Sean Hannity in 2015. (Gage Skidmore / CC 2.0)

A major theme of the election season has been bias in the mainstream media. Bernie Sanders focused on it during his presidential campaign, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein has often accused the media of ignoring third-party candidates. But no other candidate has attacked the media as relentlessly as Donald Trump, whose vitriolic rhetoric against reporters has raised concerns about the potential for inciting violence.

When it comes to his own campaign, however, Trump is silent on the blurred line between “journalist” and “political adviser.” Sean Hannity, who hosts an hour-long, prime-time talk show on the Fox News Channel, raised eyebrows this week for comments he made about his role in the Trump campaign. Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times reports:

Mr. Hannity uses his show on the nation’s most-watched cable news network to blare Mr. Trump’s message relentlessly — giving Mr. Trump the kind of promotional television exposure even a billionaire can’t afford for long.

But Mr. Hannity is not only Mr. Trump’s biggest media booster; he also veers into the role of adviser. Several people I’ve spoken with over the last couple of weeks said Mr. Hannity had for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging. …

[H]e did not dispute that he lends his thoughts to Mr. Trump and others in his close orbit whom Mr. Hannity has known for years.

“Do I talk to my friend who I’ve known for years and speak my mind? I can’t not speak my mind,’’ he said. …

Mr. Hannity is unapologetic about his aim. “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.” After all, he says, “I never claimed to be a journalist.”

This isn’t the first time Hannity has said that his political opinions affect how he runs his show. Brendan Karet of Media Matters notes that in April, “Hannity admitted that he would interview Hillary Clinton ‘a hundred times harder than any Republican, because I believe the Republicans represent, and have a far better vision, one that I agree with, I just have less disagreement with them,’ concluding ‘I’m not a journalist, I’m a talk show host.’” Karet adds that in 2015, a Media Matters study found that Hannity “gave Trump the vast majority of interviews compared to other GOP candidates … at 35 percent with over 8 hours of total airtime.”

In fact, Hannity has toed the line between “journalist” and “talk show host” for years. In 2008, Matthew Biedlingmaier wrote the following on Media Matters:

[O]n the October 7 edition of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, Hannity defended the presence of Andy Martin—who has called a judge a “crooked, slimy Jew” and accused African-American public officials of corruption—on the October 5 edition of Hannity’s America by saying: “I’m a journalist who interviews people who I disagree with all the time, that give their opinion. Fox has all points of view.” By contrast, in an October 8 New York Daily News article highlighting Hannity’s “new multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract” with Fox News, Hannity reportedly said the opposite about his position.

Biedlingmaier explains that Hannity’s position can be traced back to 2004, when he said, on an episode of “Hannity & Colmes,” “I’m not a journalist. I am an outspoken, compassionate, thoughtful, independent-thinking conservative—a Reagan conservative, in my view. Unlike these other guys that claim to be fair.”

Rutenberg adds that Hannity’s bias doesn’t only affect his coverage of conservatives. “[H]e has lent his prime-time platform to wild, unsubstantiated accusations that Hillary Clinton is hiding severe health problems,” he writes. “That’s the ultimate result of the hyperpoliticized approach Mr. Hannity and so many others use in today’s more stridently ideological media: A fact is dismissed as false when it doesn’t fit the preferred political narrative.”

Meanwhile, Trump continues to attack the mainstream media. “It is being reported by virtually everyone, and is a fact, that the media pile on against me is the worst in American political history!” he tweeted Tuesday.

Trump has not commented on the controversy surrounding Hannity, but he did appear on Hannity’s show for a town hall meeting earlier this week.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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