Did Sean Hannity Really Get Orders From The White House On The 2020 Election Day?

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

It's no secret Fox News anchor Sean Hannity and former president Donald Trump are close. 

Hannity, who The New York Times notes has been called "the shadow chief of staff," goes beyond pushing talking points when it comes to showing his support for Trump. The two are inexplicably linked, with Hannity being one of the people White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany thanked for helping try to keep Trump under control in the days leading up to January 6, 2021.

But the bond between the two powerful men hasn't always been easy to navigate. In 2016, Hannity was reprimanded by Fox News for "endorsing Trump in a campaign video," as reported by Mike Bender, a senior White House reporter for The Wall Street Journal. In 2018, the news anchor was cautioned by the network once again after joining then-president Trump on stage during a campaign rally.

2020 brought its own challenges, and Hannity was allegedly a part of the crew that designed a campaign ad for Trump specifically targeting Joe Biden. As reported by The Guardian, Hannity reportedly created an ad where Biden was referred to as a "swamp creature." The ad was only seen, The Guardian reports, on Fox News during Hannity's nightly show and made claims that Biden wanted to raise taxes by "trillions" and had "turned his back on law enforcement." Following the election, Hannity perpetuated the message that the election was a fraud, per New York Magazine.

With all of that said, it doesn't come as a huge surprise to learn that new evidence — released by the January 6 committee — shows providing advice wasn't the only way Hannity helped Trump's 2020 presidential campaign.

Here's what Mark Meadows asked Sean Hannity to do on the 2020 Election Day

In their investigation into the events on January 6, 2021, the January 6 committee learned of former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows' connection with Sean Hannity. Meadows, who was Trump's chief of staff from 2020 to 2021, has provided the committee with over 9,000 pages of evidence — including text messages — for their investigation but was charged with contempt when he failed to appear for a deposition, per NPR. The text messages revealed he engaged with Hannity not only on January 6, but back on Election Day 2020 as well. 

On his Fox News radio show on Election Day, Hannity urged people to go out and vote, telling them — despite the narrative that Fox News had been pushing — that every vote counted and every vote mattered. Hannity told listeners that it was "[v]ery important that the people in North Carolina, that you get out, get in line, wait, vote and do your part. And the same, therefore, goes for Iowa. The same goes for Arizona. The same goes for Nevada."

While it's unclear when Meadows texted Hannity, the January 6 committee's findings show Meadows had told Hannity to "[s]tress every vote matters" and to tell people to "[g]et out and vote," per CNN. In response to Meadows' request, CNN reports Hannity replied: "Yes sir. On it. Any place in particular we need a push." Meadows responded: "Pennsylvania. NC, AZ, Nevada."

Claims made by Fox News about the 2020 election landed them in legal trouble

While the information about Sean Hannity taking direct orders about messaging from Mark Meadows might be new information, this isn't the first time Fox News' 2020 election coverage has been the subject of legal scrutiny. 

Smartmatic, one of the companies that makes voting machines, filed a deflation lawsuit against the news network for claims anchors like Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro, and Lou Dobbs were making about their machines, Vanity Fair reports. In Judge David Cohen's 61-page ruling about the case, he said, "At a minimum, Fox News turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims about [Smartmatic], unprecedented in the history of American elections, so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth."

But pushing the idea of rigged voting machines wasn't the only false claim the network was amplifying. During a segment of Fox News' "Fox and Friends," former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spent six minutes warning viewers about "massive voter fraud in Philadelphia" and said how he didn't believe it was fair that every ballot was counted.

It's segments like Gingrich's that give Fox News a reputation of being biased. Media Matters reported in 2019 that the network made false claims "every day for four months straight." Furthermore, a reporter for The Guardian – who watched the network every day for 44 months — said when he watched Fox News, it was clear he was watching political propaganda and the network was helping to bring problematic ideas into the mainstream. 

Sean Hannity told viewers the 2020 election was a fraud

Even in the aftermath of January 6, 2021, Mark Meadows' text revealed that Donald Trump was still struggling with accepting the 2020 election results. On January 10, 2021, Hannity texted Meadows and Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) that Trump "can't mention the election again. Ever." He also added that he "did not have a good call with him [that day]. And worse, I'm not sure what is left to do or say, and I don't like knowing if it's truly understood," Hannity continued (via Rolling Stone). Even former attorney general Bill Barr spoke out against Trump and his election fraud claims

It's questionable, however, what Hannity believed the results of the election actually were. January 6 committee evidence shows that White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany had been discussing a "five point plan" with Hannity about how to get Trump to accept the election results as official, while the news anchor let Representative Matt Gaetz say Trump had won the election without correcting him and, instead, saying that state legislatures needed to work on restricting voter access. 

Meanwhile, New York Magazine reports that in the days after the election, Hannity kept pushing the idea that "Democrats were trying to rig an election" and said that "nobody can testify to the legitimacy of the [vote] count in Pennsylvania." Pennsylvania is notably one of the states Mark Meadows had texted Hannity about, asking for help rallying voters.

Study shows Fox News' election coverage made it hard to trust results

While encouraging Donald Trump — in private — to stop talking about the election, Sean Hannity went so far as to suggest on the air that the Pennsylvania Republican-controlled state legislature should invalidate the results and re-do the election. How can Hannity expect Trump to believe the election was legitimate when Hannity sat at his news desk every night saying it wasn't? That's a question that researchers attempted to answer. 

A 2021 study performed by Colorado State University found that "regardless of political party, the more an individual consumed and trusted Fox News, the less faith he or she had in the electoral process." According to senior author Leaf van Boven, the study also showed that as more evidence presented itself proving that there was no election fraud and that President Joe Biden won, the less viewers of Fox News believed in the evidence. "In a healthy democracy," he explained, "you would see that moving in the opposite direction — Democrats and Republicans would become more confident in the election's legitimacy."

This disbelief in legitimate election results led to a violent insurrection on January 6, 2021, of which the Congressional committee has been investigating former president Trump's involvement in. The day's events led to the deaths of multiple police officers, four of whom committed suicide in the days that followed, per FactCheck.org