What follows is a dispatch from Joe Muto, otherwise known as the Fox Mole. It was to be the third in a series of anonymous columns Muto was planning on writing for Gawker from inside Fox News. After being discovered yesterday evening, Muto was fired by Fox effective today. Soon he will write a fuller accounting of his time at Fox and why he chose to leave in the way that he did.
Sean Hannity's interviews are a source of embarrassment for many of us at the network. Even those ideologically sympathetic to him joke about the ostentatiously friendly treatment he routinely gives Republican candidates. Not that anyone at the network is in the business of grilling GOPers, of course. But Bret Baier and Chris Wallace have been known to make politicians on the right squirm in their seats every once in a while. Hell, even O'Reilly seems to know that you've got to give the interviewee a little bit of chin music, if only to give yourself cover later when someone questions your credibility.
But that lesson seems to have escaped Hannity. And despite the derision it earns him from the Lamestream Media, it's probably been mostly beneficial for his show. The reason he's able to book so many GOP luminaries is that they know that they have a safe space, a child-proofed room where they'll be able to talk at length without interruption, state falsehoods without challenge, and reach the Republican base completely unfiltered.
Hannity's welcoming cocoon even extends to fake-conservative Mitt Romney. If you listen to Sean on a regular basis, you can tell that he's suspicious of Mitt—rightfully so, because now that Romney has sewn up the nomination, he's going to attempt to pivot away from conservatives so fast and hard that Ronald Reagan's tombstone is probably going to crack in half. But Hannity can read the writing on the wall, so he invites him on the show and makes nice with him.
In the clip above—taken from the same interview I published earlier this week, in which Romney rhapsodized about his Austrian Warmbloods and Missouri Foxtrotters—Romney and Hannity talk about how important it is for politicians to use teleprompters while they attack Obama for using a teleprompter. "It does make some sense," Romney says. "It keeps you from saying something you don't mean, you get the message out."
"Yeah, of course it does," Hannity concurs. "It's smart. You don't want to make a mistake. I'll tell you, they're out to eviscerate anybody who makes a mistake."
Contrast that with just one of the innumerable (202 at least, according to Nexis), prompter potshots Hannity has taken at Obama: "I think he's got a teleprompter on each side of the bed when he goes to sleep every night. I think most Americans have figured out that you take away that teleprompter, he's in trouble. as evidenced by earlier today. Let's roll this tape."
The ongoing right-wing obsession with Obama's teleprompter remains a mystery to me. He doesn't use one any more often than any of his predecessors, or any more often than the men who want to replace him. Yet it's always "har har har he has to write down his words before he says them" and so on. Yet Hannity advises Romney to use one lest his enemies find an error to exploit.
To me, that's the most offensive thing about him. He practices the laziest form partisan journalism — if Obama does it, it must be bad. Case in point — early in Pres. Obama's term, he went to a burger place with the media in tow. The outing elicited the sort of embarrassing-in-retrospect media fawning that was typical of the early Obama presidency, but it wasn't anything out of the ordinary for a president still in his honeymoon phase.
Hannity saw something more insidious, though. Seizing on Obama's choice of Dijon mustard on his burger, Hannity sneered: "I hope you enjoyed that fancy burger Mr. President." That clip still enrages me, almost 3 years later.