Hannity Weighs In on Irritating Celebs, the Guest He Can't Land and a Fox News Milestone

The Fox News Channel celebrates its 25-year anniversary on October 7, much to the chagrin of detractors who lament the network's dominance in cable news. To celebrate its birthday, Sean Hannity, the only remaining primetime host who has been at Fox News since Day One, agreed to a 30-minute interview with Newsweek to contrast then and now, and to answer the network's critics—while also weighing in on George Clooney, Bruce Springsteen and the rest of the entertainment industry.

When his Hannity & Colmes show (cohosted by the late Alan Colmes) debuted in 1996, 91,000 curious viewers tuned in, while today the show now dubbed Hannity routinely boasts 3 million nightly. On whole, the Nielsen ratings for Fox News is up 6,300 percent in 25 years. While mostly forthcoming, in the below Q&A, Hannity bristles at any discussion involving his personal life, not to mention the notion of revealing a secret that would go "absolutely viral" if he were to relent.

Newsweek: Did you think Fox News would last when you hosted your first episode 25 years ago?

Hannity: I'll answer whether I thought I would last: No. I was awful at it. I was a radio guy, and I found the camera intrusive. At one point I asked Roger Ailes, "Why didn't you fire me in those early days?" He said that no one was really watching back then and that he thought I'd eventually get it.

How much they pay you back then?

Much less than now, and not enough, then, or now.

What was the most difficult thing you've done as a Fox News host?

Oh boy; that's a question no one has ever asked. The most difficult thing—and it came up recently with my interview of the stepmother and stepfather of Gabby Petito—is interviewing people who are suffering, like with wounded veterans or Gold Star families. I don't like interviewing them, but I know that people need to hear their stories. I just hate to see people in pain. I really do. Everything else, I have no problem with, including confrontations on air. I don't bat an eyelash interviewing a president or prime minister, but a person whose child is missing or a veteran who lost a limb, those are hard.

On the flip side, what's the most fun you've had?

Sean Hannity Season One
Sean Hannity on the set of Hannity & Colmes on the Fox News Channel in 1996, the year FNC launched. Courtesy of Fox News

Everything. I love being in the mix. I have strong opinions, obviously, and I love absorbing it all on a high level and breaking news no one else is breaking.

What's the most memorable story you broke first?

Not a single story, but we did some of our best work, and have been vindicated, on our deep dive into the phony Russian collusion hoax with Donald Trump. The media lied and we know now that it was all orchestrated by the Hillary Clinton campaign and their operatives, and there's more coming about that. I also think I was right in vetting Barack Obama, about his community organizing and ACORN, Black Liberation theology, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn. We did the job the media wouldn't dare do. And I think we're right about Joe Biden, that he's weak, frail and a cognitive mess. We now see the consequences, but the media has put him into a protection program.

Beating up on the mainstream media is a theme of yours, so how do you respond to those who say you work for 'Fix News' or 'Faux News'?

To look in a mirror; journalism is dead in America. I first said it in 2007. Here's the irony, most people don't know what my job is. I'm a member of the press. I've produced thousands of hours of straight news, where we go to this reporter or that reporter, we do investigative reporting. Then I absolutely do opinion and declare that I'm a conservative. But we have a variety of viewpoints on Fox, and a variety on my own show. I do everything that Newsweek or The Wall Street Journal does. Our critics are abusively biased and dishonest. I'm honest about who I am, but they're not.

OK, then who is the biggest liar in the news media?

Pretty much everybody but us [laughs]. To me, it's not personal. I don't spend a lot of time watching other shows. When I occasionally check in with "MSDNC" or CNN it's hilarious to me that they think they're journalists. It's a joke.

Which do you like better, MSNBC or CNN?

They suck equally. They're unwatchable.

What do you watch for entertainment?

I love sports, and I'll binge-watch certain shows, like Yellowstone, and I'm a big movie guy.

What's your favorite?

Gladiator, Braveheart, Cinderella Man and Passion of the Christ, for obvious reasons.

Speaking of that, didn't you say you're no longer a Catholic?

Yes, but I'm a non-denominational Christian who thinks the Catholic Mass is beautiful. I just don't like the institutional corruption in the church.

