On the eve of the midterm elections, Fox News host Sean Hannity promised he would not go onstage to campaign with President Donald Trump at a rally. Later that evening, he appeared to do exactly that.
Both Hannity and Trump were in Cape Girardeau, Mo., where incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is locked in a close race with Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley. Trump was there to amp up the crowd for Hawley ahead of the vote.
Earlier that day, Hannity said he would broadcast his nightly show from the rally venue, but pledged not to participate in the campaign event.
"In spite of reports, I will be doing a live show from Cape Girardeau and interviewing President Trump before the rally," the Fox News host tweeted. "To be clear, I will not be on stage campaigning with the president. I am covering final rally for my show. Something I have done in every election in the past."
In spite of reports, I will be doing a live show from Cape Girardeau and interviewing President Trump before the rally. To be clear, I will not be on stage campaigning with the President. I am covering final rally for my show. Something I have done in every election in the past.— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) November 5, 2018
Yet minutes into Trump’s remarks, the president praised Hannity and called him onstage.
"I have a few people, and they’re right out here, and they’re very special, they’ve done an incredible job for us," Trump told the crowd. "They’ve been with us from the beginning also. I’m going to start by saying, Sean Hannity, come on up."
Hannity took the stage and embraced Trump. Then the Fox News host approached the podium and wagged his finger at the media, which included reporters with Fox News.
"By the way, all those people in the back are fake news," he said to applause, invoking one of Trump’s favorite epithets.
Hannity told the crowd he was unaware Trump would call him onstage. He then delivered an inventory of Trump’s accomplishments, took a veiled swipe at former President Barack Obama, then left the stage.
"The one thing that has made and defined your presidency more than anything else," Hannity said, "promises made, promises kept."
To any reasonable observer, it looked like Hannity was onstage campaigning with the president — in direct contradiction to his statement hours earlier.
Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.
Hannity and Trump have had each other's ears since the 2016 election, when Hannity openly supported Trump’s presidential bid, provided political counseling to the candidate, and even appeared in a pro-Trump ad ahead of the vote.
"I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States." Hannity told the New York Times in August 2016, adding, "I never claimed to be a journalist." (In a subsequent interview with Times, Hannity described himself as an "advocacy journalist.")
Fox News draws a distinction between its opinion and news sides of the house. But the relationship between Fox News opinion programming and the Trump White House has raised ethical questions about whether the channel is reporting the news or promoting the president’s agenda.
Hannity, whose evening show attracts more than 3 million viewers, is the network’s most popular opinionator, and his program is typically the most-watched cable news talk show.
The day after the rally, Fox News issued the following statement: "Fox News does not condone any talent participating in campaign events. We have an extraordinary team of journalists helming our coverage tonight and we are extremely proud of their work. This was an unfortunate distraction and has been addressed."
The network also pointed to a tweet from Sean Hannity about the incident, that said he was surprised to be called onstage and that his earlier tweet was truthful.
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.— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) November 6, 2018
In any case, Hannity did in fact appear onstage to campaign with Trump at a rally, directly contradicting himself.
Hannity promised he would not go onstage to campaign with Trump at a rally. Hours later, he did exactly that.
We rate this a Full Flop.
Update: This story was updated soon after its initial publication to include a statement from Fox News and a tweet from Sean Hannity.