Fox News host Sean Hannity took directions from the White House on the day of the 2020 election, CNN revealed Monday after obtaining a trove of text messages, prompting uproar from critics, journalists and media commentators.
“Stress every vote matters. Get out and vote,” then-President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, texted to Hannity on Nov. 3, 2020, according to CNN. “On radio.”
“Yes sir,” Hannity replied. “On it. Any place in particular we need a push.”
When Meadows named Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona and Nevada, Hannity texted back: “Got it. Everywhere.”
Hannity, who has a close personal relationship with Trump and routinely stumps for him on his TV and radio shows, has repeatedly drawn backlash for crossing media ethics boundaries.
In the lead-up to the 2020 election, Trump’s team even offered signed copies of Hannity’s book in exchange for donations to the campaign.
Most news organizations prohibit journalists from contributing to political campaigns, but Fox News has defended Hannity as an opinion host and not a journalist.
Nonetheless, the network has slapped him on the wrist in the past for participating in campaign events. In 2018, after he appeared on stage at a Trump rally in Missouri, Fox News said it “does not condone any talent participating in campaign events” and said the incident was “an unfortunate distraction and has been addressed.”
And in 2016, after Hannity was featured in a political ad released by the Trump campaign, Fox News said he would not be permitted to appear in any other promotional materials for the remainder of the election season.
Fox News did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment Monday.
The revelation about the Fox News host’s communications with the White House sparked criticism online. In one subsequently resurfaced clip, from April 2020, Hannity declared, “I am not told what to say” and argued his show has “always been independent.”
CNN’s report Monday detailed some of more than 2,300 text messages sent and received by Meadows between Election Day and President Joe Biden’s inauguration of Jan. 20, 2021.
Recipients included Republican members of Congress, Trump’s former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, Hannity, Jan. 6, 2021, rally organizers and other Fox News hosts.
Backlash over the newly revealed exchange was swift:
sean hannity is a more obedient lapdog than any actual dog ive ever seen.
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) April 25, 2022
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) April 25, 2022
Fox News is acting not just as a conservative news outlet, but as a partisan operative and should be treated as such.https://t.co/5wEWWcx0zZ
— Alessandra Biaggi (@Biaggi4NY) April 25, 2022
— John Whitehouse+ (@existentialfish) April 25, 2022
Hannity happy to take orders on what to say on his show pic.twitter.com/tuidtVWfF7
— Acyn (@Acyn) April 25, 2022
I've asked Fox News for comment. In texts, Hannity refers to the Trump campaign/pro-Trump team as "we" and asks which states he can help with in terms of messaging.
Hannity made his support for Trump 2020 quite clear, but this speaks to a slightly higher degree of involvement.
— Jeremy Barr (@jeremymbarr) April 25, 2022
— Spiro Agnew’s Ghost (@SpiroAgnewGhost) April 25, 2022
Just Sean Hannity getting information about the election from Donald Trump’s chief of staff https://t.co/cM83FgsukP
— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) April 25, 2022
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.