Fox News star Sean Hannity let everyone know on Thursday that he isn’t mad and is laughing, actually, about how New York Times columnist Ben Smith retweeted something about him from UK gossip newsletter Popbitch.
Oh, and Hannity absolutely does not “give a shit” what other people think of him, or that Tucker Carlson apparently mocks him behind his back.
To simplify: Hannity is feuding with a website called Popbitch. So how exactly did we arrive at this very moment?
On Sunday, Smith published a fairly explosive piece revealing how Carlson—who portrays himself as the sworn enemy of the political and media elite—actually spends much of his time gossiping about Fox News and Donald Trump with Beltway reporters, with whom he has relationships despite publicly calling them “animals.”
As Smith reported, Carlson’s reputation as a frequent and reliable source serves as “a kind of insurance policy” that protects him from the marginalization other provocative right-wing pundits have suffered over the years.
“It’s so unknown in the general public how much he plays both sides,” one reporter told Smith. Another reporter acknowledged that they naturally “go soft” on Carlson because he’s a known resource for stories.
In the wake of Smith’s juicy exposé, Carlson did not immediately address the revelations and has remained mum on the air. Instead, Hannity has seemingly—and surely without any prompting from Fox executives, of course—taken it upon himself to serve as Fox’s attack dog, devoting much of his primetime show this week to blasting the New York Times, targeting its star reporter Maggie Haberman, and personally insulting Smith.
While Hannity’s monologues and a Fox News.com op-ed going after those targets ostensibly centered on his complaints that the paper and its reporters are “Trump stalkers” who “kiss the ass” of President Joe Biden, the impetus for the sudden obsession with the Times has been less than subtle.
And by Thursday, any pretense of a facade that this wasn’t retaliation for the Carlson column was all but ditched.
In its Thursday newsletter, Popbitch included an item about Hannity doing his colleague’s dirty work and attacking the New York Times for outing Carlson as a “massive gossip” on stories about Fox and Trump.
“Keen to protect his colleague’s honour, Sean Hannity rushed to attack the piece on air, trashing the NYT in time-honoured Fox News fashion,” the site said. “But Hannity might not have been quite so quick to jump to his defence if he knew how Tucker spoke about him in those off-the-record gossip sessions.”
Popbitch went on to claim that the “brothers-in-arms” spirit “appears to only flow one way,” adding that one of Carlson favorite topics “to chuckle about with his MSM mates is how much of a cringing Trump sycophant Sean is.”
Smith, meanwhile, would go on to retweet a couple of media reporters—including The Daily Beast’s own Maxwell Tani—who posted about the Popbitch item, something Hannity noticed right away.
“Benny (Mr Believer in the dirty Russian disinformation dossier) I absolutely love that the prestigious NYT is now tweeting out @Popbitch!!” an extremely not mad Hannity tweeted on Thursday afternoon.
“I LOVE IT! & Here is a Hannity ‘secret’ I don’t give a shit what anyone says about me. I do my show for my audience loudly & proudly,” Hannity added, pointedly declaring how little he actually cares about any behind-the-scenes criticism that he just shared far and wide.
Secure in the knowledge that he had clearly gotten Smith’s “attention,” the Fox News star sent another tweet asking when the Times would return its Pulitzer Prizes—a tired, slightly incoherent retort that Hannity and Trump have both trotted out for years.
While this has all the hallmarks of a classic Hannity Twitter meltdown, it still has a long ways to go before it reaches the levels of his over-the-top ragefest over Kara Swisher’s New York Times column last year that called out his record of minimizing and downplaying COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic.