According to a new, deeply sourced report in New York Magazine, Sean Hannity calls Donald Trump every night before bed to gossip, talk strategy, and help Trump “decompress.”
Hannity calls the White House switchboard, a number listed publicly, and reaches an operator. The operator refers to a list of cleared callers, a few dozen friends and family members outside the administration who may contact President Donald Trump through this official channel — among them his adult sons, Eric and Don Jr.; private-equity billionaire Stephen Schwarzman; media billionaire Rupert Murdoch; real-estate billionaire Tom Barrack; Patriots owner and also-billionaire Robert Kraft; and Hannity.
Got that? Multi-millionaire media celebrity Sean Hannity is on a list of billionaires who have a direct line to the president. He’s truly a man of the people, folks! Just doing this for all those forgotten men and women who have enjoyed disproportionate and unparalleled political power for decades!
According to the report, Hannity typically calls after he gets done with his show at 10 p.m. to chat with Trump, who’s always “done with work” by then and “relaxing” in his residence (Melania sleeps in another room).
Because Trump doesn’t have the “typical” spousal relationship with his wife, his chats with Hannity serve the same function as the usual venting a normal person would do with their spouse or significant other:
The talks may be more important for Trump than for Hannity in a therapeutic sense, even if it’s nearly impossible to accept what we’re seeing from the president reflects any kind of therapy. “He doesn’t live with his wife,” one person who knows both men said of Trump, explaining that he lacks someone “to decompress” with at the end of the day.
What do they talk about? All the hot goss, trash-talking Mueller, where other media elites currently rank in Nielsen ratings—the same stuff blue-collar workers talk about in diners throughout the Rust Belt!
On the phone, he and the president alternate between the “witch hunt!” and gabbing like old girlfriends about media gossip and whose show sucks and who’s getting killed in the ratings and who’s winning (Hannity, and therefore Trump) and sports and Kanye West, all of it sprinkled with a staccato f-ck … f-cking … f-cked … f-cker.
The story goes into plenty of detail about Hannity and Trump’s relationship, but also includes this interesting nugget on how Trump’s relationship with Fox News was significantly deepened thanks to some truly stupid decisions by his staff. Prior to starting an all-Fox media diet, Trump used to graze on the more nutritional pastures of CNN and MSNBC, which caused him significant indigestion:
With the hope of calming him down, then–chief of staff Reince Priebus and then–press secretary Sean Spicer began a subtle campaign. “It got to the point that they were just like, ‘We need to get him off these channels and onto Fox & Friends or else we’re going to be chasing down this crazy-train bullsh-t from MSNBC and CNN all day,’ ” one former White House official said.
To solve their problems—and make ours worse—Trump’s handlers sought to safely swaddle him in the alternate reality of Fox News, where he is a besieged genius, battling against the Deep State, mainstream media, and Democrats who are all out to get him:
Like all other ideas, this had the highest chance of implementation if Trump believed he’d thought of it on his own. Priebus and Spicer worked talking points about the network’s high ratings and importance to his base of supporters into conversation until, eventually, it stuck, so that the president’s television consumption is today what the current White House official called “mainly a complete dosage of Fox.” The former official added, “Trump’s someone who loves praise more than he likes hate-watching Morning Joe.”
Unfortunately, it turns out that, unlike his sycophantic toadies, facts do not care about Trump’s feelings and this “solution” to the president hearing unfiltered news reports only led to more problems:
But the current official acknowledged that it has created a different set of problems: “Sometimes on Fox, a lot of stories are embellished, and they don’t necessarily cover the big news stories of the day. When they cover the smaller stories, if that gets the president riled up, then that becomes an issue. Whenever he tweets, all of us do a mad dash or mad scramble to find out as much information about that random topic as possible. We’re used to it in a lot of ways, so it’s part of our morning routine.”
It seems that Trump’s weirdly close relationship with Hannity and other Fox News personalities has only made the problem worse, creating a toxic “f-cked-up feedback loop” that’s probably more accurately described as a desperate spiral into madness:
The former White House official called the trouble caused by Hannity, and Fox more broadly, “a f-cked-up feedback loop” that puts Trump “in a weird headspace. What ends up happening is Judge Jeanine or Hannity fill him up with a bunch of crazy sh-t, and everyone on staff has to go and knock down all the f-cking fires they started.”
This is as close as we’ve ever come to having Fox News just straight-up controlling the White House: establishing policy priorities, shaping the message, and actually strategizing with the president on what steps he should take next. None of the people involved are placing the needs and interest of the country above their own, rather they’re egging on a terrified mentally fragile senior citizen with enormous power and few restraints reining him in. It’s a recipe for disaster. The rest of us may suffer, but Hannity’s ratings never will.