How ‘Loyal Dog’ Sean Hannity Went From King of Fox Information to Has-Been

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

Picture Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Each day Beast/Getty

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

For the duration of the Trump administration, Sean Hannity was on major of the entire world. With the ouster of his longtime Fox Information colleague and nemesis Monthly bill O’Reilly in April 2017 more than sexual misconduct allegations, Hannity speedily rose from second fiddle to the most-watched host in cable information. And he stayed there for a long time.

Not only was the veteran Fox News host pulling in just about 4 million viewers each and every night time even though cheerleading for Donald Trump, but he was also extensively viewed as the then-president’s shadow main of employees. When Trump was not calling into his clearly show for an “exclusive” interview, Hannity was ringing the president late at night time and serving as an casual adviser.

But to the conclusion of Trump’s expression, Tucker Carlson—who essentially replaced O’Reilly in primetime—supplanted Hannity as the top rated canine at Fox Information. Conservative cable viewers appeared significantly additional fascinated in Carlson’s brand name of having Trumpism’s far-proper nationalism, fervent anti-immigrant rhetoric, and COVID trutherism and operating with it in excess of Hannity’s significantly stale Trump boosterism (and insatiable Hillary Clinton obsession).

And the more time Hannity—now the longest-jogging cable news host in history—has traversed a submit-Trump entire world, the even more he’s tumbled down the scores mountaintop.

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“We are the envy of each individual other network in owning to compete with ourselves following beating almost everything else in cable, but no other host in the marketplace has the longevity and keeping electrical power of Sean Hannity,” wrote a community spokesperson. “FOX Information Media is beyond happy that his number a person present at 9PM is an integral section of our primetime lineup and a pivotal portion of our results for 26 decades.”

Getting already risen to a sound third location in Fox News viewership by the 2020 election, the late-afternoon panel demonstrate The Five—featuring well-liked Fox Information veterans Greg Gutfeld and Jesse Watters—eventually passed Hannity for 2nd put in August 2021, and hasn’t appeared again given that. In actuality, the society war-pushed gabfest has even overtaken Tucker Carlson Tonight as the most-watched clearly show in all of cable news. (Carlson’s present, nonetheless, regularly draws additional viewers in the coveted 25-54 promoting demographic.)

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In the aftermath of Fox News’ transient rankings slump following Trump’s election decline, the network shook up its weekday lineup and leaned more challenging into overt suitable-wing commentary. This resulted in booting 7 p.m. “straight news” anchor Martha MacCallum to mid-afternoon and replacing her hour with a nightly opinion communicate clearly show.

Eventually, following a calendar year of manning the time slot with a rotating sequence of hosts, the network rewarded Watters with the hour this past January. Recognised for his ambush interviews and penchant for courting controversy, the 1-time O’Reilly lackey’s star has immediately risen at Fox. Like Gutfeld, who also lately launched a preferred weeknight discuss display, Watters hosted a really rated weekend system for many decades.

Jesse Watters Primetime was an quick strike with the suitable-wing cable giant’s audience, right away dominating its time slot and rapidly starting to be one particular of the top five exhibits on cable.

By the spring, the early evening system passed Hannity’s primetime giving in complete audience, drawing an regular of 2.92 million viewers to Hannity’s 2.89 million in April, although Hannity did manage a slender direct more than Watters in the key demographic.

Hannity’s display was in a position to claw its way to a third-position finish for the second quarter of the yr, pulling in an ordinary of 2.73 million complete viewers to Watters’ 2.69 million, whilst beating Jesse Watters Primetime in the advertising demographic by nearly 50,000 viewers. But June and July, independently, advised a various story. Watters when yet again edged out Hannity in full viewership in June though closing the hole in the 25-54 demographic. The pursuing thirty day period, Watters expanded his direct in total viewers by more than 100,000 viewers and came in 13,000 of Hannity in the critical marketing demographic.

Of study course, even though Hannity’s ratings dominance at Fox has lengthy ended, he continues to routinely best his rivals at both equally CNN and MSNBC (especially now that Rachel Maddow is only broadcasting the moment a week). In addition, Hannity’s present has acquired general viewership when compared to this time final yr, up 7 percent in complete audience.

