Sean Hannity’s cable news career turns 25 this week.
Hannity joined Fox News at its inception in 1996, after a few years on radio (“I was god-awful,” he recalls), and a few more years before that working construction and restaurant jobs.
Over the course of two decades, Hannity has gone from being one half of Hannity & Colmes — which first aired on Oct. 7, 1996 and co-starred the late Alan Colmes as liberal foil — to radio titan and prime time cable news mainstay. And during the presidency of Donald Trump, Hannity emerged as the most-watched personality in all of cable news, a position he has held for four years running.
“This is a hard, tough business now,” Hannity told me on this week’s episode of The Interview podcast. “Is it as hard as what I used to do for a living, construction and working in restaurants? No, but it’s a different kind of hard. It is a never-ending grind.”
“I’m on the air, live, four hours a day,” he noted, referring to his 9 p.m. show on Fox News and the three hours of radio he does before that in the afternoons.
And I’m like a Marine all week. I work out, I eat at a specific time. I research at a specific time, I write at a specific time. All week long, that’s my life. I finished TV at 10 o’clock, I eat and then I go right back to reading and studying again. And that’s what I do five days a week. In other words, I’m a complete and total loser, recluse, and hermit, hiding out in my house.
Last year, Hannity notched a serious achievement, drawing the highest ratings in cable news history.
With that audience success has come considerable controversy. Most recently, Hannity was a safe space for election conspiracy theories in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
I asked Hannity whether he was concerned by Trump, who lost the 2020 election by more than seven million votes, is still claiming it was stolen, and has convinced a majority of Republicans of that lie in the process.
Hannity didn’t answer the question, but raised a series of questions about the way voting was carried out in certain states. Such complaints are not tantamount to a stolen election, I pointed out.
Despite the support that the January 6 rioters have received from Trump and some others on the right, Hannity did not defend them.
“This can’t happen in our country,” Hannity said of the attack.
Hannity also weighed in on the dip in Fox’s ratings in the aftermath of the election, when CNN surged ahead for the month of January. He said the blip in Fox’s dominance — the network is now comfortably back on top, a position it has held for the last two decades — didn’t worry him at the time. He compared it to the brief dip in ratings Fox News saw after Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 presidential election.
He claimed the ebbs and flows of the ratings race don’t bother him personally: “I don’t live and die by ratings.”
Our conversation got somewhat contentious at times. There were questions Hannity refused to answer, such as how it is that he could criticize President Joe Biden’s vaccine requirements when Fox News has its own vaccine policy.
He did speak out on the dangers of Covid, saying that “I tell everybody, please take this seriously.”
I’ve lost friends from this, this virus. I’ve seen the worst of this virus. I have friends that work in hospitals in the middle of the worst moments in New York. I’m getting calls from friends of mine that work in hospitals that say, you have no idea what’s going on here. We’ve got people literally lined up in the halls. It is a mess.
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