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

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

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

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Through the Trump administration, Sean Hannity was on top rated of the earth. With the ouster of his longtime Fox News colleague and nemesis Bill O’Reilly in April 2017 over sexual misconduct allegations, Hannity rapidly rose from 2nd fiddle to the most-watched host in cable news. And he stayed there for decades.

Not only was the veteran Fox News host pulling in just about 4 million viewers just about every evening while cheerleading for Donald Trump, but he was also greatly viewed as the then-president’s shadow main of personnel. When Trump wasn’t calling into his demonstrate for an “exclusive” interview, Hannity was ringing the president late at night time and serving as an casual adviser.

But towards the close of Trump’s phrase, Tucker Carlson—who basically replaced O’Reilly in primetime—supplanted Hannity as the major pet dog at Fox News. Conservative cable viewers appeared significantly more fascinated in Carlson’s brand name of having Trumpism’s considerably-correct nationalism, fervent anti-immigrant rhetoric, and COVID trutherism and functioning with it more than Hannity’s progressively stale Trump boosterism (and insatiable Hillary Clinton obsession).

And the longer Hannity—now the longest-jogging cable news host in history—has traversed a write-up-Trump world, the even further he’s tumbled down the ratings mountaintop.

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“We are the envy of each individual other network in obtaining to contend with ourselves just after beating almost everything else in cable, but no other host in the field has the longevity and being electric power of Sean Hannity,” wrote a network spokesperson. “FOX Information Media is past proud that his selection a single present at 9PM is an integral portion of our primetime lineup and a pivotal portion of our accomplishment for 26 decades.”

Possessing already risen to a strong third place 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 handed Hannity for 2nd position in August 2021, and hasn’t looked back given that. In fact, the lifestyle war-driven gabfest has even overtaken Tucker Carlson Tonight as the most-viewed clearly show in all of cable news. (Carlson’s exhibit, however, routinely draws additional viewers in the coveted 25-54 promotion demographic.)

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

Finally, after a yr of manning the time slot with a rotating collection of hosts, the network rewarded Watters with the hour this earlier January. Known for his ambush interviews and penchant for courting controversy, the just one-time O’Reilly lackey’s star has speedily risen at Fox. Like Gutfeld, who also recently released a well-known weeknight converse demonstrate, Watters hosted a hugely rated weekend plan for quite a few several years.

Jesse Watters Primetime was an fast hit with the ideal-wing cable giant’s viewers, instantly dominating its time slot and quickly starting to be one of the best 5 demonstrates on cable.

By the spring, the early evening application handed Hannity’s primetime presenting in total audience, drawing an ordinary of 2.92 million viewers to Hannity’s 2.89 million in April, nevertheless Hannity did keep a slender direct in excess of Watters in the vital demographic.

Hannity’s present was able to claw its way to a 3rd-place end for the next quarter of the 12 months, pulling in an regular of 2.73 million whole viewers to Watters’ 2.69 million, whilst beating Jesse Watters Primetime in the marketing demographic by nearly 50,000 viewers. But June and July, independently, explained to a various tale. Watters when again edged out Hannity in total viewership in June when closing the gap in the 25-54 demographic. The following month, Watters expanded his direct in over-all audience by far more than 100,000 viewers and arrived within 13,000 of Hannity in the important promotion demographic.

Of system, although Hannity’s rankings dominance at Fox has prolonged finished, he continues to routinely top rated his competition at the two CNN and MSNBC (particularly now that Rachel Maddow is only broadcasting when a 7 days). Also, Hannity’s demonstrate has gained overall viewership when compared to this time last year, up seven per cent in full viewers.

The sustained ascendancy of Carlson, Gutfeld, and Watters—more “own the libs” tradition warriors than card-carrying Trumpists—while Hannity, a member of Trump’s internal circle, carries on to sink are unable to be only chalked up to a escalating perception that the community is distancing itself from Trump’s cult of personality.

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Even although Murdoch-owned editorial boards have assailed Trump around bombshell Jan. 6 revelations, and Fox Information hasn’t interviewed the ex-president in months, Trump’s presence even now overshadows everybody else’s at Fox. In addition, even even though they are less immediately concerned in Trumpworld, Carlson, Gutfeld and Watters go on to run interference on the ex-president’s behalf, generally singing his praises, or yukking it up with him at his Saudi-backed golfing event.

Rather, the most possible rationalization will come from Hannity’s incapacity to evolve with the switching appropriate-wing media landscape—one that has extensive moved into darker ideological terrain immediately after decades of loyally defending and touting the Republican Bash previously mentioned all else.

“The basic thing about Hannity is that he is not an thoughts person. He’s a cheerleader,” defined Matthew Sheffield, a former right-wing media figure turned critic. Prior to launching Flux, an unbiased media outlet, Sheffield was a co-founder of NewsBusters, a appropriate-wing watchdog on a regular basis showcased on Hannity’s display and throughout Fox programming. In latest yrs, Sheffield has become a vocal critic of conservative media, paying a lot of his electrical power now decrying how “damaging” it has been to the American general public.

“[Hannity] is not a resourceful man or woman. He just desires to have the same friends on all the time chatting about the very same things,” he continued. “And for the far more angry, reactionary, Christian varieties, that is just not plenty of for them anymore. They want extra anger, additional ambitiousness. And they certainly do not want to hear what Lindsey Graham has to say.”

This examination of Hannity’s drop from the leading was echoed by Andrew Lawrence, deputy director of quick reaction at liberal watchdog Media Matters for The us.

“I think that the institution of the Republican Celebration, their impact is form of waning a very little bit,” Lawrence explained. “I think that they’re form of adhering to the lead of the ‘blood and soil’ base, which is where Tucker draws his affect from. And I believe Fox News has variety of moved to that to check out to attraction to that ‘blood and soil’ base much more so than finding Republicans elected.”

Sheffield, in the meantime, famous that hosts like Carlson, Gutfeld, and Watters seem to recognize superior than Hannity that Fox’s hardcore viewership usually believes by itself to be regularly besieged and aggrieved—that they are outnumbered, loathed, and excluded from an elite, largely liberal preferred lifestyle.

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“What Watters gives to them is that he tries to switch it on its head and make fun of the left. That is most of what he is carrying out,” Sheffield defined. “It hits a much better psychological tone for them to be making snide remarks about Democrats fairly than just trotting [establishment Republican lawmakers] out once more.”

Lawrence likewise recommended that Watters et al much better fit the network’s recent organization model mostly revolving all-around “ginning up outrage cycles” and stoking lifestyle-war controversy. Hannity, on the other hand, only appears to draw headlines for his attachment to Trump’s time in place of work. “His controversies come [when] it’s unveiled all through a congressional listening to that his texts to Trump stated x, y, or z,” Lawrence remarked.

A further attainable explanation for Hannity’s drop among the Fox’s viewership, Sheffield reported, is in his most frequent attendees. Even though Sen. Graham, Home Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Fox News punching bag Geraldo Rivera have been the moment staples of the network’s all round programming, such visitors are now viewed with a general suspicion from the ideological suitable.

“They detest these men and women. And if you appear at these other reveals, they are not bringing these persons on,” Sheffield asserted. “He’s like a loyal doggy who will just maintain coming back to the home, because it is the only matter he understands.”

Lawrence was significantly much more concise in his in general evaluation of Hannity’s decrease: “His present is just terrible tv at this level.”

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