The sustained ascendancy of Carlson, Gutfeld, and Watters—more “own the libs” lifestyle warriors than card-carrying Trumpists—while Hannity, a member of Trump’s internal circle, proceeds to sink can not be simply chalked up to a rising notion that the community is distancing by itself from Trump’s cult of individuality.

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Even while Murdoch-owned editorial boards have assailed Trump around bombshell Jan. 6 revelations, and Fox News has not interviewed the ex-president in months, Trump’s presence nonetheless overshadows absolutely everyone else’s at Fox. In addition, even even though they are less straight included in Trumpworld, Carlson, Gutfeld and Watters carry on to operate interference on the ex-president’s behalf, typically singing his praises, or yukking it up with him at his Saudi-backed golfing event.

As a substitute, the most likely explanation comes from Hannity’s incapability to evolve with the changing ideal-wing media landscape—one that has lengthy moved into darker ideological terrain just after many years of loyally defending and touting the Republican Celebration higher than all else.

“The basic issue about Hannity is that he’s not an concepts man. He’s a cheerleader,” described Matthew Sheffield, a former correct-wing media determine turned critic. Prior to launching Flux, an independent media outlet, Sheffield was a co-founder of NewsBusters, a right-wing watchdog frequently featured on Hannity’s demonstrate and throughout Fox programming. In new yrs, Sheffield has turn into a vocal critic of conservative media, expending considerably of his electrical power now decrying how “damaging” it has been to the American community.

“[Hannity] is not a resourceful person. He just desires to have the exact company on all the time speaking about the exact same things,” he ongoing. “And for the much more angry, reactionary, Christian sorts, which is just not more than enough for them any longer. They want a lot more anger, a lot more ambitiousness. And they unquestionably don’t want to listen to what Lindsey Graham has to say.”

This analysis of Hannity’s drop from the best was echoed by Andrew Lawrence, deputy director of speedy response at liberal watchdog Media Issues for America.

“I consider that the establishment of the Republican Get together, their impact is sort of waning a minor bit,” Lawrence reported. “I imagine that they’re sort of next the guide of the ‘blood and soil’ base, which is in which Tucker attracts his influence from. And I imagine Fox Information has sort of moved to that to attempt to attraction to that ‘blood and soil’ foundation much more so than finding Republicans elected.”

Sheffield, meanwhile, mentioned that hosts like Carlson, Gutfeld, and Watters appear to have an understanding of far better than Hannity that Fox’s hardcore viewership usually thinks itself to be continuously besieged and aggrieved—that they are outnumbered, loathed, and excluded from an elite, mostly liberal well known tradition.

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“What Watters gives to them is that he tries to turn it on its head and make entertaining of the remaining. That is most of what he’s accomplishing,” Sheffield described. “It hits a greater psychological tone for them to be creating snide remarks about Democrats rather than just trotting [establishment Republican lawmakers] out once again.”

Lawrence similarly instructed that Watters et al greater suit the network’s latest business design mainly revolving close to “ginning up outrage cycles” and stoking society-war controversy. Hannity, on the other hand, only appears to attract headlines for his attachment to Trump’s time in business. “His controversies come [when] it is discovered through a congressional listening to that his texts to Trump reported x, y, or z,” Lawrence remarked.

A different doable clarification for Hannity’s drop between Fox’s viewership, Sheffield mentioned, is in his most repeated friends. Though Sen. Graham, Property Minority Chief Kevin McCarthy, and Fox Information punching bag Geraldo Rivera have been once staples of the network’s total programming, these types of attendees are now viewed with a basic suspicion from the ideological suitable.

“They despise these people today. And if you seem at these other shows, they’re not bringing these folks on,” Sheffield asserted. “He’s like a loyal pet who will just maintain coming again to the house, simply because it’s the only thing he is familiar with.”

Lawrence was significantly more concise in his overall assessment of Hannity’s decline: “His show is just terrible television at this issue.”

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