Fox News host Sean Hannity is a believer. He believes in God, country and the once and future Bush dynasty. In his opinion, global warming is a crock, kids today are oversexed and President Obama’s radical agenda is destroying our nation. Despite any upticks the stock market may experience, the economy is not improving, Hannity says (“It’s a bubble!”). And no, allowing same-sex marriage, taxing the rich and giving government handouts will not save America.
Hannity—the man and the brand—holds to the far right even as fellow conservatives like Rush Limbaugh bitterly proclaim that liberalism has won in America. As long as debate rages over illegal immigration, government spending, gun control, abortion, political correctness, the Kardashians, you name it, Hannity will wag a finger and stand his ground.
Hannity was born on December 30, 1961, the grandson of four Irish immigrants, and grew up with three older sisters in Franklin Square on New York’s Long Island. He was a Catholic school bad boy, he says, and dropped out of two universities (NYU and Adelphi) after realizing his opinions had a place on radio. From the start, he was controversial. In 1989 Hannity was fired from his first radio job at a college station in Santa Barbara for casting doubts about the AIDS epidemic. He publicized his dismissal in radio trade ads, promoting himself as “the most talked about college radio host in America.” Fox News head Roger Ailes heard Hannity on the air in Atlanta a few years later and paired him opposite liberal political commentator Alan Colmes. The resulting live TV show, Hannity & Colmes, ran for 12 years on Fox News before Hannity went solo in the same time slot. In many ways, radio remains Hannity’s first love, and he broadcasts The Sean Hannity Show, syndicated on more than 500 stations, most days from Long Island, where he lives with his wife of 20 years, Jill, and their two young children.
Contributing Editor David Hochman spent time with Hannity at Fox News headquarters in New York City. He says Hannity was jovial and charming even as the debate got lively. “The ultimate question everyone has about Hannity,” Hochman says, “is, Does he really believe what he says, or is it all just an act? After spending hours with the guy and really getting into his head, I can say with utmost confidence, what you see with Hannity is what you get.”
HANNITY: Fire away. Ask me anything you want.
PLAYBOY: Excellent, so——
HANNITY: You might not get an answer, but you can try.
PLAYBOY: Let’s start with an easy one. What is it precisely about liberals that bothers you so much?
HANNITY: Liberalism is failing the country. This to me is fundamental. It’s a philosophical difference. Do I have friends who are liberal? Yeah. Do I like to debate liberal guests on my show? Absolutely. But look what’s happening in Cyprus, in Greece, in Spain, in Ireland and other places. These countries are going down the road America is now choosing to go down, which is socialism, in my view. Very high taxes. Promises that the government will take care of every need an individual has. These promises ultimately can’t be fulfilled. You can’t manage the cost of it all. The president tried to sell Obamacare at $900 billion. Now the latest estimate is $2.8 trillion, and a recent report by the Government Accountability Office says over the long term it could add $6.2 trillion to our debt. That is what I would describe as unsustainable.
The other thing is energy. There is an answer to America’s problems right now. We are so stupid we don’t tap into our own energy resources. We have more oil than Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia combined. We have oil shale; we’ve got fracking available. We are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. The Democratic Socialist Party in America is so beholden to environmentalists, we don’t even tap into our own resources. It’s just another example of how this president can’t meet the promises he made to the people.
PLAYBOY: Obama’s supporters would say he’s done quite a bit. He passed health care reform. He passed the stimulus. He passed Wall Street reform. He eliminated Osama bin Laden. He turned around the U.S. auto industry.
HANNITY: Do you know GM still owes the taxpayers $50 billion that we’ll never get back?
PLAYBOY: He recapitalized banks. He began to end the war in Afghanistan. He ended the war in Iraq. He boosted fuel-efficiency standards and advocated for alternative energy.
HANNITY: Whoa. With what? Solyndra? Obama squandered half a billion dollars in stimulus money, and the company went bankrupt. We were paying money that went to build electric cars in Finland. I can give you the whole long laundry list, a lot of wasted government dollars. How many net new jobs did we create under Obama?
PLAYBOY: Depending on which source you believe, it’s anywhere from 325,000 to 1.2 million.
HANNITY: At the end of last year, we had 8.3 million fewer Americans in the labor force than we had before he took office. We have people on unemployment who have been there so long we no longer count them. When you look at real unemployment in the country, fewer Americans were working at the end of Obama’s first four years than actually were working when he started. Next question.
