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Hannity And Trump


Last week, news outlets were still waiting breathlessly for the release of that GOP memo alleging misconduct by the FBI in the Russia investigation. Fox News, however, got it first. Here's Sean Hannity later that day.


SEAN HANNITY: Welcome to "Hannity." And breaking right now - the highly classified FISA abuse memo has now been released, and it is absolutely shocking. It is stunning. This now is the biggest abuse of power corruption case in American history.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: For weeks leading up to the release, Hannity described the memo as a bombshell and tweeted the hashtag #releasethememo. He may have had a hand in the White House decision to declassify it, however. We're joined now by Lachlan Markay, a reporter at The Daily Beast who's been following the Fox star's influence on President Trump. Good morning.

LACHLAN MARKAY: Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You say sources told you that Hannity was telling the president in regular phone calls that Devin Nunes' memo should be released.

MARKAY: That's right. He was sort of acting as an informal adviser. Obviously, Hannity was the chief media voice really hyping this memo - not just the necessity of releasing it but the bombshell nature of what was inside. The president speaks regularly with him, anyway. And obviously, this was something that came up. It was dominating headlines. It was dominating Hannity's broadcasts.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How often do the president and Mr. Hannity talk, as far as you know?

MARKAY: Well I'm not sure about specific schedules, but, you know, I think Mr. Hannity has been pretty up front with the fact that he speaks with the president, which was why we were a little puzzled when he came right out and flatly denied the story.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I was about to say Hannity called your reporting on his relationship with the president fake news and a lie. Hannity, though, often says he's not a journalist, per se, so what is the problem if he is informally advising the president?

MARKAY: Well I don't know that there's a problem in terms of journalistic ethics, but, certainly, Hannity has a very clear agenda that, I think in this case, is really divorced from the actual factual matters at play. The president, of course, is a very big - you know, he comes from the world of reality TV. He's a big fan of especially supportive voices that he hears on Fox News and other media outlets.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He watches a lot of TV.

MARKAY: And he tends to reach out to folks who are very praiseworthy of him. So they act as an informal adviser in that capacity. But also, their broadcasts themselves tend to influence his decision.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So yeah. Where does that loop start, according to your reporting? Is it the White House distributing talking points, per se, to Hannity? Or is it vice versa?

MARKAY: Well, that's a longstanding relationship between the two of them because Hannity has been so praiseworthy of him for so long. So, you know, I don't think that the White House was feeding him talking points in this instance, but I do think the President values his counsel as someone who he thinks is a very loyal supporter.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Millions of people watch Hannity's show, and he has been a persistent champion, as you mentioned, of the president. What kind of influence does he have on the wider narrative in America and how the public views these issues?

MARKAY: Well he's obviously, you know - as you mentioned, has a very large viewership. But, you know, this was a groundswell - seeming groundswell - of support for the hashtag #releasethememo campaign. So I think he was very successful, he and others in the media, of really hyping this up and promoting this narrative and rallying a groundswell of support behind a decision that the president was already leaning towards. And I think that really cemented his position that this should be released in full, unredacted.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's look a little bit forward. If we're going to read the tea leaves by what may happen next by looking at Hannity's show, he's called for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation to be disbanded. But he's also gone further recently. The other night he said, quote, "Nobody else will say this. All charges against Paul Manafort and General Michael Flynn need to be dropped." Is this the beginning of a narrative that will push the idea of pardons?

MARKAY: I think it is. Certainly on the merits, the memo, I don't think, supports that fruit of the poisoned tree argument. But it's definitely something that Hannity and others in conservative media...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The idea that it came from a biased source, and then, therefore, it should be discredited.

MARKAY: Correct. The memo does not make that case. But certainly, Hannity is trying to make that case, and others are trying to make that case. And we've learned through others' reporting that the president hopes that this will be a way to either rein in the investigation or sideline it altogether. So, you know, I think the president is definitely considering that. There are a lot of legal steps, legal obstacles to that course of action he would have to deal with. But to the extent that folks like Sean Hannity are informing his decision making, I think it makes it a much likelier possibility.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, all presidents have had their favorite outlets and reporters. It's natural that a Republican president would favor a conservative news organization like Fox. But is Hannity's role in this presidency unusual in your view? - just briefly.

MARKAY: Yes. I think that having media voices directly informing the president and directly advising him - it's certainly happening to a greater degree than it's ever happened, and I think it's reflective of the president's penchant for TV and for very supportive and oftentimes salacious news that really confirms his biases.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lachlan Markay is a reporter at The Daily Beast. Thanks so much for coming in.

MARKAY: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.