The night before the 2018 midterm elections, Fox News star Sean Hannity went onstage at a rally for Donald Trump in Missouri, urged the president’s supporters to vote, and accused other news networks covering the rally of being “fake news.”
Hannity’s appearance onstage surprised even longtime Fox’s critics. Fox has never been shy about its fondness for Trump, but Hannity’s appearance violated a basic principle in journalism: News networks should not be actively involved in campaigns they’re covering.
Fox News quickly released a statement saying that the company does not condone talent appearing at campaign events, and Hannity claimed the entire fiasco had been a surprise.
But the reality is that Fox News personalities have been participating in Republican political campaigns for months. As Media Matters has documented, Fox hosts including Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro have become regular fixtures at GOP campaign stops and fundraisers across the country. Hannity appeared at multiple campaign rallies in the lead-up to his appearance in Missouri, campaigning for Republicans including Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas and Ron Desantis in Florida’s gubernatorial race — both of whom went on to win their elections.
Republican candidates have noticed too, and have started using Fox’s friendliness as part of their campaign strategies. Multiple GOP candidates repackaged clips of Hannity’s softball coverage to use in campaign ads.
That kind of explicit political intervention, which Fox News executives have allowed to go on for months without consequences, means Fox isn’t just a right-wing news network anymore. It’s evolving into a massive, highly influential get-out-the-vote operation, one that’s going to play a growing role in Republican politics for years to come.