PLAYBOY: It’s generally agreed that the Republican Party is a mess. It’s divided, there’s no real leadership or clear direction, and last year’s election was an enormous blow to the right.
HANNITY: First of all, I’m a registered Conservative. I’m not a Republican, though people often mistake me for one. Listen, it’s going to shake out fine. You know, after any election, whenever there’s a loss, there are always people predicting doom and gloom and disaster. There’s a certain purging process people go through. Democrats have been through it. The contractions, the hand-wringing—it’s natural. It’s part of the process.
PLAYBOY: Can the GOP save itself?
HANNITY: It can, and it’ll do it by focusing on some very simple ideals. The Republicans have no message discipline. Obama has incredible message discipline. His message right now is “Republicans want to poison the air and water. Republicans want kids with autism and Down syndrome and the elderly to fend for themselves.” He’s brilliant at fear-mongering, at demagoguery. He is always on the attack, always politicizing everything. Meanwhile, he keeps spending and borrowing us into a trillion dollars in debt.
The Republicans should be the party that wants balanced budgets, fiscal responsibility. It should be the party that believes you don’t spend more than you take in. We’re not going to borrow 46 cents of every dollar to run the government. Social Security and Medicare are headed for bankruptcy. The Republicans should be the party of energy independence and of getting the country on its feet. Instead, we’ve spent all this money, and we have nothing to show for it. We’re robbing our kids blind, because it’s their money we’re taking, and they’re going to spend their lifetimes paying it back.
PLAYBOY: What about the massive budget deficit this administration inherited?
HANNITY: No president has ever given us a trillion-dollar deficit, and certainly no president has given us $6 trillion in debt in four years the way Obama has. Not even close. He inherited a $10 trillion debt, not $16.5 trillion.
Look, we can fulfill the promises that we made to the Greatest Generation right now. We’ve got to reform entitlements, and we need a better plan for health care. I don’t know why people put so much faith in government—the same government that said we’re going to have Social Security benefits waiting for us and then raided the lockbox. The lockbox is empty! They’ve squandered the money. So I don’t have a lot of faith in government or bureaucrats. I like the concept of limited government and greater freedom. With greater freedom comes greater responsibility to the American people. We’re not going to get there by spending ourselves into oblivion.
PLAYBOY: If nothing else, the debt-ceiling fight in Congress has shown the world how completely dysfunctional and divided our government is.
HANNITY: Absolutely. The system is dysfunctional. It doesn’t work. And the president has a big role in that. Obama is in a constant state of combativeness. I mean, he won fair and square, but I would have hoped that after the election we would have seen him say, “John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, we’ve got to get together because this is a mess. The country hates us.” And he’s not doing that. I think everything he does is to get Pelosi back as Speaker for 2014.
PLAYBOY: Would we be living in a golden age now if Mitt Romney had won the presidency instead?
HANNITY: No, but I think you would have had somebody with the experience and the background and, frankly, not as driven by ideology as this president is. Obama’s an ideologue. Now, this being Playboy, you probably won’t agree with me on this, but I think the president is pretty radical in his views. For instance, the disengagement almost bordering on stupidity of giving [Egyptian president] Mohamed Morsi 1.5 billion taxpayer dollars—the guy’s a 9/11 Truther, a guy who refers to the Israelis as apes and pigs, a guy who was part of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Obama is not managing the country well. We’re talking about liberal socialism, high debt, high deficits. Twenty million more Americans are on food stamps. One in six Americans is in poverty. There’s $17 trillion in debt. Obama said $9 trillion in debt. These are the issues that are going to affect the country for years to come.
PLAYBOY: Let’s move on. Fox News’s ratings are down, and your show in particular has taken a hit this year.
HANNITY: No, actually, our ratings are back up.
PLAYBOY: Your ratings were down 35 percent in February.
HANNITY: Well, from the year before, which was an election year.
PLAYBOY: Rachel Maddow has beaten you in your time slot.
HANNITY: Never! Not once!
PLAYBOY: She has in the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic.
HANNITY: But overall, we’re at double her ratings. You’ve got to be careful how you make these comparisons.
PLAYBOY: Fox News overall hit a 12-year ratings low in January and recently had a record low in a poll on viewer trust. The perception among many is that Fox News is out of it. Is there anything you’re doing to change that perception?
