More than most politicians, Trump abides by the Groucho Marx law of fraternization. He inherently distrusts anyone who chooses to work for him, seeking outside affirmation as often as possible from as vast and varied a group as he can muster — but Hannity is at the center. “Generally, the feeling is that Sean is the leader of the outside kitchen cabinet,” one White House official said, echoing other staffers (current and removed). I was told by one person that Hannity “fills the political void” left by Steve Bannon, a statement Bannon seemed to agree with: “Sean Hannity understands the basic issues of economic nationalism and ‘America First’ foreign policy at a deeper level than the august staff of Jonathan Chait and the fuckin’ clowns at New York Magazine,” he said. The White House official assessed the influence of White House officials and other administration personnel as exactly equal to that of Fox News.
Unlike on Fox & Friends, where Trump learns new (frequently incorrect) information, Hannity acts to transform Trump’s pervasive ambivalence into resolve by convincing him what he’s already decided he believes and what he’s decided to do is correct. After the New Year, Hannity went on air with what he said was “breaking news”: a list of Trump’s accomplishments, which scrolled by on the screen like song titles from an infomercial for Hits From the ’70s. His accomplishments included things like “drafting a plan to defeat ISIS,” signing individual executive orders, and the separate accomplishment of having “signed 55 executive orders.” The former White House official called the trouble caused by Hannity, and Fox more broadly, “a fucked-up feedback loop” that puts Trump “in a weird headspace. What ends up happening is Judge Jeanine or Hannity fill him up with a bunch of crazy shit, and everyone on staff has to go and knock down all the fucking fires they started.”
But for the most part, policy has taken a back seat on Hannity; regardless of the news of the day, the overarching narrative of the show is the political persecution of Trump, and by extension of Hannity and Hannity’s viewers, at the hands of the so-called deep state and the Democratic Party, and the corrupt mainstream media, a wholly owned subsidiary of both. Everything comes back to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, a phony, petty diversion from what should be the real focus: prosecuting Hillary Clinton. Hannity admits to advising Trump, but on the air, he’s repeatedly mocked suggestions that he functions as an unofficial chief of staff and criticized the “fake-news media” for not bothering to reach out to him for the truth (a spokesperson for Fox News declined multiple interview requests for this article on Hannity’s behalf). More than any other figure of the right-wing infosphere, Hannity has behaved as if he were an extension of the Trump communications department, his daily stream of assertions serving to prop up Trump and, in real time, define what Trumpism is supposed to be. [Continue reading…]