Speaking of Hollywood, what do you think of the notion it's predominantly left?

Is that even in dispute? I mean, they love Joe Biden and I don't think he even knows what day it is, while they hated everything about Donald Trump.... How many people can you name in Hollywood who supported Trump?

Well, 2,500 of them were members of Friends of Abe, an organization for conservatives in Hollywood.

You're right, but it was a private group so you don't even know who the members were. I know a few.

Is there anyone in Hollywood whose political activism you find so egregious you won't watch them?

I'm not a boycott person. There are people I have no interest in—like George Clooney, who I think is overrated; he's better at making tequila than he is at making movies—but politics doesn't impact my decision at all. If it did, that would take away a lot music I like.

Who would it take away?

A lot of music from the '70s, '80s and '90s, like Bruce Springsteen. I find him particularly annoying, but I like his music.

Tell me something newsworthy that no one else knows.

I have something juicy in my head, but I'm not going to give it to you. This would go absolutely viral. I like you, Paul, but I try to stay below the radar. I take enough hits. My headline after 25 years is that I'm still standing. If you had bet 25 years ago I'd be doing this interview with you, it would have been a huge long shot and you'd have won a lot of money.

No matter what I do here, I'll be beat up for a softball interview, even if I regurgitate every controversial thing you have ever said.

Go for it.

I won't bother. It would be too long, and there's already an organization that chronicles everything wrong with you; it's called Media Matters for America.

They don't like Sean Hannity and they don't like Fox News. Their whole job is to sit in their basements in their underwear and listen to every word I say. My advice to them is you are a loser and you need to get a life. If you don't like what I'm saying, get a platform and debate me. These groups who want to silence, boycott, cancel, infringe on freedom of speech, I'm not fond of them. But I'll be honest, I don't give a s**t what my critics think.

I'll hit you with their latest complaint, that they're bothered that you reported Biden is giving free food to migrants crossing the Southern border.

No, I said free food, free transportation, free education, free health care; everything is free. My larger point is that we should uphold the Constitution, even if Joe Biden doesn't like our immigration laws. He needs to make the case to the American people if he wants laws changed, not pick and choose which ones he'll obey, because I have a funny feeling I won't get the same treatment Biden is getting.

Media Matters also said you say that a migrant surge is a way for America's enemies to launch a virus attack.

We're not vetting people at the border. That's a story one of our reporters brought up. But I love how people crop out only what they want to hear. It makes me laugh. As someone who's been to the border 15 times, I'll concede the point that 98 percent who come here illegally want a better life. I just want people to come here legally with a health check, security check, and if you want to come here, you should show you can support yourself and not be a burden on the American people who can't afford it.

Media Matters also complains that you spread COVID disinformation for profit.

What are you, their No. 1 fan? Are you going to ask me anymore original questions? If you take my whole statement, you'd probably have a different perspective.

Call it opposition research, and Media Matters is the place to go for opposition to Sean Hannity and Fox News.

Look, I've been very clear on COVID. I was one of the earliest conservatives to say I don't mind wearing a mask. Even Jimmy Kimmel praised me, and we fight like hell. I tell my audience to please take this thing seriously. We lost 700,000 Americans. I believe in the science of vaccinations, but I'm not a doctor. I tell people to do their research and the most important thing I say is talk to your own doctor. I don't want to lose audience members to COVID. I don't want to lose anybody to COVID.

Whose the guest you wish you got an interview with but didn't?

I want Joe Biden for two hours.

I don't think he'd give you two hours.

Why, because he looks weak and frail? He'd probably fall asleep in two hours. As I'm doing this interview, I just got word he doesn't have a single event planned for today. Not one. He's got to keep his nap schedule.

Here's where you get mad at me. What about your romantic life? Who are you dating, and are you planning a wedding?

I never talk about my personal life, ever.

But you go out in public with your girlfriend, don't you?

OK. I just gave you my answer. I'll tell you this; I'm a complete loser, hermit, recluse during my workweek, because all I do is work.

You sure you don't want to tell me the one newsworthy secret you say will go viral?

It would go viral in seconds. Easily.

Update, 10/4/21 at 1:30 p.m. ET: The introduction was updated to clarify that Hannity is the only primetime host at Fox News who has been there since Day One.