Critic's Notebook: Sean Hannity Throws Nothing But Softballs in Interview With Donald Trump Jr.

Donald Trump Jr_Hannity_2 - H 2017
Courtesy of FOX News

The Fox News Channel host acted like a defense attorney who's put his client on the witness stand.

Sean Hannity scored an exclusive by having Donald Trump Jr. on his show to tell his side of the growing email scandal story. But the conversation wasn’t so much an interview as one giant air kiss. Asking his leading questions in the manner of a defense attorney getting his client to make exculpatory statements, the Fox News Channel host demonstrated, as if more evidence was necessary, that journalism is not something with which he has an acquaintance.

Of course, Hannity would take that as a badge of honor. Prior to his interview, he delivered a long opening “monologue” — and the term was apt, since it had enough laugh lines to make Stephen Colbert jealous — addressed to “The Destroy Trump Media.” Hannity gloated that the members of the mainstream media, who were “working themselves into a frenzy,” were forced to watch his show this evening.

He had a point, since it’s not something that any of us would do voluntarily. He also described any members of the media, presumably excepting those who work for Fox News, as “overpaid, lazy, rigid, left-wing ideologues.” (Memo to Mr. Hannity: I personally take great umbrage at that description. Lazy and rigid, sure. But I am damn well not overpaid!)

His guest seemed to have taken a sedative prior to the interview. The normally pugnacious Trump offspring was meek and gentle, acting genuinely hurt over the injustice being perpetrated on him and his family members. It was all a big misunderstanding, he implied. The reaction by the media and Democrats was “a little ridiculous and overplayed.”

“Someone sent me an email,” he said about the communications from a music publicist offering an interview with a “Russian government attorney” promising to deliver damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Putting on his best “Who, me?” face, Trump Jr. added, “I can’t help what someone sends me.”

“Did that put off any sirens in your head?” Hannity asked about the emails suggesting the meeting.

“At the time, it wasn’t this big news story,” Trump Jr. said, referring to the accusations of Russian collusion, apparently forgetting that he was only then starting to make it happen. He took the meeting “as a courtesy” to an “acquaintance,” he explained, adding, “It was a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.” He seemed genuinely disappointed, mainly over having taken the time to meet with a Russian who failed to deliver the goods.

“In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently,” Trump Jr. pointed out. It was a startling comment, considering that Trumps are not exactly known for their retrospection.

Several times, Hannity showed montages of the “frenzied” reactions to the story from the media and Democrats, as if he wasn’t hosting an opinion show but rather When Animals Attack! When Hannity asked about the supposed double standard being applied to the president and his family, Trump Jr. seemed genuinely pained instead of his usual apoplectic. “I’d love to rant and rave about it,” he said, as if he hadn’t spent the better part of a year doing exactly that. He did offer an explanation for the hostility.

“We’re so far away from the political elite,” he said of his family, making it sound like they were the Beverly Hillbillies of Washington, D.C. and everyone else was Mr. Drysdale.

When Hannity asked him — hypothetically, mind you — what he would have done if he had thought the Russians were genuinely trying to help his father’s campaign, Trump Jr., sounding like a Boy Scout who had just completed his requirements, replied, “I would bring it to the proper authorities.” (Hey, Donald, it’s not too late!)

After little more than a half-hour including commercials, Hannity looked exhausted from all his ass-kissing. “I can’t think of any more [questions],” he informed his guest, who was no doubt tired himself from having delivered all his memorized answers while trying to look casual. But not to worry, Sean. Robert Mueller and his investigators will happily take it from here.