Fox News doesn't condone Hannity speaking at Trump rally
Network personality billed as 'special guest,' but says campaign appearance unplanned
Fox News said Tuesday that it has addressed the "unfortunate distraction" of network personalities Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro speaking at U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Missouri the night before, and that it doesn't condone such behaviour.
The network did not say what, if any, discipline that the two network personalities would face.
Meanwhile, Hannity tweeted that he was being "100 per cent truthful" earlier on Monday when he tweeted that "I will not be on stage campaigning with the president."
"When the POTUS invited me on stage to give a few remarks last night, I was surprised, yet honoured by the president's request," Hannity tweeted. "This was NOT planned."
Hannity, who told the audience at Trump's rally that "all these people in the back are fake news," also tweeted Tuesday that he was not referring to any of his Fox News colleagues. Fox reporter Kristin Fisher, who tweeted a copy of Fox's statement on Tuesday, was covering the rally.
What I said in my tweet yesterday was 100% truthful. When the POTUS invited me on stage to give a few remarks last night, I was surprised, yet honored by the president’s request. This was NOT planned.—@seanhannity
To be clear, I was not referring to my journalist colleagues at FOX News in those remarks. They do amazing work day in and day out in a fair and balanced way and It is an honor to work with such great professionals.—@seanhannity
The network had tried earlier on Monday to establish distance between Hannity and Trump's campaign, which had billed Hannity as a "special guest" at the rally.
Hannity himself had tweeted: "To be clear, I will not be on stage campaigning with the president. I am covering final rally for the show."
But during the rally Trump called Hannity to the stage after saying, "they're very special, they've done an incredible job for us. They've been with us from the beginning."
It's considered standard for employees of news organizations not to engage in political campaign activities so their outlets do not appear unfair, with some journalists going so far as to not vote at all for this reason.
Hannity, one of the most popular U.S. cable news personalities and a vocal Trump defender, has twice been rebuked by Fox for campaign activity. Hannity was made to cancel a 2010 appearance in Cincinnati when it was revealed it was to be a fundraiser for the Tea Party, and when he was featured in a 2016 Trump campaign video Fox told him was told never to do it again.
Since then, Fox opinion personalities have doubled down on their support of Trump, and Hannity's popularity has soared, making for an uncomfortable relationship with the organization's news side.
Journalist or advocate?
Critics have claimed that Fox News Channel is less of a news organization than an arm of the Trump campaign, and Monday's rally gave them fresh ammunition.
In the past, Hannity has said that he's a talk show host, not a journalist. But in an interview with the New York Times a year ago, he said he was a journalist, more specifically an advocacy or opinion journalist.
Monday's rally appearance was not shown on Fox News Channel, but was aired on C-SPAN. It came after Hannity's prime-time show aired from the rally site, during which he pleaded with viewers to vote Republican on Tuesday to support Trump, and his opening monologue echoed a campaign slogan seen on signs at the arena: "Promises made, promises kept."
Hannity's appearance meant either Fox lied Monday about its collaboration with the Trump campaign, or that it has no control over Hannity, said Angelo Carusone, president of the liberal think-tank Media Matters for America, which has unsuccessfully called for an advertiser boycott of Hannity's show in the past.
[I] still can't get over Hannity denying he would be on stage the whole day, getting brought up by Trump, and then pointing to actual news reporters and calling them fake.- Maggie Haberman , the New York Times
"Fox's admitted lack of control is only reinforced by the absence of sanction here," Carusone said. "Anyone doing business with Fox News should worry about the network's inability to enforce even the most bare minimum standards."
It's not clear, however, whether Hannity was sanctioned or not. Fox has not addressed the question publicly.
Journalists at other news organizations didn't hesitate to make their feelings known on social media following the rally.
"The White House-Fox News nexus has rarely been as evident as tonight in Cape Girardeau," Philip Rucker, the Washington Post's White House bureau chief, said on Twitter.
The White House-Fox News nexus has rarely been as evident as tonight in Cape Girardeau:<br>-Hannity pre-game interview<br>-Trump praises Ingraham in interview<br>-Shine high-fives Hannity<br>-Trump calls Hannity on stage<br>-Trump calls Judge Jeanine on stage<br>-Trump praises McDaniel’s Fox hits—@PhilipRucker
White House reporter Maggie Haberman of The New York Times tweeted: "[I] still can't get over Hannity denying he would be on stage the whole day, getting brought up by Trump, and then pointing to actual news reporters and calling them fake."
Alisyn Camerota, a former Fox News anchor who now hosts a morning show on CNN, said executives at Fox "know vaguely" that they're not supposed to have one of their hosts endorse a candidate or party, but that Hannity can't help himself.
"They're having a schizophrenic moment over there trying to figure out what their role is going to be with the Trump presidency," Camerota said on CNN.