HANNITY: No. You know, I’ve been in this business a long time, and I’m not one who obsesses over ratings, but I will tell you this. There is a natural ebb and flow due to election years and major events such as Hurricane Katrina or Sandy or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any issue of that sort will drive ratings up and down. I will tell you that after the election, a lot of people who didn’t want Barack Obama to get a second term threw up their hands in disgust, including myself. I can go back and show you all the years that I’ve been through presidential elections on radio. You see the spike, you see the decline, you see the spike—it’s part of the news cycle. It’s the story of my life.
PLAYBOY: Were you always a conservative?
HANNITY: Kind of, yeah. I don’t know what it was, but as soon as Reagan became president, I was hooked. I listened to talk radio as a kid and was just obsessed with it. Every kid is told “Stop doing this; stop doing that,” but late at night I’d stay up to listen to Barry Farber, Bob Grant and later Gene Burns and David Brudnoy. I’d pick up WBZ and all these other 50,000-watt stations. And you know, it just immersed me in politics. Barry Farber said something like “Look at your globe, and I’m going to tell you about Communist expansionism in Hungary and Bulgaria and Yugoslavia and Poland,” and literally I’d just stand there with the globe, learning about the world.
PLAYBOY: Were you a studious kid?
HANNITY: Frankly, I was a big troublemaker. I don’t know how far I want to go with my honesty here, but I was taken home by the cops in the first grade for hanging on the back of cars in the wintertime. We called it “skitching.” I’d get in trouble for sneaking out of the house late at night to have snowball fights. And I started smoking at a young age. I remember pitching baseball games and smoking a cigarette between innings.
PLAYBOY: Didn’t Catholic school keep you in line?
HANNITY: Nobody could really discipline me. I remember one day at Sacred Heart Seminary in Hempstead, Long Island, the boys hadn’t been good and one of the fifth-grade teachers was pulling their ears and slapping them on the head. She gets to me and I’m like, “You’re not pulling my ear, and you’re not slapping me either.” I stood up for myself pretty early. My father, on the other hand, if he got mad, you knew it. The belt would come flying off. I got my fair share.
PLAYBOY: What did your father teach you about life?
HANNITY: My dad was probably the most decent person I’ve ever known. Very moral guy, deep religious faith. Had the roughest upbringing and background, grew up very poor, Bed-Stuy. He delivered papers to contribute to his family. His mom died in childbirth when he was born, and his father, who was a machinist, didn’t have the ability to take care of him and the rest of the kids. He was shuffled around from family member to family member. But he grew up, signed up for World War II, fought his four years in the Pacific in the Navy and came back. He worked as a waiter on weekend nights and would get home at five in the morning, and we’d go to 12 o’clock mass every week. It was embarrassing because he’d fall asleep! But he never complained about a thing. Never wanted anything. It was a big deal for him to get a Levitt-style house on a 50-by-100-foot lot on Long Island—you know, four kids, one bathroom. I had three older sisters. It was rough. My parents sacrificed to put us through Catholic school. That’s how I grew up.
PLAYBOY: Was it a better time in America back then?
HANNITY: The honest answer is yes. You know, I delivered papers from the time I was eight years old. I was scrubbing pots and pans in a restaurant every Friday, Saturday and Sunday when I was 12. Then I became a cook at 13. I was a busboy, a bartender, a waiter. I did that for many, many years of my life. Made a lot of money.
PLAYBOY: What did money mean to you?
HANNITY: It meant if I wanted a baseball mitt, I could go out and sell newspaper subscriptions as an eight-year-old and get the glove, plus tickets to the Mets game. I always had a wad of cash. My best friend from childhood is John Gomez; we still joke about it. His father made the best barbecue chicken in the world, and I would say, “Here’s money. I want to buy some of your father’s chicken.” And we’d make those deals all the time.
PLAYBOY: Back then, did you ever imagine yourself signing a contract for $100 million, as you did in 2008 for your afternoon radio talk show?
HANNITY: Never in a million years. When I left NYU after a year, I don’t think I’d ever seen a look of greater disappointment in my parents’ eyes. They offered to help me financially, but I knew they didn’t have the money. I didn’t want them going into debt and spending their retirement money on me. I decided I was just going to go out on my own at that point, and I did. I started my adventures in the world.
