A couple of days ago, Vanity Fair reported this:
[Sean] Hannity has told friends that he intends to leave Fox when his contract expires in early 2021, two people who've spoken with him said. “Sean doesn't feel supported,” a staffer close to him said. “He has no relationship with [Fox Corporation CEO] Lachlan [Murdoch, Rupert's son]. Sean thinks, Wait a second, I was hired to get ratings and I get ratings, but now people are embarrassed about me? He feels Fox spends a lot of time supporting Shepard Smith but his show makes no money. That's annoying to him.”
My guess is that Fox will eventually make peace with its biggest star. But if not, where would Hannity go? The obvious choices would be Sinclair or One America News, but neither one seems wealthy and free-spending enough to give him the kind of money he's making at Fox ($36 million a year, according to Forbes).
Maybe he'd take less money for an increase in prestige, but it would have to be a really amazing opportunity.
So will he go to work for Donald Trump?
Hannity's contract runs out in early 2021. That's when Trump will either leave office or start his second term. Will Hannity become a senior adviser? The chief if staff? Trump's press secretary?
If Trump loses in 2020, he might not just spend all his time afterward watching TV and playing golf. He'll want relevance. He'll want vengeance. He might do what some people think he was planning to do after the 2016 election, which he expected to lose. In June of that year, Vanity Fair reported:
Trump is ... considering creating his own media business, built on the audience that has supported him thus far in his bid to become the next president of the United States. According to several people briefed on the discussions, the presumptive Republican nominee is examining the opportunity presented by the “audience” currently supporting him. He has also discussed the possibility of launching a “mini-media conglomerate” outside of his existing TV-production business, Trump Productions LLC.... Trump’s rationale, according to this person, is that, “win or lose, we are onto something here. We’ve triggered a base of the population that hasn’t had a voice in a long time.”
Trump, this person close to the matter suggests, has become irked by his ability to create revenue for other media organizations without being able to take a cut himself. Such a situation “brings him to the conclusion that he has the business acumen and the ratings for his own network.” Trump has “gotten the bug,” according to this person. “So now he wants to figure out if he can monetize it.”
Could he scrape together enough of other people's money to hire Hannity, and maybe Bill O'Reilly? According to The New York Times Magazine, Trump believes that O'Reilly does better Trump interviews than Hannity does.
Trump was also spending a lot of time on the phone with Hannity, who regularly called the president after his show. Trump had often found him to be too much of a supplicant for his purposes: He preferred his more combative interviews with Bill O’Reilly, which he felt better showcased his pugnaciousness, according to a former White House official. But Trump appreciated Hannity’s loyalty.
Trump would undoubtedly want to be a star on his own channel (if it didn't require too much work). The 2016 Vanity Fair story suggested that he might enlist the aid of Jared (who onced owned The New York Observer) and Ivanka for the proposed media operation.
If this happens, it might be a good thing. Trump is a failure at nearly every business venture he undertakes. It could be very good for America if he poaches Hannity and some other current and former Fox talent, then fails in this new venture.
Will it happen? We'll see.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog