Sean Hannity pushed back Wednesday against critics who say he has turned his television and radio shows into infomercials for Donald Trump, and his production team maintained this week that they have offered equal airtime to all GOP candidates.
"I'm not a journalist! I'm a talk radio host," he said on his radio show, explaining that he's not in the business of asking "gotcha" questions like "people in the media" who go to "their parties in New York and [Washington] D.C. and Los Angeles, and out there lecturing everybody about how interviews ought to be done."
Hannity's radio and television programs are both produced and operated out of New York City.
His remarks came after the anti-Donald Trump conservative website RedState published an unflattering article characterizing his more than three dozen interviews with the billionaire GOP candidate as embarrassing kid-glove affairs.
"One thing this campaign season has showed us is who are actual conservatives and who are the cynical opportunists with no values beyond their own bottom line," the article read. "One of the biggest offenders is Sean Hannity."
The RedState article was based largely on research done by ThinkProgress, a left-leaning watchdog group owned by an organization founded by John Podesta, the chair of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.
"Hannity has managed to interview Trump for hours without ever coming even close to making news," ThinkProgress' Judd Legum wrote.
"Effectively, Hannity has given Trump something that is unprecedented in American politics: A serialized infomercial spanning nearly an entire year, targeted at the most reliable Republican voters, but presented to the public as 'news,'" he added.
The article, which is comprised largely of verbatim Hannity quotes, went on to list a series of questions that the Fox host has asked Trump, including, "Do [the Chinese] buy Trump steaks?" and "Is it time for all American politicians to get rid of political correctness? Are you kind of leading the way?"
Hannity said Wednesday that the article was unfair, and claimed he reached out to people connected to RedState and asked, "Is that what you're now reduced to as conservative so-called news outlet? Cutting and pasting … [from] Hillary Clinton's surrogate website?"
The Fox host suggested that ThinkProgess may be targeting him because of all the work he did trying to upend President Obama's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.
"Who hit Obama the hardest? It's me!" he said, repeating that he has, "over 1,000 pages of [opposition] research on Hillary Clinton."
"How short peoples' memories are. I've been talking about some of you that are all over the place on social media, being all brave and tough in your underwear in your basement, you know, tweeting out that you're 'never Cruz' and 'never Trump,' I think you're all nuts. Because I'm 'never Hillary,'" he added.
Hannity's radio producer also responded to RedState's and ThinkProgress' criticism, and alleged in a blog post that her team has treated each of the Republican candidates equally.
"Please know that it is my job, and my team's, to reach out, respond, and coordinate interviews with the presidential campaigns and their communications directors, managers, and representatives," wrote Lynda McLaughlin, executive producer of the "Sean Hannity Radio Show."
"We also make sure to offer time to other candidates, if one campaign reaches out, so that everyone has the opportunity to be heard. When the candidates announced their runs for the office of the President we reached out to the candidates to have them on to announce their run, and followed up weekly, if not daily, to have them on the show," she added.
Her post also offered data on the amount of airtime GOP candidates have been given on Hannity's radio and television shows.
In short, she added, there's no "conspiracy" to give Trump more air time than any of the other candidates.
"The candidates have an open invitation to come on the show, and it is their choice to take that offer or ignore it," she wrote. "If you want to hear more of your candidate on the show, contact their office, email their communications teams and make your requests known on social media."
Her defense of Hannity, however, misses the point, as the main criticism against the host isn't that he gives Trump a great deal of airtime, but that he uses it to prop up the casino tycoon with softball questions and compliments, RedState editor-in-chief Leon Wolf argued in response.
"This kind of simplistic response really misses the point of the entire article. The complaint we raised at RedState (and, quite frankly, which was noted with 100% accuracy by ThinkProgress) was not about the number of interviews given to Donald Trump, it was about the fact that when Hannity 'interviews' Trump, he does so without generating any actual news or friction at all," Wolf wrote.
"The last time Hannity had Cruz on his show, he spouted Trump-generated talking points at Cruz, to the point that Cruz's campaign mused openly during the interview that they might never appear on Hannity's show again. Hannity has likewise blasted Marco Rubio as an inauthentic flip-flopper on immigration. Hannity has aggressively grilled Rand Paul on his views about the military, foreign intervention, and torture," he added.
Wolf reiterated that their criticism for the Fox host is that whenever he hosts Trump on Fox, it's usually to tell the casino tycoon "how awesome he is."
"The reason Hannity is being criticized is not that he gives an inordinate amount of airtime to Donald Trump, and his response that addresses only the airtime aspect of this is a classic misdirection on this front," he wrote.
"The reason Hannity is being criticized is that he is giving a ton of airtime to a not very good caricature of a conservative, and that he is doing absolutely nothing to expose a faker for what he is," he added. "Worse, he is actively helping Trump defray controversies that should be harming him with conservative voters."
He concluded by arguing that the talk radio host's protestations are not just dishonest, but flat-out insulting.