Imagine Roger Ailes, Donald Trump, Sean Hannity and newly-hired Trump campaign chief executive Stephen Bannon joining forces not to run the White House, but cable news, or perhaps a digital news operation.
The arrival of Breitbart News co-founder Bannon in the Trump campaign puts him in the mix with an intriguing group of media power players, where former Fox News chair Roger Ailes is described as a friend-who-shares-advice to the candidate and Sean Hannity is seen as one of the candidate’s most reliable media defenders.
Ben Shapiro, who left Breitbart in the aftermath of the then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields‘ clash with then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, writes:
If Trump wins, (Bannon is) in a position of high power; if Trump loses, Bannon could head up a new media empire with Trump’s support and the involvement of new Trump supporter and ousted former Fox News head Roger Ailes. Look for Sean Hannity to be a part of any such endeavor.
Earlier this summer, some suggested Trump was interested in creating his own cable news network. Trump, insiders said at the time, believed he had created a grassroots movement that would flock to a media outlet designed to serve them.
CNN’s Brian Stelter suggested the same possible end game for Trump, saying Wednesday morning that “Trump has a great team in place for a new television network or digital media startup” after Election Day.
Hannity meanwhile, who called Stelter a “pipsqueak” on Fox and Friends Tuesday morning, continued his clash with Stelter Tuesday night, after Stelter posted a story accusing him of spreading misleading stories about the health of Hillary Clinton. “Hannity, under the guise of ‘asking questions,’ aired repeated segments about the subject of Clinton’s health on his Fox News program,” Stelter wrote.
Hannity responded calling Stelter a “Zucker stenographer,” and pushing Stelter to defend a segment that aired Sunday on CNN’s Reliable Sources:
Mr journalist "Media Critic" why didn't U challenge him? Zucker stenographer– was Zucker sleeping? https://t.co/iEVM0uunrj
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) August 17, 2016
Not everyone is convinced the gathering of political and media power around Donald Trump translates into a potential media force–at least, not one designed to serve Trump. “An owned-and-operated media has been a politician’s dream since the internet made it technically possible,” writes BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith, describing Bannon’s arrival as a Breitbart-Trump “merger”:
Every American politician has this fantasy. And it can work as long as it works — when you’re popular, riding high, in control of your own narrative. That is not Donald Trump, who has lost control of the campaign story and can only win by appealing to people who aren’t Breitbart readers.
But as campaigns become more fully media creations, and as media activism rises around the world as a central political force, this merger may wind up being his central legacy.