilarious Supercut Of Fox Pundits Predicting Midterm 'Red Wave'

    The 2022 midterms may be remembered as the worst humiliation that Fox News has suffered since 2012, when pundits at the right-wing cable news channel spent weeks insisting that then-President Barack Obama would be voted out of office — only for Obama to win a decisive reelection victory. GOP strategist Karl Rove, during an Election Night 2012 appearance on Fox News, was described by critics as looking like a deer caught in the headlights when then-Fox host Megyn Kelly informed him that Obama had won Ohio and been reelected — and now, Fox News is being mocked unmercifully for getting the 2022 midterms so wrong.

    A video released after the midterms shows one Fox News pundit after another predicting that 2022 would bring a massive “red wave,” but that red wave didn’t materialize. Although control of Congress was still up in the air as of Friday morning, November 11, Democrats performed much better than expected — flipping a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania and winning gubernatorial races not only in Pennsylvania, but also, in Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Maryland, and many other states.

    The video shows everyone at Fox News from Laura Ingraham to Greg Gutfeld to Maria Bartiromo to Sean Hannity stridently predicting that a major “red wave” would strike on November 8. Especially embarrassing for Fox News is a clip of Marc Thiessen saying, “It is going to be a red wave? Is it going to be red tsunami? I think it’s going to be a red hurricane” — the same Marc Thiessen who, after a lot of election results came in, acknowledged how badly the GOP had underperformed and called for serious “introspection” for his party. Thiessen even called the election results an “absolute disaster” for the GOP.

    There was also talk of a “red wave” on MSNBC and CNN before November 8, but they were much more cautious, nuanced and analytical — noting how close many of the polls were and stressing that turnout would be key. MSNBC and CNN offered a lot of detailed analysis; Fox News and Fox Business offered a lot of Republican National Committee (RNC) talking points and cheer-leading for the GOP.

    Watch the video below or at this link:

    Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

    Hannity Blasted For Airing Biden's Supportive Message To Addicted Son

    Fox News has stoked bipartisan outrage on social media for airing and mocking an emotional voicemail the president allegedly sent his son, Hunter Biden — the latest effort in the right-wing network’s failing crusade to vilify the president as a criminal mastermind by any means necessary.

    Late Monday, Fox News host Sean Hannity, in one of his most embarrassing segments yet, played a private voicemail President Biden sent Hunter, expressing nothing but concern and unconditional love for his son, who was struggling with substance abuse at the time.

    “It’s Dad. I called to tell you I love you. I love you more than the whole world, pal,” Biden said, audibly tearful. “You gotta get some help. I know you don’t know what to do. I don’t either.”

    “It’s actually sad,” Hannity indifferently said, seemingly vilifying Biden for trying to support his son through a tough time. “By the way, replace the name Biden with Trump and imagine how the mob and the media would be covering all of this. Instead, they’d rather perpetuate one hoax after another, just like they did with the dirt Steele dossier,” he added.

    Twitter users slammed the host for airing the private audio in a pathetic effort to advance a political agenda, and commended the president for supporting his son through a difficult period.

    The voicemail, obtained and first reported on by the Daily Mail, was allegedly sent by Biden to Hunter in October 2018, three years after a shocking loss rattled the family to its core.

    The Bidens have been candid about Hunter’s years-long struggle with addiction, which spiked when elder brother Beau Biden succumbed to brain cancer in 2015, a tragedy that shook the family.

    In an interview last year, Hunter told CBS’s Tracy Smith that his father had been unconditional and relentless in his support, phoning in almost every night to check on him.

    “Well, we talk at least every night, yeah,” Hunter told Smith. “Not only does he talk to me every night; he calls every one of my daughters, and he talks to each one of them every day.”

    “I’ll tell you why,” Hunter later added. “Because he, like me, knows what it's like not to be able to pick up the phone and talk to your son."

    After playing the tape, Hannity told his viewers, “Now that voicemail reportedly came at the exact same time Hunter lied on a gun application to buy a handgun,” appearing to question the president’s credibility by showing he was close to his son three days after Hunter allegedly lied on a handgun application.

    According to the Daily Mail, the gun was in Hunter’s possession for about two weeks when “a dangerous incident” took place: “His lover… Hallie Biden found it in his truck on October 23 [2018] and threw it in a trash can outside local grocery store Janssens,” the paper wrote.

    In its reporting of Fox News’ gaffe, the HuffPost noted that “there has been no evidence to suggest” that Biden, who has remained in steadfast defense of its son, knew of the gun purchase.

