The exhausting and vicious week-long war of words between Sean Hannity and Jimmy Kimmel almost came to an end Monday night — until the Fox News star threatened the late-night host. Hannity's vow to "punch back" with unflattering footage of Kimmel if the feud was reignited suggested that, when they go low, Fox News goes lower.
“That’s it for us tonight, Jimmy Kimmel is in for Sean,” Fox News peer Tucker Carlson joked as he passed the baton to Hannity just before 9 p.m. ET. But Hannity waited until the final minutes of his hour-long cable show to discuss the squabble.
The Fox host’s comments came after the comedian's attempt to call a ceasefire over the weekend by sharing a statement on Twitter in which he admitted his own shortcomings.
“While I admit I did have fun with our back and forth, after some thought, I realize that the level of vitriol from all sides (mine and me included) does nothing good for anyone and, in fact, is harmful to our country,” Kimmel wrote. “Even in 2018, the vile attacks against my wife and wishes for death on my infant son are shocking, and I encourage those who made them to give their words and actions thought. I, too, will give my words more thought and recognize my role in inciting their hatefulness.”
Kimmel also addressed the backlash he received for resorting to homophobic jokes at Hannity’s expense.
“By lampooning Sean Hannity’s deference to the president, I most certainly did not intend to belittle or upset members of the gay community, and to those who took offense, I apologize,” the comedian said.
As for the jabs that apparently upset Hannity – and caused the feud to erupt in the first place – Kimmel said: “I will take Sean Hannity at his word that he was genuinely offended by what I believed and still believe to be a harmless and silly aside referencing our first lady’s accent. Mrs. Trump almost certainly has enough to worry about without being used as a prop to increase TV ratings."
But, perhaps expected, Hannity was not willing to move on quite so quickly.
With a graphic that read “Kimmel Backs Down” beside him, he addressed the night show host's statement by suggesting that ABC's owner had forced his hand, arguing that Kimmel's apology sounded like “more of a forced Disney corporate apology directed more towards the LGBTQ community rather than about Kimmel’s comments about the first lady.”
Hannity then said that he accepted Kimmel’s apology, but as much as he “really does enjoy a good fight,” he also agreed with his archnemesis that it was “time to move on.”
From there, Hannity shifted his focus to say that his outrage was about more than Kimmel by attempting, without much evidence, to expand his argument to include the “corrupt media-industrial complex” that is “wholly an extension of the Democratic Party.”
Hannity then noted that neither the first lady or her son are political figures, so critiques of them cross a red line. (It’s worth noting that the conservative news outlet Daily Caller first began the backlash by publishing a story attacking the president’s youngest son with the headline: “It’s High Time Barron Starts Dressing Like He’s In the White House.”)
Hannity then accused the media of focusing on "vicious attacks" on Trump's family instead of talking about issues including labor participation and the poverty rate.
But at no point did Hannity take responsibility for repeatedly labeling Kimmel as “Harvey Weinstein Jr.” on Twitter throughout the past week.
Hannity ended his tirade by inviting Kimmel to come on his Fox News show for a civil debate on the issues he cares about, one of which is health care. “I promise no name calling, no anger, no rehashing of the Twitter fight,” he proclaimed.
But, one moment later, Hannity had issued a threat.
“Jimmy, if you do want to start up again, I promise I will punch back even harder,” he said. “And my producer spent all weekend compiling a lot of your highlights – or lowlights – in your career. They don’t make you look too good. Instead of airing them, we will put them in storage, and we have more important pressing issues like what’s happening in Syria and gassing of women and children."
The feud was sparked early last week when Kimmel poked fun at Melania Trump's accent – specifically when she read from a children's book at the White House Easter Egg Roll on April 2 – which upset Hannity.
In response, Hannity bashed Kimmel as a "despicable disgrace" and an "a**clown." Kimmel's hit at the first lady also became a popular topic of discussion on other shows at Fox News, including "Fox & Friends."
"If he had done this to Michelle Obama . . . All the mainstream media would have him on there if he were conservative, saying he's a racist," Ainsley Earhardt said.