Sun. Aug 14th, 2022

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

During the Trump administration, Sean Hannity was on prime of the world. 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 second fiddle to the most-watched host in cable information. And he stayed there for years.

Not solely was the veteran Fox News host pulling in almost 4 million viewers each evening whereas cheerleading for Donald Trump, however he was additionally broadly thought of the then-president’s shadow chief of employees. When Trump wasn’t calling into his present for an “unique” interview, Hannity was ringing the president late at evening and serving as a casual adviser.

But towards the tip of Trump’s time period, Tucker Carlson—who basically changed O’Reilly in primetime—supplanted Hannity as the highest canine at Fox News. Conservative cable viewers appeared way more fascinated about Carlson’s model of taking Trumpism’s far-right nationalism, fervent anti-immigrant rhetoric, and COVID trutherism and operating with it over Hannity’s more and more stale Trump boosterism (and insatiable Hillary Clinton obsession).

And the longer Hannity—now the longest-running cable information host in historical past—has traversed a post-Trump world, the additional he’s tumbled down the rankings mountaintop.

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“We are the envy of each different community in having to compete with ourselves after beating every part else in cable, however no different host within the business has the longevity and endurance of Sean Hannity,” wrote a community spokesperson. “FOX News Media is past proud that his primary present at 9PM is an integral a part of our primetime lineup and a pivotal a part of our success for 26 years.”

Having already risen to a strong third place in Fox News viewership by the 2020 election, the late-afternoon panel present The Five—that includes in style Fox News veterans Greg Gutfeld and Jesse Watters—finally handed Hannity for second place in August 2021, and hasn’t regarded again since. In reality, the tradition war-driven gabfest has even overtaken Tucker Carlson Tonight because the most-watched present in all of cable information. (Carlson’s present, nonetheless, often attracts extra viewers within the coveted 25-54 promoting demographic.)

In the aftermath of Fox News’ temporary rankings droop following Trump’s election loss, the community shook up its weekday lineup and leaned more durable into overt right-wing commentary. This resulted in booting 7 p.m. “straight information” anchor Martha MacCallum to mid-afternoon and changing her hour with a nightly opinion speak present.

Eventually, after a 12 months of filling the time slot with a rotating collection of hosts, the community rewarded Watters with the hour this previous January. Known for his ambush interviews and penchant for courting controversy, the one-time O’Reilly lackey’s star has rapidly risen at Fox. Like Gutfeld, who additionally just lately launched a preferred weeknight speak present, Watters hosted a extremely rated weekend program for a number of years.

Jesse Watters Primetime was a right away hit with the right-wing cable large’s viewers, immediately dominating its time slot and rapidly changing into one of many prime 5 exhibits on cable.

By the spring, the early night program handed Hannity’s primetime providing in complete viewers, drawing a median of two.92 million viewers to Hannity’s 2.89 million in April, although Hannity did keep a slim lead over Watters in the important thing demographic.

Hannity’s present was in a position to claw its method to a third-place end for the second quarter of the 12 months, pulling in a median of two.73 million complete viewers to Watters’ 2.69 million, whereas beating Jesse Watters Primetime within the promoting demographic by almost 50,000 viewers. But June and July, individually, informed a unique story. Watters as soon as once more edged out Hannity in complete viewership in June whereas closing the hole within the 25-54 demographic. The following month, Watters expanded his lead in total viewers by greater than 100,000 viewers and got here inside 13,000 of Hannity in the important thing promoting demographic.

Of course, whereas Hannity’s rankings dominance at Fox has lengthy ended, he continues to routinely prime his opponents at each CNN and MSNBC (particularly now that Rachel Maddow is just broadcasting as soon as per week). Additionally, Hannity’s present has gained total viewership in comparison with this time final 12 months, up seven % in complete viewers.

The sustained ascendancy of Carlson, Gutfeld, and Watters—extra “personal the libs” tradition warriors than card-carrying Trumpists—whereas Hannity, a member of Trump’s interior circle, continues to sink can’t be merely chalked as much as a rising notion that the community is distancing itself from Trump’s cult of character.

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Even whereas Murdoch-owned editorial boards have assailed Trump over bombshell Jan. 6 revelations, and Fox News hasn’t interviewed the ex-president in months, Trump’s presence nonetheless overshadows everybody else’s at Fox. Furthermore, although they’re much less instantly concerned in Trumpworld, Carlson, Gutfeld and Watters proceed to run interference on the ex-president’s behalf, usually singing his praises, or yukking it up with him at his Saudi-backed golf event.

Instead, the most probably rationalization comes from Hannity’s incapacity to evolve with the altering right-wing media panorama—one which has lengthy moved into darker ideological terrain after a long time of loyally defending and touting the Republican Party above all else.

“The elementary factor about Hannity is that he’s not an concepts man. He’s a cheerleader,” defined Matthew Sheffield, a former right-wing media determine turned critic. Prior to launching Flux, an impartial media outlet, Sheffield was a co-founder of NewsBusters, a right-wing watchdog often featured on Hannity’s present and throughout Fox programming. In current years, Sheffield has grow to be a vocal critic of conservative media, spending a lot of his power now decrying how “damaging” it has been to the American public.

“[Hannity] isn’t a inventive particular person. He simply needs to have the identical friends on on a regular basis speaking about the identical issues,” he continued. “And for the extra offended, reactionary, Christian varieties, that’s simply not sufficient for them anymore. They need extra anger, extra ambitiousness. And they actually don’t need to hear what Lindsey Graham has to say.”

This evaluation of Hannity’s fall from the highest was echoed by Andrew Lawrence, deputy director of speedy response at liberal watchdog Media Matters for America.

“I believe that the institution of the Republican Party, their affect is sort of waning a little bit bit,” Lawrence stated. “I believe that they are form of following the lead of the ‘blood and soil’ base, which is the place Tucker attracts his affect from. And I believe Fox News has sort of moved to that to attempt to attraction to that ‘blood and soil’ base extra so than getting Republicans elected.”

Sheffield, in the meantime, famous that hosts like Carlson, Gutfeld, and Watters appear to grasp higher than Hannity that Fox’s hardcore viewership typically believes itself to be continuously besieged and aggrieved—that they’re outnumbered, loathed, and excluded from an elite, largely liberal in style tradition.

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“What Watters offers to them is that he tries to show it on its head and make enjoyable of the left. That’s most of what he’s doing,” Sheffield defined. “It hits a greater emotional tone for them to be making snide remarks about Democrats reasonably than simply trotting [establishment Republican lawmakers] out once more.”

Lawrence equally instructed that Watters et al higher match the community’s present enterprise mannequin largely revolving round “ginning up outrage cycles” and stoking culture-war controversy. Hannity, however, solely appears to attract headlines for his attachment to Trump’s time in workplace. “His controversies come [when] it’s revealed throughout a congressional listening to that his texts to Trump stated x, y, or z,” Lawrence remarked.

Another potential rationalization for Hannity’s decline amongst Fox’s viewership, Sheffield stated, is in his most frequent friends. While Sen. Graham, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Fox News punching bag Geraldo Rivera had been as soon as staples of the community’s total programming, such friends at the moment are seen with a common suspicion from the ideological proper.

“They hate these individuals. And if you happen to have a look at these different exhibits, they’re not bringing these individuals on,” Sheffield asserted. “He’s like a loyal canine who will simply preserve coming again to the home, as a result of it’s the one factor he is aware of.”

Lawrence was way more concise in his total evaluation of Hannity’s decline: “His present is simply unhealthy tv at this level.”

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