Under fire for his treatment of women, Donald Trump curiously dumped his biggest media cheerleader in favor of a campaign insider-led strategy of mudslinging that’s left Fox News’ Sean Hannity humiliated even as he pitched a desperate Hail Mary on behalf of the GOP nominee.
For months, the right-wing commentator happily hosted Trump after every controversial outburst and embarrassing report. Hannity even appeared in an ad on behalf of the businessman-turned-White House aspirant. And with 80 million Americans watching, the Republican presidential nominee gave a bizarre series of shout-outs to his favorite media figure during the first presidential debate. “Nobody calls Sean Hannity,” he complained when pressed about his support for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
But after leaked audio of Trump boasting of his routine sexual harassment surfaced and multiple women came forward to allege the real-estate mogul assaulted them, Trump hosted a press event on his own Thursday, leaving Hannity without a star guest.
Trump praised Hannity as “a great, great person” as recently as Monday when he defended Trump by questioning the stories of women who have publicly alleged he sexually assaulted them. But on Thursday morning, Trump suddenly canceled on Hannity, hours before he was scheduled to appear on Hannity's Fox News show with three of former president Bill Clinton’s accusers. Although Trump had hosted the same women on a Facebook Live video ahead of the second presidential debate, he wouldn’t do it again on Hannity’s platform.
So, Thursday night Hannity sat alone across from the women as they recounted their stories.
Juanita Broaddrick, who alleged Clinton raped and bit her in a Little Rock hotel room, told Hannity she wanted to share her story for "those that weren’t born when I came forward after Bill Clinton raped me, and those that were too young to understand when it came through" how difficult it would have been to report an assault in the 1970s.
Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign had devised a plan to fan surrogates across the other news shows to discredit his accusers while the candidate attempted to deflect focus to Clinton’s accusers. CEO Steve Bannon and top adviser Roger Stone had been fixated on Clinton’s for decades and were finally free to rehash the Clinton’s dirt. New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported how the two took the reins in the midst of a disaster:
After the Access Hollywood tape leaked on Friday afternoon, Trump and his team finally came around to the strategy. Trump had Stone’s attack lines ready. “Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed, and intimidated his victims,” Trump said in a video apology that night. “We will discuss this more in the coming days.”
Hannity’s Thursday event was to be the expose that Trump promised, but instead Bannon and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushnar one-upped Hannity with a pre-debate stunt that included a failed gambit to get Clinton’s accusers in Trump’s family seating section during the second debate.
So, despite being deemed the “Trump whisperer,” Hannity was only left with a hardly newsworthy hour-long special that peddled the false myth that Clinton’s accusers have been ignored by the mainstream media.
“Has the mainstream media been receptive about asking you about your stories?” Hannity asked Paula Jones, Katheleen Wiley and Broadrick. While they all replied no, however, multiple reporters on Twitter noted that Broaddrick was extensively profiled and interviewed by BuzzFeed in August. The Daily Beast reported that Willey ignored multiple interview requests in the last year.
Still, like a good soldier Hannity marched on. On his radio show the next day, Hannity suggested that the alleged sexual assault of Jessica Leeds, who told The New York Times that Trump groped her on an airplane in the 1980s, may have been “welcome.”