Sean Hannity On 1,000 Episodes, Public Scrutiny And The Power Of TV

By Alex Weprin 

Tonight at 9 PM on Fox News, Sean Hannity will celebrate a milestone. It will be the 1000th episode of “Hannity,” which replaced “Hannity and Colmes” in early 2009. In an interview with TVNewser, the Fox News host seemed incredulous at the thought of the number.

“Who would have thunk it? I should have lasted probably three shows before they fired me,” Hannity joked, adding that he credits Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes with helping him become a cable news star. “I gotta give credit where credit is due and that is with Roger, seeing me personally through the early transition days from radio to TV. In this environment, I don’t think you can make the transition without scrutiny from day one.”

Hannity did face some scrutiny when he first started, including a scathing review from Newsday TV critic Verne Gay. Still, it pales in comparison to what newcomers to the scene face now.

“Ratings wasn’t the end-all at the beginning, it was putting on good programming.” Hannity says. “Now if you are on two days, people are saying, ‘well the show’s a hit,’ or ‘the show’s a failure.’ You really need time to build an audience, to bond with an audience. You have to understand the news cycle aspect to ratings, and a lot of people don’t seem to understand that.”

Time has been on Hannity’s side. “Hannity” consistently wins its timeslot. (Though MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow gave it a run in the demo earlier this year). And as the ratings for Fox News have grown, its impact on society has too. But Hannity downplays his influence on the national conversation.

“I don’t really think of the impact I have on things,” Hannity says. “I take my job seriously, but I really don’t take myself seriously, and everyone that knows me really well knows that.

“I think one of the things that we have been able to do successfully is fill a niche, a void,” he added. “If you think about it I am the only conservative news host in the country. Somebody who says ‘I am a proud conservative.’”

Hannity has also made no secret on changing his position when he thinks change is needed. He recently made headlines when he “evolved” his position on immigration, opening the door to potentially supporting some sort of amnesty program… once the border is secure.

“One of the things that I try to do is to just try to be true to my views and my values, and the things that matter the most to me,” Hannity says. “I guess it is pretty much part of what you do. If you are giving opinions, you have to expect some blowback.”

Hannity is also acutely aware of the media environment in which we live.

“I said this back in 2008, but I think the media, I think that journalism is dead, and I really believe it,” he says. “I think that is why you see the popularity of Fox, and talk radio, and the blogs and Drudge. I think people are very astute, and in tune with it, and are going out of their way to find other sources of media.”

Hannity himself is a self-confessed media and news junkie.

“I am addicted to news, night and day, even when I sleep I check my BlackBerry and my iPad and see what’s going on,” Hannity quips. “I think that makes me a loser, [laughs] you can quote me on that.”

While his eponymous show certainly deals with newsy topics, “Hannity” also provides a chance to flex his muscles, and have some fun.

“I just love that I get to—although not Obama or Biden—interview Presidents and Vice Presidents and Secretaries of State and defense and the political side of it,” Hannity says. “I love weeding out corruption when I see it. I do stories about eminent domain. And I might end the show with Larry the Cable Guy.”