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An average 1.9 million nightly viewers this year has him safely retaining his status as cable news’ top performer at 9 p.m., and that mouthpiece has made him one of the biggest and most divisive voices in conservative media. It’s miles away 1996, when he shared the hour debating with left-leaning Alan Colmes.
On the occasion of his milestone broadcast, Hannity spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the earliest iteration of his broadcast, what he doesn’t like about journalism today and the admittedly strange affection he’s developed for two Hollywood environmental activists — neither of whom, as he’s quick to point out, are Al Gore.
The Hollywood Reporter: How far do you feel from where you started on the network?
Sean Hannity: When we started on Fox News in 1996, [Newsday critic] Verne Gay wrote that Alan Colmes looks funereal and Sean Hannity has a bad haircut and no business being on television. He’s actually a great guy, and we’ve joked about it since, but at the time I called Neil Cavuto and asked, “Does this mean I’m getting fired?”
THR: Have you ever really feared for your job?
Hannity: In all honesty, I did have a bad haircut and I had no business being on television. I was awful. I’ve said to Roger [Ailes] many times, “Why didn’t you fire me in the first six months? I was god awful.” He said nobody was really watching then. The timing for me to grow was perfect. Today, there would have been articles written about how I did that first night. It’s much more competitive.
THR: The Jodi Arias trial got a lot of play last week. Are there any stories you think are being over-covered?
Hannity: I’m not sure because I don’t watch other cable shows, but I made the editorial decision the day of the Jodi Arias verdict that we did the first half-hour on the Benghazi hearings. We did cover Cleveland and we did cover Jodi, but it was only one segment each. I think Benghazi is under-reported, and for my audience, that’s a big part of what we do.
THR: What do you think of reporting today compared to when you were getting into broadcasting?
Hannity: I think journalism in America is dead as we used to know it, and I think journalism is there to serve people, but the people in my business want to go to parties and the Washington Correspondents Dinner, and I’m proud to say I’ve never been to one of them. I have more excuses on Washington Correspondents weekend than you can shake a stick at. I never want to go.
THR: Your rapport with Daryl Hannah has gotten a lot of press. Can you explain that a bit?
Hannity: I think the environmental movement is full of nutcases, but there are two people I really admire: Ed Begley Jr, who rides around on his bicycle everywhere, and Daryl Hannah. She literally uses bio-fuels for that old Trans-Am from Kill Bill. I really admire that she’s not a phony. She won’t go on a private jet. She travels less because of her belief in global warming. I kind of admire the fact that she’s living true to her beliefs — even though when we debated, we just go back and forth. I’m like “Drill baby Drill.” By the way, I’m all for new energy. If you can get me a car that runs on water, I’m in. And I drive a hybrid, which may surprise a lot of people.
THR: Did you actually bail her out of jail when she was protesting outside the White House?
Hannity: One day we were talking and she was telling me about her recent arrest. I said, “The next time you’re arrested, I’m going to bail you out.” And sure enough, I heard she was getting arrested, and I made a call to her people and tried to bail her out. The first time it didn’t work out, but I think it worked the second. I really like her. She’s genuine, she’s sincere… I think she’s wrong, but I think she’s at least trying to live according to what she’s asking others to do. I admire consistency.
THR: Five years into your own show, do you still talk to Alan Colmes?
Hannity: Almost everyday. Our offices are literally next door to each other. Just this week he said that he’s on TV more than he’s ever been. We kind of just made the decision that it would probably be best for him to do some other programs first, but he’s been on the show. We’re good friends.
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