In fact, I'll go further: to watch on FOX News
Note the pushback from Wall Street Journal and former Bush officials, however. There is some sign of hope.
During major inflection points in Donald J. Trump’s campaign, the advisers, family members and friends who make up his kitchen cabinet burn up their email accounts and phone lines gaming out how to get his candidacy on track (and what counsel he might go along with).
But one person in the mix brings more than just his political advice. He also happens to control an hour of prime time on the Fox News Channel.
That person is Sean Hannity.
Mr. Hannity uses his show on the nation’s most-watched cable news network to blare Mr. Trump’s message relentlessly — giving Mr. Trump the kind of promotional television exposure even a billionaire can’t afford for long.
But Mr. Hannity is not only Mr. Trump’s biggest media booster; he also veers into the role of adviser. Several people I’ve spoken with over the last couple of weeks said Mr. Hannity had for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging.
So involved is Mr. Hannity that three separate denizens of the hall of mirrors that is Trump World told me they believed Mr. Hannity was behaving as if he wanted a role in a possible Trump administration — something he denied to me as laughable and contractually prohibitive in an interview on Friday.
But he did not dispute that he lends his thoughts to Mr. Trump and others in his close orbit whom Mr. Hannity has known for years.
“Do I talk to my friend who I’ve known for years and speak my mind? I can’t not speak my mind,’’ he said.
But, Mr. Hannity said, “I don’t say anything privately that I don’t say publicly.’’ And, he acknowledged, it’s unclear how far his advice goes with Mr. Trump, given that “nobody controls him.”
Mr. Hannity is unapologetic about his aim. “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.” After all, he says, “I never claimed to be a journalist.”
That makes Mr. Hannity the ultimate product of the Fox News Channel that Roger Ailes envisioned when he founded it with Rupert Murdoch 20 years ago, as a defiant answer to what they described as an overwhelmingly liberal mainstream news media that was biased against Republicans. Mr. Hannity was there from the beginning with Mr. Ailes, who was forced out over sexual harassment allegations last month.
Mr. Hannity’s show has all the trappings of traditional television news — the anchor desk, the graphics and the patina of authority that comes with being part of a news organization that also employs serious-minded journalists like Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly.
But because Mr. Hannity is “not a journalist,” he apparently feels free to work in the full service of his candidate without having to abide by journalism’s general requirements for substantiation and prohibitions against, say, regularly sharing advice with political campaigns.
So there was Mr. Hannity last week, devoting one of his shows to a town hall-style meeting with Mr. Trump at which his (leading) questions often contained extensive Trumpian talking points — including the debunked claim that Mr. Trump opposed the Iraq invasion. (As BuzzFeed News first reported, Mr. Trump voiced support for the campaign in a 2002 discussion with the radio host Howard Stern.)
On other days, he has lent his prime-time platform to wild, unsubstantiated accusations that Hillary Clinton is hiding severe health problems. He showed a video of a supposed possible seizure that was in fact a comical gesture Mrs. Clinton was making to reporters, as one of them, The Associated Press’s Lisa Lerer, reported. He also shared a report from the conservative site The Gateway Pundit that a member of Mrs. Clinton’s security detail appeared to be carrying a diazepam syringe, “for patients who experience recurrent seizures.”
A simple call to the Secret Service spokeswoman Nicole Mainor, as I made on Friday, would have resulted in the answer that the “syringe” was actually a small flashlight.
People in Mr. Hannity’s audience of 2.5 million who are inclined to believe the health allegations, and who believe the mainstream media are covering for Mrs. Clinton, are unlikely to be impressed by the Secret Service’s explanation.
That’s the ultimate result of the hyperpoliticized approach Mr. Hannity and so many others use in today’s more stridently ideological media: A fact is dismissed as false when it doesn’t fit the preferred political narrative.
But while this informational nihilism appears to have hit a new high, the last two weeks have signaled the start of a possible reckoning within the conservative media.
First there was The Wall Street Journal’s deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens, who, after trading insults with Mr. Hannity over Mr. Trump, said on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe” that “too much of the Republican Party became an echo chamber of itself.”
Those who spend an inordinate amount of time “listening to certain cable shows” and inhaling the conspiracy theories promoted on “certain fringes of the internet,’’ he said, wind up in a debate that’s “divorced from reality.”
Then there was the conservative radio host Charlie Sykes, who lamented in an interview with the Business Insider politics editor Oliver Darcy, “We have spent 20 years demonizing the liberal mainstream media.”
That criticism was often warranted, Mr. Sykes said. (Just take a look at the decision by the former Clinton White House aide and current ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos to give some $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation, for which he apologized last year.) But, as Mr. Sykes said, “At a certain point, you wake up and you realize you have destroyed the credibility of any credible outlet out there.” Therefore any attempt to debunk a falsehood by Mr. Trump, he said, becomes hopeless.
What really caught my eye, though, was the moment on Fox News on Wednesday when Dana Perino, a host of “The Five,” refused to go along with a colleague’s attempt to dispute the many polls showing Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. Trump. “That’s a real disservice to his supporters, to lie to them that those polls don’t matter,” said Ms. Perino, a White House press secretary for George W. Bush.
She went on to express regret for joining with other Fox News hosts who doubted the polls showing President Obama leading Mitt Romney in 2012.
You can’t help but see it as a sure sign that Mr. Ailes, who presided over all of that polling doubt four years ago, had left the building. Still, even Mr. Ailes occasionally reined in his more opinionated hosts when he worried they would tarnish the credibility of his news reporters.
It’s why, for instance, he abruptly canceled Mr. Hannity’s plans to attend a major Tea Party rally in Ohio in 2010 after it came to light that the organizers were using his appearance to raise money.
Mr. Ailes faced another Hannity-related issue shortly before his ouster, when CNN reported that the host had provided Newt Gingrich with private jet travel to Indiana, for a possible vice-presidential interview with Mr. Trump. (Mr. Hannity had been lobbying Mr. Trump to choose Mr. Gingrich.)
Mr. Ailes opted against forcing Mr. Hannity to collect the fare from Mr. Gingrich. He had a possible reason: Mr. Hannity was among those supporting Mr. Ailes amid the sexual harassment scandal, eventually even discussing a walkout in the event of Mr. Ailes’s ouster, as Breitbart reported a few days later. (After Fox News executives shared with Mr. Hannity and others the full details of the allegations, which Mr. Ailes denies, the talk of a walkout ended.)
Mr. Hannity says Mr. Gingrich is a very close friend and it’s his business what favors he does for him, though he left open the possibility that Mr. Gingrich might cut a check for the plane trip just the same. Since Mr. Ailes’s departure, Fox executives have not pushed the issue. Nor, apparently, have they warned Mr. Hannity away from giving advice to Mr. Trump and his campaign — at least not so far during a turbulent time at the network.
Then again, at this point there are questions about how much advice Mr. Ailes himself was lending to Mr. Trump when he was running the place, given that, as The Times reported on Saturday, he has already emerged as an influential Trump adviser.
Mr. Hannity told me his support for Mr. Trump makes him “more honest” than mainstream reporters who hide their biases. It turns out even “honesty” is a relative concept these days. For some people more than others.