Fox News opinion host Sean Hannity’s relationship with former President Donald Trump soured as the one term president kept falsely claiming that the 2020 election was stolen, according to an updated book.
A newly released paperback copy of CNN anchor and media reporter Brian Stelter’s book “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth” details revelations learned since its initial release back in August 2020.
Hannity, who has openly campaigned for Trump at rallies despite his job at a news organization, was continuing to advise Trump in frequent phone calls leading up to Election Day, according to Stelter.
But when Trump began to peddle disinformation about the election and kept lying that it was stolen, the primetime host reportedly came close to a breaking point.
“The calls and counseling continued right up until Election Day-when the relationship between the two men began to break down. Hannity, according to one source, was ‘disgusted’ by some of Trump’s election denialism,” Stelter writes.
Stelter notes that he was initially “skeptical” of his source saying Hannity and Trump had a falling out because “Hannity devoted so much time to the Big Lie throughout the month of November and well into December.”
“At least [Tucker] Carlson was wise enough to focus on other Fox-friendly subjects,” Stelter writes. “Hannity kept inviting Kayleigh McEnany to hold up packets of paper and swear that the legal path to a second term was right around the corner, even though Trump’s suits were laughed out of court left and right. McEnany and other Hannity guests filled the Fox audience with false hope night after night and never, ever delivered.”
After a year spent undermining public health and safety, eroding confidence in our democracy, and mainstreaming white nationalism, it’s become even clearer that Fox News is a threat to the American public. Now, the network wants more money.
Per multiple industry publications, Fox News made apreemptivepitch to advertisers on May 11 in advance of the advertising industry “upfront” presentations scheduled to begin the following week. Major television networks, including Fox News, have traditionally used those presentations to sell the majority of their advertising space “upfront” for the year ahead.
Reports suggest that in that pitch, Fox News touted its daytime programming and streaming service and did not mention its prime-time lineup, presenting it’s day-side and online programming as a subdued and safe investment for buyers.
The move is understandable. Tucker Carlson and his fellow prime-time hosts, including Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, have made the channel a toxic swamp for advertisers, who’ve fled in droves.
Those of us who watch Fox News daily know that there is very little news reporting left on the network’s “news side.” Watch a single night of the network’s “reporting” and it becomes abundantly clear that Fox has dropped all pretenses of operating as a journalistic operation. The network has used the cover of its “opinion” side to truncate coverage of the mundane trappings of real world news events in favor of culture war narratives like “the war on beef,” the apocalyptic threat of “cancel culture,” obsessive, fear mongering about transgender individuals, or a network-wide fixation on critical race theory.
And while conjuring controversy out of thin air is a staple at the network, executives have steadily transitioned resources away from “news side” operations in favor of buttressing the antics of their opinion hosts – antics that have landed the network in multiplemultibillion-dollar defamation lawsuits and forced Fox to argue in court that its most popular anchor, Tucker Carlson, shouldn’t actually be taken seriously by viewers.
In fact, a broad and diverse coalition of more than 40 organizations sent an open letter to media buyers during the television industry’s upfront period, urging them not to buy advertisements on Fox News, warning that any ad spend on the network will fund the promotion of COVID conspiracy theories, bigotry, and lies.
In response to that letter, Fox News told The Wrap that it is “about to close out its fourth consecutive year delivering new records in advertising revenue, so clearly Media Matters’ predictable ongoing partisan attacks have zero impact outside of their irrelevant echo chamber on social media.”
The network was one of the biggest backers of former President Donald Trump’s attempts to subvert the results of the 2020 election. Following the January 6 storming of the US Capitol building, Fox became headquarters for the public relations defense of the rioters who attempted to stop the vote to certify Joe Biden’s election.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed almost 600,000 Americans, Fox News chose to provide its audience not with informative coverage, but with a flood of misinformation and conspiracy theories. The network denounced protective measures like masks and social distancing, broadcast conspiracy theories about vaccines, and consistently undermined trust in public health officials and the scientific community.
During the upfronts, Fox News scrambled to draw a veil over their record and paint a sunny picture for investors and media buyers. But the network that has built itself as a place for laundering and repackaging extremism, and has handsomely rewarded those who do it well. Now it faces a reckoning with advertisers and cable companies, whose cash and contracts Fox needs.
Head of Fox Corp Lachlan Murdoch has made clear that there is no line he won’t let his hosts cross. Tucker Carlson has long been a major hub of white nationalist talking points, but on April 8, Carlson made one of his most explicit endorsements of the worldview to date: an outright embrace of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory. It is abundantly clear that Fox News will not only tolerate Carlson’s full-throated amplification of white nationalist ideology, but will actively enable and support it. Simply put: Public condemnation alone will achieve nothing. The way to force accountability at Fox is to put its finances on the line.
While the prospect may seem daunting, the 2021 advertising bookings represent a unique opportunity for an exercise in consumer power. Fox is banking on its viewers’ ignorance of advertising sales practices and cable subscriber fees to keep its head above water. But the reality is that Fox collects a lot of its advertising money upfront and every American household with a basic cable package gives the network roughly $20 a year regardless of whether they actually watch the channel.
Fox News understands what should be clear to everyone: that advertising dollars and cable subscriber fees are what fund the disordered stew the network attempts to pass off as news. Fox recognized that upfronts are critical and that they are no longer a guaranteed bet for investors – that’s why the network is attempting to hide its most controversial talent in the back room until the contracts are signed. It’s why Fox has made a conspicuous pivot to streaming, where it’s given its most caustic anchor two new shows that are insulated from the scrutiny of accessible public viewing.
Despite these tactics, advertisers and cable companies can no longer feign ignorance regarding the destructive nature of Fox News’ programming. It is no longer simply a matter of financial interest but a clear-cut ethical boundary.
The more pressure placed on the networks’ backers to stop funding Fox News, by contacting them directly or joining initiatives like #UnFoxMyCableBox, the less leverage the network has going into renegotiations. A mutiny by cable consumers, coupled with a drought of advertiser interest, could push Fox toward a financial position vulnerable enough to force a change.
As Fox competes for advertising dollars, it is also in the process of renegotiating between 40% to 50% of its cable contracts. Media Matters President Angelo Carusone explained to On The Media’s Bob Garfield that Fox News “could have zero commercials, and still have a 90% profit margin, because they are the second-most expensive channel on everybody’s cable box.”
Carusone went on to explain that if Fox is “able to successfully complete these renegotiations over the next year, and get more money out of it, there’s nothing they can do or say that will get them any meaningful consequences and force them to change.” If Fox can make it through this year’s upfronts and renegotiations unscathed, it could mean years of financial impunity.
It’s time to defund Fox News. The network has forfeit any right to claim to special treatment by advertisers and cable providers. By continuing to support the network’s outsized cash grab under consumers’ noses, advertising agencies and cable companies are safeguarding the slush fund that enables Fox to dodge any form of accountability, no matter the detrimental effect it has on the American public.
Fox News personality Sean Hannity helped write a TV advertisement for former President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, according to a forthcoming book by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender.
Bender shared this news about Hannity in a short excerpt of his book, titled “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost,” published Tuesday morning in Punchbowl News.
The TV spot, which Bender reported cost $1.5 million to make, portrayed President Joe Biden as a monster-like “47-year swamp creature.”
Bender wrote that “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,” with Trump campaign officials referring to the TV ad as “Hannity” or the “Hannity-written spot.”
The Trump campaign ultimately “deemed it so useless that they limited it to exactly one show: Hannity,” Bender wrote, adding that “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 former president, who started sending press releases via email to get around his social media bans, also claimed his new way of communicating was “better.”
“I’m really getting a big word out because we’re doing releases,” Trump said, according to Newsweek. “And every time I do a release it’s all over the place. It’s better than Twitter, much more elegant than Twitter. And Twitter now is very boring, a lot of people are leaving Twitter.”
Longtime Trump adviser Jason Miller revealed last month that the former president is also planning on launching his own social media platform.
However, experts previously told Insider they doubt the project will ever get off the ground.
“Donald Trump says a lot of things. Before he was elected, he said he would rarely leave the White House and that he wouldn’t have time to play golf and that he’d give up Twitter if elected,” Peter Loge, an associate professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, told Insider.
Is Fox News actually a “news” organization? Given the rampant punditry on the platform, that question has been hotly debated among media watchers for a long time. But we finally have our answer.
Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch recently stated that the conservative network would act as “the loyal opposition” to the Biden Administration. The younger Murdoch’s statement confirmed what many have known all along: that Fox News only dabbles in news, and is primarily a political organization.
With this acknowledgement, it’s time that Fox News is legally treated like a political organization and no longer as a news outlet.
The most important aspect for reclassifying Fox News comes in the business model. By designating Fox as a political entity, cable providers would then stop paying Fox News to air its content. Like every other cable outlet, Fox News is paid a fee from TV providers (such as Fios, Xfinity, DirectTV, etc.) for each subscriber called a carriage fee. It’s estimated that an average household pays roughly $2 per month, totaling approximately $1.8 billion a year in carriage fees to the network. Each cable provider is responsible for negotiating its fees with each network and those negotiations and contracts are confidential.
If Fox News were rightly considered a political operation, the fees they collect would be considered political contributions, contributions you’d make if you have even a basic cable package. It’s okay for a media organizations to have opinion programs, but by its own CEO’s words, Fox News is no longer interested in being a media outlet, but the loyal political opposition to the current administration.
The purpose of any media organization is to investigate and hold people, business, and the government responsible and accountable for their actions and decisions. Fox News is no longer interested in providing unbiased reporting based on the facts since it sees itself as a loyal political opponent of the Biden Administration. We can not long trust their “reporting” as a source for news because of this decree from Murdoch.
When a political entity wants to get its message out on TV with political advertisements, they have to pay to have that message air. Fox News must be held to the same financial standard of any political candidate, party, or third party political organization and pay for its content to be on air.
For example, shows hosted by Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson and even shows such as Fox and Friends and Outnumbered are political infomercials. These shows, like the rest of the Fox News line up, should not be supported by carriage fees, but pay to be on the air.
For years Fox News has been covert in its political activism. The network has knowingly misled Americans by promoting lies and conspiracy theories for the political gain of the far right.
Lies, such as baseless reporting in May 2017 that it was Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer, who leaked thousands of Democratic party emails to Wikileaks at a pivotal point during the 2016 presidential campaign. Ultimately the US intelligence community concluded that the leaked DNC emails were part of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The network ultimately settled with the parents of Rich, but Sean Hannity continued to embrace the conspiracy, spreading it to his millions of viewers.
Another notable lie spread by Fox News for political gain came in 2020 when the network and its on air personalities continued to spread misinformation about voter fraud. Conspiracy theories about the voting machine systems created by the Smartmatic company were broadcast to millions of people. Smartmatic even went as far as to file a $2.7 Billion lawsuit against Fox News in damages.
On March 26, Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News as well, citing $1.6 billion in damages. In their lawsuit, Dominion claims that the network “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process.”
Fox News does have some respected journalists, like Bret Baier, Bill Hemmer, Chris Wallace, Neil Cavuto, and Shannon Bream; however, their journalistic reputations are now even more clouded since the corporation has declared its network as the opposition to the Biden Administration. Now that the entire “news” network is the loyal opposition, these journalists and their programs need to follow political advertisement disclaimer rules.
According to these rules, Fox News must air a “clear and conspicuous” disclaimer on all of their programming. This disclaimer must state that what is being broadcast is for political purposes and that it is paid for by the Fox News political entity.
Finally, as a political entity, Fox News should rely on donors to pay for its programming instead of paid TV subscribers via carriage fees. Furthermore, they should no longer be allowed to charge companies for advertisements. Fox News then must follow the appropriate reporting rules and regulations from the Federal Elections Commission with respect to who their donors are, so the American people will know who is paying to support the political activism of their network.
Fox News declared in 2017 that it was no longer “Fair and Balanced” and in 2021 they stated that their goal is to be the loyal opposition of President Biden. It’s clear that they have no desire to even pretend to be a serious news network. It’s time for America to cut the cord on Fox News and let it attempt to flourish as a stand alone political entity.
Matt Walton was the 2015 Republican nominee for the Virginia House of Delegates (74th District). In 2016, Walton was on the Virginia leadership team for the John Kasich Presidential Campaign. Recently, Walton worked with the Lincoln Project and was on the Virginia Leadership Team and the National (Collective Rapid-Engagement Wing) Team.