PLAYBOY: You sowed your wild oats? Details, please.
HANNITY: Based on the Playboy definition, it’s probably the G-rated version. I used to go to all the clubs when I was young and 17 in New York. Then I worked in a couple of places as a bartender. I wasn’t Tom Cruise in Cocktail or anything, but I was pretty fast, and we made great daiquiris and piña coladas. I went through a period when I did okay in terms of dating. I was a skinny little kid, though. That was about it.
PLAYBOY: What’s one Sean Hannity fact that would shock a liberal?
HANNITY: Tough one. Let’s see. Let me think. Okay, I like disco, believe it or not.
HANNITY: When I was a bartender we played it all the time, and I still like it. I used to love Donna Summer. She’s great. I met her before she died. It was a thrill for me. Her story was so fascinating because she began singing in church. She used to look out at the congregation and they’d all be crying. I love passionate people.
PLAYBOY: Any other surprises? Are you a closet Grateful Dead fan?
HANNITY: I like the Grateful Dead. [sings] “Sugar magnolia, blossoms blooming.” Want me to keep going?
PLAYBOY: That’s okay. Have you smoked marijuana?
HANNITY: I’m not answering any questions about that. Period. Nice try.
PLAYBOY: Let’s talk about the issue itself then.
HANNITY: I don’t think there should be jail terms. I believe in decriminalization. I do have a problem…how do I say this? Thomas Paine, in 1776’s Common Sense, said something to the effect that if the impulses of conscience were uniform and irresistibly obeyed, there would be no need for any other lawmaker. That not being the case, Paine goes on to describe the need for the formation of government predicated on the idea that government is going to protect you from people who would otherwise want to take your stuff and treat you unfairly. I prefer that people make good decisions. I like to drink beer on a hot summer day, but I don’t overindulge. I like a good glass of wine when I go out to dinner with my friends. If I have more than two drinks I take a cab or have somebody else drive home. My biggest fear about opening the door to legalization is that I’ve always believed, in spite of some disagreement, that marijuana is a gateway drug. According to everything I read, marijuana is more potent than it has ever been, and I believe that for a lot of people there is at least a minimal psychological, addictive component.
PLAYBOY: How do you sleep at night?
HANNITY: Very funny.
PLAYBOY: Seriously. How do you sleep at night?
HANNITY: I don’t sleep a lot, but I sleep like a baby.
PLAYBOY: Are you an Ambien guy?
HANNITY: No, no. I just stay up until I literally pass out cold.
PLAYBOY: Do you ever find yourself worrying in the middle of the night?
HANNITY: No, I’m not a worrier. I have faith. The way I look at it, I’m not in control of every aspect of my life. I believe God exists. I believe God is real, and I really just put my faith in him. When you look at the majesty of creation, it’s so deep and so profound, from the smallest of things to the concept of universes. It’s beyond human imagination. I have deep faith.
PLAYBOY: Given the molestation scandals, do you still have faith in the church itself? Can the church survive in the modern age without making major institutional changes? Women cannot be priests, and priests cannot marry.
HANNITY: The church will survive, regardless. You don’t have to be a Catholic if you don’t agree with their point of view. Personally, the greatest disappointment is the cover-up of the sexual abuse cases at the highest levels. It’s inexcusable to me, and I had a very hard time dealing with it. That said, these are human beings, and human beings are flawed. There’s good and evil in the world, and that’s just indisputable. I would hope they deal with it head-on, address it and make amends to the extent that they can.
PLAYBOY: What would you like to see from the new pope?
HANNITY: I don’t know. I think priests should be allowed to marry, because the apostles were married, all but one, if my theology is correct. And priests were allowed to marry, I think, for the first 1,200 years of the church.
PLAYBOY: How do you separate your views as a Catholic from your opinions about, say, abortion?
HANNITY: I’m against abortion. I make exceptions for rape, incest, the mother’s life. You know, as far as opinions versus fairness, it’s all me. For better or worse, I’m pretty opinionated. Our society has this idea that you shouldn’t feel guilty about anything, and maybe Playboy perpetuates this. I think the conscience is the human ability to discern and decipher right from wrong. Guilt is your own inner voice telling you when you’re doing something right or doing something wrong. But in my personal life, the more I listen to that silent voice of conscience, the happier I usually am, because that voice is telling me, exhorting me internally, to do the right thing.