    “He's overcome that. He's established a new life," the President said of Hunter’s past struggle in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday. “I’m proud of him.”

    Whose Fault Is Herschel Walker's Imploding Campaign? Sean Hannity

    Who is to blame for the Republican Party’s predicament, as Herschel Walker’s U.S. Senate campaign in Georgia reels from the firestorm kicked off by a report that the vocal abortion opponent once paid for one? Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R-GA) told CNN that Donald Trump, an early Walker endorser, is responsible for his nomination. Others point fingers at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who shed his reported misgivings and supported the volatile first-time candidate, or the GOP at large. While there’s some truth to all of those analyses, they miss a key figure in the Peach State plight.

    Sean Hannity, the Republican kingmaker, Trump confidante, and Fox News host, is the one who put Walker on the political map and set the stage for his nomination — and the GOP’s current political dilemma. Walker owes his position to the patronage of a Fox prime-time host, just like the Republican Senate nominees in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Arizona.

    Walker — like Trump before him — changed his reputation from celebrity to plausible GOP candidate through frequent visits to Fox. And no one gave him a more potent platform than Hannity. Walker has made at least 24 appearances on Hannity since June 2020. Nine of those interviews came before Walker launched his run on August 25, 2021; 10 occurred between that date and the May 24, 2022, primary election; and five have come during the general election campaign.

    But Hannity has done more than simply put Walker in front of his audience. In early 2021, he repeatedly urged Walker to run for office as a Republican, pledging his support to the former NFL star. “The GOP hype man and sometime Trump adviser seems to be trying to will Walker’s potential candidacy into existence,” I noted that April.

    “I'm kind of hoping you might consider running for high office in Georgia. Would you consider that?” Hannity asked Walker during a February 10, 2021, interview, just weeks after Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) was sworn into office.

    That interview marked the first mention of a Walker campaign in the Nexis database, and it launched the Fox host’s monthslong effort to bring him into the Senate race.

    With Walker on the air on February 24, 2021, Hannity asked a Fox contributor, “Do we want him to run for governor or for senator?”

    “Will you help me draft Herschel Walker to run for Senate down in Georgia?” Hannity asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on March 1, 2021.

    “How do you like this?” Hannity asked Graham on March 9, 2021. “Because I know you said it last week — Herschel Walker for Senate from Georgia. How do you like that? I like the ring of that. What do you think?”

    Graham replied, “I think it's a touchdown.”

    That was enough for Trump. The former president, an avid Fox viewer, issued a statement the next day urging Walker to enter the race, generating a wave of speculation that he might do so. With Trump’s support and Hannity’s endorsement, both valuable commodities in a GOP primary, Walker joined the race that August and waltzed to the Republican nomination.

    Republican operatives warned that the party’s chance of winning the Senate seat was jeopardized by Walker’s inexperience and instability — as The Associated Press reported in July 2021, he allegedly “repeatedly threatened his ex-wife’s life, exaggerated claims of financial success and alarmed business associates with unpredictable behavior.”

    This week vindicated their fears. The Daily Beast reported on Monday that Walker, who supports a nationwide abortion ban, had in 2009 urged a girlfriend he impregnated to get one and then reimbursed her for it. That night, Walker’s right-wing influencer son Christian accused his father of threatening to kill him and his mother, as well as forcing them to “move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence.” After Walker denied the Beast’s report, the outlet reported Wednesday that the woman who had the abortion he paid for is also the mother of one of his children. This triggered a new set of bizarre denials from the candidate. Then on Friday, the New York Times reported that the woman said Walker “urged her to terminate a second pregnancy two years later” and that the pair “ended their relationship after she refused,” resulting in the birth of their son.

    But none of this seemed to phase Hannity, who spent the week in clean-up mode. The candidate’s first interview, hours after the first Daily Beast report broke, did feature “some surprisingly tough questions” from the host. But by the next night, Hannity was downplaying the story as a “family drama” that was unimportant compared to the “very serious allegations against” Warnock and the Democrat’s “extreme” views. And on Thursday, he zeroed in on the “pretty depraved far-left opponent radical Raphael Warnock” while describing Walker as “pretty open about his personal struggles.”

    Hannity’s effort to pull his chosen candidate over the finish line may succeed in a difficult political environment for Democrats. But when television bomb-throwers maintain this much influence over a major political party and its voters, the party is going to make some bad decisions.

    Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.