Fox News issued a rebuke of on-air hosts Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro for appearing onstage Monday night at President Trump’s Missouri rally in support of Republican candidates.
“Fox News does not condone any talent participating in campaign events,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
The network did not reveal whether Hannity or Pirro faced disciplinary action for taking the stage at the event in Cape Girardeau the night before the midterm election, a major breach of standards for a news organization.
Hannity issued a statement claiming he did not know Trump would call him onstage. He said in a tweet Monday that he was at the rally only to interview the president for his program.
“What I said in my tweet yesterday was 100% truthful,” Hannity said in a statement. “When the POTUS invited me on stage to give a few remarks last night, I was surprised, yet honored by the president’s request. This was NOT planned.”
However, the explanation is at odds with a news release issued by the Trump campaign Sunday that promoted the appearances of Hannity and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Hannity’s status as a commentator allows him to give voluble support of Trump every night on his program. But his appearance at a campaign event made him part of the story and reinforced Fox News Channel’s image among critics as a media tool of the White House.
Fox News has attempted in the past to rein in Hannity’s political activities outside his program. He was not allowed to appear at a 2010 tea party fundraising event in Cincinnati.
Fox News management also had Hannity refrain from appearing in promotional campaign videos for Trump in 2016 after he showed up in one.
But Hannity — who also failed to reveal to his bosses that he retained former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for legal advice — has never been suspended for any of his conflicting actions.
Hannity is the most-watched personality on Fox News, with a program that draws more than 3 million viewers every night.
Fox News did not provide a comment from Pirro, who has a high-rated Saturday program called “Justice With Judge Jeanine” and is also a staunch Trump supporter.
Hannity also had to clarify his onstage statement at the Missouri rally in which he described the journalists in the hall as “fake news,” echoing a popular taunt used by Trump. Some of the reporters in the room were from his own network.
“I was not referring to my journalist colleagues at Fox News in those remarks,” Hannity’s statement said. “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.”