A number of senior level Fox employees are reportedly furious that Sean Hannity (and Jeanine Pirro) campaigned with Donald Trump last night. But will they continue to fume anonymously or actually do something about it?
As I wrote in yesterday's post, Hannity and Pirro took part in Trump’s campaign rally last night, despite claims from Hannity and Fox News that he was merely there to “cover” the rally and interview Trump. Fox’s toothless statement that it did “not condone” such behavior did not indicate any effort to curtail it.
From CNN, with my emphases added:
"People throughout the company think a new line was crossed," one senior Fox News employee told CNN Business on Tuesday.
"It disturbs me to my core," said another senior Fox News employee, who added, "I am so f---ing mad."
"We were all told that Hannity was going to interview the president, but no one that I spoke with expected what happened last night," added a third senior Fox News employee. "I'm aghast as are a number of other people."
The Fox News employees all spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
I’m glad to see there are still some with journalistic scruples at Fox News but clearly they are not the ones in charge. For a long time, there has been very little daylight between Fox News and the Trump White House. Gabriel Sherman recently wrote of the void in leadership at Fox that has effectively put Trump (and Hannity) in charge:
Now Fox is effectively an arm of the White House. Trump derives “policy” ideas from segments he likes and counts Sean Hannity as one of his closest advisers. The administration can feel like a Fox greenroom on a heavy news day. John Bolton serves as Trump’s national-security adviser; former Fox contributor Ben Carson runs HUD; former Fox & Friends newsreader Heather Nauert serves as State Department spokesperson; and former Fox president Bill Shine is deputy chief of staff for communications. (Hannity lobbied for him to get the job.) Fox military analyst General Jack Keane has been discussed inside the West Wing as a successor to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a former White House official said. One Fox personality literally got into bed with the Trumps: former The Five co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle is dating Don junior.
In July, after Hannity suggested that Rep. Maxine Waters was to blame for the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, guest writer Nancy Levine wrote that any legit journalists and anchors at Fox (and yes, there are some) who do not publicly speak out against the propaganda machine are complicit. She aptly described them as “human shields” who “deflect criticism about the network’s raison d’etre.” That makes them “paid shills,” she wrote. “They’re plants whose purpose is to create the illusion of journalistic legitimacy. They’re role players in the Fox-Trump con game.”
It’s easy to empathize with the disgruntled Foxies. We all know how hard it is to walk away from a job, especially if you’ve got kids, a mortgage and student debt. We also know that speaking out publicly is probably tantamount to the same thing.
But mouthing off anonymously to CNN is not going to change anything. In April, The Washington Post's Paul Farhi reported that unnamed “journalists at the network said they were angry and disappointed by Fox’s decision not to discipline Hannity” over his failure to disclose his involvement with Trump attorney Michael Cohen.
If anything, Hannity has become more emboldened since then. Even before last night’s stunt, Hannity campaigned with Florida Republicans Ron DeSantis and Matt Gaetz. And it’s not just Hannity. Media Matters noted today, “The list of Fox News employees who have headlined Republican events include both contributors such as Sebastian Gorka and Karl Rove; and hosts such as Lou Dobbs, Greg Gutfeld, Pete Hegseth, and Jeanine Pirro.”
There’s no guarantee speaking out will change anything, either. Anchor Shepard Smith has spoken out. Sherman reported that Smith “has taken on a bigger role in shaping Fox’s news coverage” but also that his doing so has “rankled some executives.” In any event, Smith’s voice is nowhere to be heard on Hannity, Fox’s most popular show. And so long as Hannity remains a ratings titan who’s BFFs with the head of the Republican party in the White House, Fox is unlikely to rein him in. Public pressure, either in the form of a mass protest or exodus, can be effective. And it could have the added benefit of keeping one's conscience clean, too.
So, Foxies, you have a choice: You can take a stand for your principles and, by the way, for journalism in general, or continue to grumble off the record and remain culpable.
(Hannity image via screen grab)