Fox News host Sean Hannity is often the last voice Donald Trump hears each night — but not because Trump regularly views Hannity’s nighty broadcast. Instead, Hannity and Trump chat on the phone each night before Trump puts himself to bed, according to a new report published on Sunday by New York Magazine. In fact, according to reporting by investigative journalist Oliva Nuzzi, the 71-year-old Trump and 56-year-old Hannity while away the bedtime hours “gabbing like old girlfriends about media gossip and whose show sucks and who’s getting killed in the ratings and who’s winning.”
At the same time, Trump’s own wife, Melania Knauss Trump, leads a largely separate life from her husband and sleeps in her own White House bedroom, according to media reports.
“Trump abides by the Groucho Marx law of fraternization. He inherently distrusts anyone who chooses to work for him, seeking outside affirmation as often as possible from as vast and varied a group as he can muster — but Hannity is at the center,” Nuzzi writes in her New York report, adding that according to at least one White House official, the Fox News host is “the leader of the outside kitchen cabinet,” offering policy advice and ideas to Trump, in addition to the idle chitchat that marks their nightly calls.
Trump himself has long appeared to be smitten with Hannity, mentioning him frequently in public comments, as seen in the following video compiled by the MSNBC program The Beat with Ari Melber.
The news that Trump ends each night on the phone with Hannity was met with ridicule and irritation by pundits and even celebrities posting their reactions on Twitter.
But one political journalist, NBC News analyst John Heilemann — who also co-hosts the Showtime documentary series The Circus — says that “there aren’t a lot of better people” for Trump to speak with than Hannity — who, it was recently revealed, is also a client of Trump’s own personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen.
“I am not defending Donald Trump talking to Sean Hannity all the time,” Heilemann said on Monday. “But if you go back to the beginning of our conversation and you believe that what Donald Trump is trying to do is win a political argument where he thinks the existence of his presidency is on the line, and the thing he’s going to need is have that base be rock solid and not abandon him no matter how bad the findings of Bob Mueller is.”
But many political observers found the close relationship between Trump and Hannity disturbing, with one former White House staff member quoted by Nuzzi describing the conversations between the two men “a f****d-up feedback loop.”
Hannity and Trump have a relationship that extends back to Trump’s days as the nation’s leading “birther,” publicly pushing the conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not actually born in the United States, thus making him ineligible to serve as president. Hannity gave Trump a regular televised forum for his outlandish conspiracy theory without criticism or pushback.
But the pair did not become close friends until the 2016 presidential election campaign, New York Magazine reports. Now that Trump is in the White House, Hannity is one of a select group allowed by Trump to phone him directly. The group also includes Trump’s two sons, Eric and Donald Jr., Fox Network boss and media mogul Rupert Murdoch, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and billionaire real estate magnate Tom Barrack, the magazine reports.