PLAYBOY: What does your inner voice say about gay marriage?
HANNITY: Over the years I have evolved into more of a libertarian when it comes to people’s personal lives. I really don’t care what people do privately. That doesn’t mean I think society needs to change its definition of marriage. I don’t. I’m okay with the way things are. But I don’t think most Americans are tolerant and accepting. I think most people don’t care.
PLAYBOY: Do you have any gay friends?
HANNITY: Do I know people who are gay that I’m friendly with? Yes. Absolutely.
PLAYBOY: Can you imagine voting for a gay, lesbian or transgender president?
HANNITY: I don’t want to know anything about anybody’s sex life when I’m voting for them. I want to know they can balance the budget, that they’re going to stay out of my life and ensure more freedom. Do they understand good versus evil? Do they understand that we’ve got to have a strong national defense? That’s all I’m looking for. I don’t really give a flying rip what people do privately. It’s none of my business. Maybe it’s the traditional way I was brought up. If somebody breaks into my house, it’s my job to go downstairs and take care of it. You can call me Bamm-Bamm or Barney Rubble if you want, but that’s who I am.
PLAYBOY: Is the country as divided as it appears in Hannity’s America?
HANNITY: America is definitely polarized. In politics I think we have two very distinct competing visions for the country right now. One of the great dangers of the democracy we have is that the media are biased; the other danger is apathy. There are too many people who care too much about Honey Boo Boo and the Kardashians or whomever. I’ve met Kim, and she’s nice, but honestly there’s too much of a celebrity culture. I wish people cared more about the budget being balanced, about national defense, security, rise of radical Islamists, immigration—things that I think are really going to matter and impact everybody’s lives.
PLAYBOY: Let’s talk about some of those. Your critics called you a water carrier for the GOP last year when you embraced a “pathway to citizenship” after Republicans failed to win over Latino voters.
HANNITY: It’s a position that’s been evolving since I made my trips to the border. I’ve traveled to Mexico, from San Diego to the Rio Grande and everywhere in between, and I’ve been out with Border Patrol agents on helicopter, horseback, all-terrain vehicles and boats. I’ve watched gang members being arrested. I’ve seen tunnels dug from Mexico into San Diego up through an office building, sophisticated efforts at human trafficking. I’ve been to the warehouses where they confiscated drugs aimed at American kids. I see the financial impact on our educational system, our health care system, our criminal justice system in border states and the burdens they have to bear as a result of illegal immigration not being solved. We’ve got to fix it. I think you control the border first and then create a pathway for the people who are here. Do background checks, send those with criminal records home, have people pay whatever penalties and taxes are necessary. But yeah, we need a better solution.
PLAYBOY: What about guns? The Newtown shootings inspired many to call for stricter measures to prevent similar tragedies.
HANNITY: I support commonsense measures. We use armed guards to protect our money, armed guards to protect our Hollywood stars, armed guards to protect our athletes, armed guards to protect presidents and elected officials. I never want to wake up and hear another school shooting has happened again. What would be wrong with putting retired policemen and retired military people in schools? You don’t even have to put them in uniform. They’d be on the front line of defense to protect our nation’s children. I support that.
PLAYBOY: We already have more guns per capita than any other country.
HANNITY: I urge you to read John Lott Jr.’s book More Guns, Less Crime. But with that said, I understand the argument. I understand that a lot of people may not want to have a gun. But I feel strongly that 99.999 percent of law-abiding citizens should not be punished for the actions of either lunatics or criminals who have not been properly punished for past crimes.
PLAYBOY: You have a license to carry a gun in New York state, right?
HANNITY: Absolutely. I own a lot of firearms. I collect firearms. I have been around them my entire life. I’m 51 years old. I started shooting probably at the age of 10 or 11. I was a marksman at 12, and I can’t urge safety enough. I could bring you to my house right now, tell you where my guns are, and you would not get them. You could spend the next month there and you would never be able to gain access to them. I handle the weapons I have properly, and I also have easy access to a weapon to protect myself.
PLAYBOY: But a lot of people don’t use guns properly. A dog in Florida recently shot its owner in the leg.
