Fox News has spoken out against Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro, both with their own shows on the network, for speaking at President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Missouri on Monday night.
In a statement, the network referred to the conservative personalities' campaign appearance as an “unfortunate distraction” and said it does not condone that type of behaviour.
“Fox News does not condone any talent participating in campaign events,” the network’s statement read. “We have an extraordinary team of journalists helming our coverage tonight and we are extremely proud of their work. This was an unfortunate distraction and has been addressed.”
On Monday, Mr Hannity tweeted that he declined the president’s request to go campaigning with him. When the television host was featured as a “special guest” in the Trump campaign’s advertisement of the rally, the “fair and balanced” network said Mr Hannity was only there to cover the event.
But later that evening, Hannity was seen on stage campaigning for Mr Trump. The following day, the conservative personality claims he was “100% truthful” in his earlier tweet about not campaigning with Mr Trump. He then attempted to justify his campaign appearance on Twitter, citing that he had not planned to go on stage the previous night.
“What I said in my tweet yesterday was 100% truthful,” Mr Hannity tweeted. “When the POTUS invited me on stage to give a few remarks last night, I was surprised, yet honoured by the president’s request. This was NOT planned.”
At the rally, Mr Hannity told the crowd that all of the reporters, in attendance, covering the rallying as “fake news.” On Twitter, Mr Hannity clarified that he meant to exclude his Fox News colleagues from that condemnation.
“To be clear, I was not referring to my journalist colleagues at FOX News in those remarks,” Mr Hannity added on Twitter. “They do amazing work day in and day out in a fair and balanced way and It is an honor to work with such great professionals.”
This is not the first time Mr Hannity has been in hot water for his political campaign activity. In 2010, Fox News cancelled the conservative host’s appearance at a Tea Party rally in Cincinnati after network executives learned it was a fundraising event for the political organisation. Then in 2016, the network reprimanded Mr Hannity for appearing in a campaign video for Mr Trump. Mr Hannity told the network that he would not do that again.
It is looked down upon for journalists to actively participate in election campaigns to ensure their news organisations appear to be fair and just in their political coverage. In the past, some journalists have lost their jobs over making political campaign appearances and donations. Most notably, Keith Olbermann. In 2010, Mr Olbermann—who hosted MSNBC’s “The Countdown with Keith Olbermann”—was suspended indefinitely without pay for donating to the three Democratic congressional campaigns. Mr Olbermann donated the maximum amount for legal donations ($2,400), but per NBC policy, journalists are prohibited from making political contributions without the approval of the network’s president.
Fox News, however, has not disclosed whether or not Mr Hannity or Ms Pirro will be reprimanded for their political campaign appearance.
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