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Sean Hannity’s Trump Post-Summit Interview Proves He’s the Mainstream Media Now (Column)

One of the oddest aspects of the Trump presidency has been his own rareness in familiar quarters—for instance, being interviewed on television far less often as his predecessors had been—even as his utterances have seemed to become the wallpaper of daily life. On Tuesday night, a particular sort of silence was broken, as Trump appeared on Fox News’s “Hannity” to discuss his recent summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. But the interview seemed to provide little new. Indeed, it proved quite how much Fox News has pitched towards Trump’s table-shaking brand of politics—and how little Trump really needs to speak out, so long as “Hannity” is on the air.

Indeed, the interview was effectively a formality in a broadcast front-loaded with Hannity’s perspective, in which the phrase “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” was repeated aloud multiple times before being flashed onscreen. Hannity also put forward an extended metaphor comparing Trump’s handling of North Korea to Reagan’s handling of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. “It’s time to get on board!,” Hannity exhorted his audience, noting that the media’s distaste for Trump “now clearly borders on psychosis.” To prove this case, he played a series of clips of members of the media commenting on the Stormy Daniels affair in March 2018, the month her story was first breaking.

What made the interview portion of the Hannity broadcast so interesting was how much less interesting it was than Hannity’s own full-throated defense of the president. The president was visibly worn, commenting that he’d been awake and working for 25 hours, and seemed blandly happy with the summit’s conclusion in a way that didn’t earn any follow-ups. Specifics seemed to slip away: Would Kim visit the U.S.? “He wants to get something done, I want to get something done.” What would come next? “I just think that we are now going to start the process of denuclearization of North Korea […] It’s a process, and it’s really moving rapidly.” Certainly little can be known about ongoing diplomatic discussions, but Trump’s response to a final question about what North Korea wants—musing about how attractive North Korean real estate is—offered little. If this is to be a great story of diplomacy, it has not been conclusively written.

But that did little to dissuade Hannity, who managed to incorporate into his opening remarks both a description of former president Obama as “feeble, weak, pathetic, feckless” in his foreign policy and criticism of Obama’s seeming overeagerness to make peace with Iran—and the media’s willingness to play along. This latter point was pushed along through the reairing of clips of members of the media reacting exuberantly to the news of a preliminary deal with that nation in 2015.

Why this deal is good while that deal is bad remained unexplored through the broadcast. But give Hannity credit where due. He didn’t allow character to slip throughout, even as his opening case about Trump as a stalwart force bringing the American case to North Korea ran up against a president who seemed cheerily ready to wrap the story up now. The head of state who’s urged us all to keep watching to see what happens next in the story seemed, for the first time, eager to end the season before the narrative had wrapped. Hannity was left to shoulder the rest of the story himself.

That he rapped the “mainstream media” on the knuckles for criticizing Trump, in the past for unrelated issues as well as today, was proof of Hannity’s own commitment to character, the fact that he’s less ideologically mutable than Trump. (Trump, after all, can change his mind about North Korea; Hannity has made his mind up that Trump is the North Star.) After all, who’s more mainstream than the outlet that got one of the first interviews of the president coming out of a global summit—and who else can crystallize the agenda even when the president’s own words fall far short of inspiration?

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