Question: What does it take to get a tough conservative man like Sean Hannity to back down on supporting a sexual abuser?
Answer: Hot dogs and whipped cream, probably.
Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore has not had a great week. With allegations surfacing that he sexually abused underage women and was banned from an Alabama shopping mall because he was such a creep, Moore’s reputation, and his candidacy, are in the tank. In the immediate aftermath, Alabama Republicans did their Alabama Republican thing and lashed out at the victims rather than Moore himself. (Example: Here are ten really disgusting responses.)
But even in Alabama, where it briefly seemed like electing a child molester was preferable to voting Democrat, Moore’s act wore thin. Polls show that Doug Jones has closed the gap and essentially drawn even with Moore, which, in Alabama, is like a Muslim cleric sharing the lead in a poll that asks devout Catholics to name their favorite pope. Nationally, dozens of Republican leaders have condemned Moore and called on him to step down, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and occasional conscious-haver John McCain.
But not Sean Hannity! The immediate take from Trump’s media errand boy was that Moore deserved the benefit of the doubt. He even had Moore on his radio show the day after the story broke, and referred to some of his acts as “consensual.” (This despite the fact that Moore wouldn’t even deny dating teenage girls!) He later attempted to lay the groundwork for Moore’s innocence, urging viewers not to “rush to judgment.” When Keurig pulled its sponsorship, all of Hannity’s weird right-wing troll people filmed themselves destroying coffee machines. And even when Hannity seemed to backtrack just a little, he doubled down on victim-blaming. From the NYTimes:
Later, on his television show, Mr. Hannity said that the statement “was absolutely wrong” and that he “misspoke.” He then brought up the possibility of accusers lying for money, or for political purposes.
Then, Monday afternoon, two Conagra companies—Reddi Wip and Hebrew National—made it clear that they had “removed Hannity from our advertising plans.”
Following those tweets, confusingly, it emerged that neither brand has advertised with Hannity since Oct. 1. But in the midst of this news, other advertisers implied that they were planning boycotts. Realtor.com initially said it would pull its ads, but then changed their minds. The same happened with Volvo, and as the Times reported, everything started to become incredibly muddled.
Nevertheless, the whiff of lost ad revenue in relation to sexual impropriety seems to have shaken Hannity. Maybe he remembered the saga of Bill O’Reilly, who went from the top of the cable news world to “fired” almost overnight after advertisers backed out in the aftermath of sexual assault allegations from Fox News employees. Whatever the case, Hannity backed down on Roy Moore Tuesday night, calling his defense “inconsistent” and giving him 24 hours to come up with a good explanation for his diverging stories:
Hannity claimed his change of heart stems from the fifth accuser, and who knows—maybe that’s true. But believing that Hannity is acting on principle requires ignoring…well, his entire history. It seems far more likely that he got nervous about mounting pressure from advertisers and the changing tenor of Republican reaction to Roy Moore. It would have taken a strange kind of ugly determination to stand behind Moore at this point, but Hannity didn’t have it. It proved easier, in the end, to bow down to big Hot Dog.