Let’s leave aside, for the moment, the hackery and the hypocrisy.
Yes, Sean Hannity’s text messages, newly released by the House’s Jan. 6 committee, raise serious questions of media ethics, and yes, there are obvious conflicts of interest in the Fox News host acting as a political adviser to the embattled Trump White House.
But the messages published Tuesday tell us another story, as well: In the days before and after Jan. 6, even one of former President Donald Trump’s most slavishly loyalist flaks recognized his madness, lies and danger.
In the days before and after Jan. 6, even one of former President Donald Trump’s most slavishly loyalist flaks recognized his madness, lies and danger.
The texts make it clear that Hannity was aware of exactly what was happening — including the bizarre attempt to get Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election — and he worried that White House lawyers might resign en masse.
“We can't lose the entire WH counsel's office,” Hannity texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Dec. 31, 2020. “I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told.”
The night before the insurrection at the Capitol, he wrote, “Im very worried about the next 48 hours.”
After the deadly riot, Hannity continued trying to get Trump to change his focus and tone — and specifically to stop talking about the election that he had just lost. On Jan. 10, he wrote: “Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. He can’t mention the election again. Ever.”
The Fox host pushed Trump to move on. Instead of planning a coup, Trump "should announce [he] will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity."
"Go to Fl [Florida] and watch Joe [Biden] mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen," Hannity wrote.
The advice was (and it amazes me to write these words) actually pretty sound.
But, as the messages also make clear, not even Hannity was able to break through and disrupt Trump’s dark obsession. “I did not have a good call with him today,” he wrote. “And worse, I’m not sure what is left to do or say, and I don’t like not knowing if it’s truly understood. Ideas?”
Hannity, of course, helped Trump push his "big lie" both before and after the attack on the Capitol — misleading his own viewers while continuing to prop up the delusional ex-president. (At one point, he publicly embraced bizarre conspiracy theories about the “rigging” of Dominion and Smartmatic voting machines.)
But, for a moment, let’s focus on this: In the days around Jan. 6, Trump’s White House was so crazy that even Sean Hannity was alarmed.
Hannity's advice was (and it amazes me to write these words) actually pretty sound.
All of this is (or should be) quite embarrassing for Hannity, whose duplicity is on full display. But Trump himself is clearly beyond embarrassment of any sort. Instead, the former president relishes it, and the voices warning of the danger of power grabs have fallen silent.
Until Tuesday, Trump had planned to hold a news conference to mark the anniversary of his attempt to overthrow the election. His decision to cancel could reflect that even in his inner circle, there is recognition of the need to distance the Republican de facto leader from his self-made cataclysm, rather than further embrace it.
But it seems far more likely that Trump dropped the idea after aides told him he wouldn’t get the kind of live television coverage he craved.
Once again, though, the most salient point is this: He almost did it.
A year after the deadly assault on the Capitol, the former president has fully embraced an alternative reality about the event. For months now, he has been testing his new inversion of reality in which he says “the real insurrection happened on November 3rd, the Presidential Election, not on January 6th—which was a day of protesting the Fake Election results.” In this reality, Ashli Babbitt, a rioter who was shot by police, is a martyr, and the real traitor is Mike Pence.
Few Republican officials — with the notable exception of Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger — even bother to push back any more.
And Hannity has fallen back into line.
Meanwhile, the GOP base has accepted the Trumpist counter-reality. A recent poll found that a majority of Republicans now say the Capitol rioters were "protecting democracy." More than 70 percent of Republicans now seem to accept Trump’s lie that he was the real winner of the 2020 election, and the vast majority (78 percent) appear willing to give him a pass on the insurrection itself, saying he bears "just some" or no responsibility for the day's events.
But this is why the Hannity texts are so important.
They tell us that even in the very heart of Trumpworld, and even among the most loyal of the loyal, it was obvious that Trump was lying about the election and that the notion of overturning the election was dangerous madness.
They knew it then. And they know it now. But none of them will push back against the Orange God King anymore.
And none of them — including Sean Hannity — will tell their audience the truth about what is happening.