Fox News' Sean Hannity Declares "Journalism in America Is Dead" (Q&A)

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"Donald Trump is at his core incredibly, intuitively, extremely bright," says the anchor as he clears up misconceptions about the "counter-puncher" president. "He will never, ever, ever usually hit first."

Sean Hannity has been among President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters. He saw the “movement” fomenting early on, owing, he says, to his working-class roots, which go back to tender years as an 8-year-old paper boy and continued into adulthood when he spent a decade working as a contractor. “That’s 20 years of my life was hard, blue-collar work,” he says. “And while now I am in this group of people frankly that are all overpaid in media — let's be honest, especially for the jobs that half these people do, they don't deserve anything.”

But the point is, he continues, “they do not connect with those people.” The talk radio host and Fox News Channel personality has a big megaphone: 3 million viewers watch him each night on Fox. And he’s going to continue to employ it against Trump’s foes, especially “the agenda-driven hard left” mainstream media.

He talked to the The Hollywood Reporter about Trump's obsession with Saturday Night Live, inauguration turnout and Kellyanne Conway's influence on the new leader of the free world. 

What do you think the media gets wrong about Trump?

Pretty much everything. They don't get him. I've said it a lot: Journalism in America is dead. I think a lot of the reporting on Donald Trump has been totally, completely fabricated, dishonest.

What has Kellyanne Conway's impact on him been?

I think when she came into the campaign she said, "Things have to change or you're going to lose." She told him the truth. And they developed a great relationship. If you look at his career trajectory and his growth curve as a guy that never ran for office, it is an incredible, amazing story that should be studied for hundreds of years.

What did you think of press secretary Sean Spicer's first appearance in the briefing room the day after the inauguration?

It was awesome. They deserve every bit of that and more. They never vetted Hillary Clinton, they never vetted Obama, they had nothing but contempt for Donald Trump.

Conway told NBC's Chuck Todd that Spicer presented "alternative facts" about inauguration crowd numbers. Isn't there only one set of facts?

Technically I understand what you're saying, but I understand what she's saying completely. What she's saying is we have a different view. You're giving your take, here's ours. Like, for example, Obama will tell you the unemployment rate is 4.8 percent. And then Donald Trump will remind you that we don't count the long-term, chronically unemployed and that the real number to look at is the labor participation rate.

I actually agree with you on the unemployment numbers. But I don't agree with you on "alternative facts."

There is a different way to interpret it because you had the white covering [on the grass of the National Mall], which [produces] a very different shot than you would get from a grassy area. But that's not my focus. My focus is I want every American out of work, in poverty, on food stamps, to get not only a job, but a career.

Your colleague Chris Wallace disputed in an interview with Reince Priebus on Fox News Sunday, the argument over crowd size and what Trump said at the CIA about the feud with the intelligence community being made up by the media. 

I can't comment on that because I didn't see it. But let me just give you big-picture stuff. This is how shallow our news media is. This is their gotcha game just to make Donald Trump look bad. 

It was the Trump administration that started the crowd debate.

OK. And I am saying the media in general, the mainstream media, they are lazy and they are agenda-driven hard left.

There was discussion that this was a way of diverting attention away from the women's march.

What are you talking about? That's all the media focused on. Every time I turned on the TV there [were] people marching. First of all, Donald Trump said everybody has a right to march. If people want to waste their Saturdays getting together and marching, it will accomplish nothing to watch a washed-up pop star like Madonna flip off as many curse words in a minute as she can for CNN.

If Trump said something false, would you point it out?

Of course, I have a fidelity to truth. But if we're going to argue how many angels dance on the head of a pin, I have no interest in superfluous nonsense. You know, I usually like to wait until 3 o'clock on Mondays to get worked up. You've got me going very early.

Do you think he has any self-destructive tendencies?

The media would like to create this caricature that he's a loose cannon. "Oh my God, he's got the nuclear codes." I've known him for decades, and Donald Trump is at his core incredibly, intuitively, extremely bright and a counter-puncher. He will never, ever, ever usually hit first. When he has been wronged, he's going to let you know he thinks he's been wronged. So what? We have become a nation of total babies.

So why does he complain about trivial things like his portrayal on Saturday Night Live?

You want to know my opinion, watching this guy take all of the incoming he's taken and still fight back? That sounds like somebody who's pretty brave and courageous to me. If he's going to fight for America the way he fights for himself, I think that would make him a great president. I want somebody standing up for our country, not apologizing for it the way Obama did for eight years, which was humiliating and embarrassing. 

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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