Skip to comments.Talk radio's Hannity closes in on Limbaugh as fiery conservativism strikes a chord
Posted on 02/23/2003 6:30:47 PM PST by RCW2001
Photo: New York Times
|HOT AIR WAVES: Sean Hannitys tendency to inflame his radio and TV audiences with divisive talk has been criticized.
Sean Hannity is beating the drums of war. It's 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and the radio is on in millions of cars and homes across the nation. He is hopping mad.
He lashes out at the "Hollywood leftists" who are protesting against the looming war with Iraq.
"They're a bunch of gutless, spineless cowards," he snarls from his WABC-AM studio. He jeers at Democrats-referring to the former secretary of state as "Madeleine Not So Bright"-to the delight of his audience.
Later that night, he's at it again as co-host of Hannity & Colmes, Fox News Channel's Crossfire-style prime-time hit.
The Long Island native is New York's latest homegrown conservative talk show star. After just one year of syndication, he has leapfrogged over Howard Stern and Dr. Laura to become the second-most-popular radio personality in the country. Observers say the 41-year-old sensation could someday surpass Rush Limbaugh.
Mr. Hannity uses his passion, his knowledge and his Marlboro-man good looks to connect with his fans.
"He's got the whole package," says radio consultant Walter Sabo.
Indeed, the young broadcaster is fast becoming a multimedia juggernaut. His Fox show overtook CNN's popular Larry King Live in October and continues to dominate at 9 p.m. For the first two weeks of February, Hannity & Colmes had an average 1.8 million viewers, versus Mr. King's 1.6 million. Mr. Hannity's recently published first book, Let Freedom Ring, spent 15 weeks on The New York Times' best-seller list.
Success hasn't changed him. The married father of two still drives to work in New York City in the same Jeep Grand Cherokee he's had for three years.
He says he's not caught up with his ranking and ratings. "I am not a big numbers chaser," Mr. Hannity says. "I just try to do the best shows I can every day."
Those who know him say he prepares diligently, working 12-hour days, reading voluminously and keeping up with his political allies-and foes. He invites guests of all points of view to share his microphone. He's aggressive, but his approach is friendlier and less bombastic than Mr. Limbaugh's.
"Sean has a compelling style. He takes strong positions and he's entertaining," says Al Peterson, an editor at industry trade magazine Radio and Records.
Mr. Hannity has his critics, too. They complain that his brand of sensational talk inflames an already divided public.
"When you appeal, as he does, to the most base human instincts-fear, anxiety and anger-and you exploit those, you unfortunately have a winning formula in media today," says Jack Myers, publisher of The Myers Report, a media industry newsletter.
Mr. Hannity's knack for tapping into the psyche of a vocal band of conservatives has made him a media phenomenon. He's also been in the right place at the right time.
He landed his first job as a talk host on WVNN-AM in Huntsville, Ala., just as Operation Desert Storm began. Owner Bill Dunnavent hired him in late 1990 because "something about his tape just caught me. I said, `Yeah, he's a Yankee, but so what? He'll stand out.' "
Three years later, Mr. Hannity moved on to Atlanta's WGST-AM. He happened to be appearing as a guest on CNN when the cameras broke away to O.J. Simpson in his white Ford Bronco. Mr. Hannity remained on air for hours with a steady stream of commentary.
Guest appearances on Donahue and other shows followed, and he caught the eye of then-CNBC President Roger Ailes. Mr. Ailes later hired him to co-host a show on a network he was launching, Fox News Channel.
Once back in New York, Mr. Hannity also joined WABC, where his afternoon-drive show debuted in January 1998, just two weeks before Monica Lewinsky grabbed headlines. His show quickly reached No. 1 among the area's AM stations.
That success led to a nationally syndicated show, which launched on Sept. 10, 2001. When terrorists attacked New York, Mr. Hannity reported to a wide audience the terrible events of the day.
"Timing has been everything for Sean," says Phil Boyce, program director for WABC-AM. "9/11 propelled the national show to a hit right out of the gate."
Poised for another leap?
His contract with the ABC Radio Network reportedly pays Mr. Hannity $10 million over five years. His show is carried on nearly 300 stations and draws 10 million listeners a week, making it second compared to Mr. Limbaugh's 600 stations and 15 million listeners.
From his radio perch, Mr. Hannity promotes his Fox News show, which has become the second-biggest on the network's schedule, just behind The O'Reilly Factor.
With the country marching toward a second war in the Gulf, Mr. Hannity could be poised to make another leap. Some industry observers say he could enter politics. Sen. Hannity, anyone?
But the brash broadcaster says he's happy being just that. From his bully pulpit, he whips up audiences' emotions, encouraging them to vote for those who support their causes.
Back at the WABC studios, Mr. Hannity picks up the phone. It's Donna from California. She chats about the weather, the war and kicking the United Nations out of the country.
As if she's talking to a trusted adviser, she says: "We're going to need you a lot this year. You're so timely." Then she adds ruefully, "This year is gonna be a doozy; I just feel it in my bones."
Copyright 2003, Crain Communications, Inc
If he's open for criticism for anything, it's on account that he's young.
This is media B.S.
Sean and Rush are both very mild mannered. They simply point out the endless lies of the democrats.
Now Michael Savage and the G-Man... THAT"S Fiery!!!
Day *after* tomorrow. He's off tomorrow (Moday the 24th) ...
Yeah, when Rush is dead.
And I guess this "winning formula" has nothing to do with a conservative consensus rallying around Hannity's reporting truthful analyses and solutions, instead of the usual cowardly liberal propaganda and BS...
Nice to note Sean Haniity has the Jack Myers' of the world soiling their Depends.
They are different, and there's room for both.
Everyone else is though...