Despite his promises earlier in the day, Fox News host Sean Hannity joined President Donald Trump onstage at a campaign rally in Missouri on Monday, praising the president while chastising other journalists as “fake news.”
Hannity hosted his hourlong program live from Cape Girardeau during Trump’s last rally of the election cycle. Amid criticism that he was stumping for the president, Hannity had pledged that he was only in the state to do his show before the event. Those promises rang hollow, however, as Trump invited the Fox News personality onstage, praising him as one of the “incredible people” who had “done an incredible job for us.”
“Mr. President, I did an opening monologue today and I had no idea you were going to invite me up here. And the one thing that has made and defined your presidency more than anything else: promises made, promises kept,” Hannity said onstage after shaking Trump’s hand, echoing a rally motto.
Just moments earlier, Hannity pointed to the media pool at the back of the room and said: “By the way, all those people in the back are fake news.”
Trump, who repeatedly attacks the media, quickly moved to minimize the Fox host’s short speech, saying that he didn’t “mean at all to insult” the gathered journalists.
“You do have, you have some very fine people back there, and you have some that aren’t so fine,” the president said. “But we don’t want to insult.”
The appearance contradicted Hannity’s own assertion that he would only be covering the rally and that, “to be clear, I will not be onstage campaigning.”
The president called up another Fox News host and pro-Trump firebrand, Jeanine Pirro, who amplified Hannity’s comments and called the president “the tip of the spear who goes out there every day and fights for us.”
“If you like the America that he is making now, you’ve got to make sure you get out there tomorrow if you haven’t voted yet,” Pirro said. “Everyone you know ― get them out there to vote for Donald Trump and all the people who are running for the Republican Party.”
Fox News labeled its hosts’ actions an “unfortunate distraction” in an emailed statement to HuffPost on Tuesday, adding that the situation “has been addressed.” A spokesperson for the network declined to elaborate on how, exactly, the situation was “addressed.”
“FOX News does not condone any talent participating in campaign events,” the 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.”
Despite the presumed scolding, Hannity defended his actions Tuesday on Twitter, spinning his appearance with the president as somehow permissible ― and not a clear violation of journalistic ethics ― because it was unplanned.
In another tweet, Hannity sought to separate Fox News journalists from his own onstage comments about all media being “fake news”:
This story has been updated with comments from Fox News and Hannity.