Fox News Sean Hannity was one of the few who stood up for President Trump during the Helsinki debacle with Putin.
Hannity’s loyalty to President Trump has definitely paid off. Hannity ranks number one in cable news and earns approximately 36 million a year.
Republican lawmakers denounced him. Newt Gingrich demanded a do-over. And the hosts of “Fox & Friends,“ President Donald Trump’s favorite morning television show, gave him a verbal slap on the wrist for his performance in a press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The mass desertion by some of the president’s stalwart allies made his remaining defenders – Sean Hannity and a handful of right-wing media personalities – all the more conspicuous in the wake of Trump’s Helsinki appearance by virtue of being virtually alone.
Leading them all was Hannity, who has shadowed Trump across the globe for high-stakes international summits to provide him with a friendly interview platform moments after their conclusion. He was in Singapore last month to interview the president after his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and he was in Helsinki on Monday to shield him from bipartisan attacks that he had disgraced the U.S. by refusing stand up to Putin.
“You were very strong at the end of that press conference,” Hannity told Trump, as he conducted the first interview following the afternoon press conference. Moments earlier, the president had told reporters he accepted Putin’s denials about meddling in the 2016 election even though his Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, said otherwise.
Though some right-wing radio hosts offered their own defenses of the president, the Hannity-Trump interview stood out as a singular safe space for the president on cable news, underscoring the significance of Hannity’s platform for the maintenance of the Trump brand. The relationship is mutually beneficial: Monday night’s interview drew in approximately four million viewers, squashing the cable news competition and, in turn, providing the president with a megaphone that broadcasts directly to his political base.
Friends of Hannity say he is no longer driven primarily by money — Forbes estimated that he makes $36 million annually — but by his belief, shared with associates, that the country is at a tipping point. He and the president have forged a friendship that some have likened to a wacky version of the relationship between the late New York Times reporter Scotty Reston and President John F. Kennedy, who pressed Reston publicly to make the case for the policies he wanted to enact.