On the October 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity interviewed former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) and his wife, Judith, but Hannity never disclosed during the 21-minute interview that he has reportedly helped raise money for Giuliani's presidential campaign. On August 19, the New York Daily News reported that Hannity "introduced the Republican front-runner at a closed-door, $250-per-head fund-raiser Aug. 9 in Cincinnati, campaign officials acknowledge." Bill Shine, Fox's senior vice president of programming, was quoted in the article saying, "Sean is not a journalist -- Sean is a conservative commentator."
From the August 19 Daily News article:
It's no secret that Sean Hannity, the conservative Fox News commentator, has helped to raise Rudy Giuliani's profile -- but now he's helped the former mayor raise money, too.
In a little noticed event this month, Hannity -- co-host of Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" and host of a popular WABC radio show -- introduced the Republican front-runner at a closed-door, $250-per-head fund-raiser Aug. 9 in Cincinnati, campaign officials acknowledge.
In so doing, some believe that Hannity -- while clearly a commentator paid to express his opinions -- crossed the line from punditry into financial rainmaking for a presidential candidate whose bottom line is now better for it.
"Fox's in-kind contribution to Republican politicians in the form of softball coverage is one thing," said Steve Rendall, senior analyst at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a left-leaning media watchdog group. "But this is the first time they have crossed this line into fund-raising."
More independent observers said Hannity's appearance underscored the blurring lines between news and advocacy and could be interpreted as a kind of endorsement.
"It signals within that brand of conservatism that they ought to vote for the guy," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communications.
Hannity declined to comment, but his bosses at Fox News Channel and WABC, flagship station for his national radio show, defended their marquee star by arguing that he's not a journalist and shouldn't be judged as one.
"Sean is not a journalist -- Sean is a conservative commentator," said Bill Shine, Fox's senior vice president of programming. "Sean doesn't hide, and never has hidden, his beliefs from anyone."
Hannity's leanings for Giuliani have been well-documented. The Hotline, a political journal, has noted that through July 15, Giuliani had enjoyed 115 minutes of free face time on Fox -- more than half of that on "Hannity & Colmes." His airtime on Fox was 25% higher than any other Republican candidate, data show.
The Aug. 9 fund-raiser where Hannity worked the crowd for Giuliani, held at Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse in downtown Cincinnati, was closed to the press. No known recording of his comments exist.
But some who were there -- including Hannity's boss at WABC, Phil Boyce -- said Hannity was typically effusive.
"He talked about Rudy's leadership after 9/11, about how Rudy had turned the city around and taken people off the welfare rolls," said Boyce "There wasn't anything he said that I haven't heard him say on the radio."