HANNITY: A lot of people are stupid with cars and get drunk and start driving. A lot of people get high and get in a car too. Every time you get in an airplane it’s dangerous. Life is dangerous. You know, I wrote a book,Deliver Us From Evil. In the past century, a hundred million people were slaughtered. There was Stalin, Hitler, the killing fields in Cambodia, Communism, Nazism, fascism, imperial Japan—and now it’s terrorism. There are a lot of evil people in the world. If you’re a rapist or a pedophile and you don’t give a damn about anybody but yourself, I don’t think any law is going to stop you from committing the evil atrocity that is in your heart. And I want law-abiding people to have the choice. You don’t have to have a weapon if you don’t want one, but those who do want one should have the right to have it. Our framers and our founders were very clear on the issue of the Second Amendment, and they weren’t talking about deer hunting.
PLAYBOY: Next issue. More than 30 academies of science across the world have concluded that global warming is caused by human activity, but you’ve cast doubt on climate change for years.
HANNITY: You want the short answer or the long? Either way, I think it’s a crock of shit. I don’t believe it’s true, and I think that people have been put in a state of panic. I think the environmental movement is rooted in a political agenda, which is that capitalism is evil, that people are raping and pillaging the planet for profit. And I think it is rooted in redistribution.
I find people like Al Gore are the biggest, phoniest hypocrites of all. If global warming and carbon emissions are so bad, how does Al Gore justify getting on a private jet like we caught him on? How does he justify making money selling Current TV to Al Jazeera? That’s all oil money, Al. I can respect a guy like Ed Begley Jr. riding around on his bike. I even offered to bail Daryl Hannah out of jail after she was arrested for protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. She uses her own biofuels to drive her car. Beautiful! But you’ve got these other Learjet, limousine liberals, the hypocrites and Hollywood phonies. Leonardo DiCaprio flying around on New Year’s from Australia to Vegas, and he’s lecturing people about the cars they’re driving. So hypocritical. Come on!
PLAYBOY: How should we be managing our natural resources?
HANNITY: Hey, listen. I wouldn’t mind having a car that runs on water. My attitude is that we should seek out new technologies and inventions that will advance the human condition. And at the same time, we should be drilling, we should be fracking, we should be the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, we should be building refineries, which we haven’t built in 35 years, and nuclear facilities. France gets 75 percent of its power from nuclear plants. If the French can, we can. America is inhibited because of government regulation. You know all these people out of work? The minute you start drilling for natural gas and oil, every state can benefit, just as North Dakota does, which now has an unemployment rate of three percent. If we lessen our dependence on foreign oil, we’re less involved in the Middle East, where there’s such political instability, and the price of gas goes down to where the average American can pay less than $2 a gallon. That’s a tax cut for everybody.
PLAYBOY: Do you think you’d ever run for public office?
HANNITY: You know, whatever God has planned for me, I guess I’ll know what to do.
PLAYBOY: It sounds as though you think about it.
HANNITY: No. Not much. I would have to move out of state. Hell would freeze over before I would run in New York. I’m Florida-bound one of these days. That’s where I want to live.
PLAYBOY: Not Alaska? You had Sarah Palin on your show 55 times. Someone calculated that she cost Fox News $19,868 per appearance. Was she worth it?
HANNITY: Absolutely. She’s a great guest. I like her a lot personally. I think she has a lot to add to the national debate, and I’d have her on again.
PLAYBOY: What’s your take on Donald Trump continuing to dabble in conservative politics?
HANNITY: He’s a character; he’s fun. The ties I wear on the air come from the Donald Trump collection. Listen, he’s great for the political contest, and I love his outspokenness and enthusiasm. You never know. If he’s ever able to give up aspects of his business, and that includes giving up running his TV show, the Donald could be a player. In the meantime, I enjoy watching him.
PLAYBOY: Trump was one of the most vocal skeptics of Obama’s American citizenship. You’ve also said Obama grew up in Kenya. Do you regret saying that now?
HANNITY: But he did grow up in Kenya, and he told The New York Times that he went to a school there and one of the most beautiful things on the planet is Islamic prayer at sunset.
PLAYBOY: Are you fueling the myth that Obama’s a Muslim from Africa by saying that?
HANNITY: I never fueled the myth. How do you come up with this stuff? He did go to a Muslim school. He writes about it in his own book.
PLAYBOY: He did not grow up in Kenya.
HANNITY: He went to a Muslim school in Indonesia, or wherever it was, Kenya. I forget. Now you’ve got me. I think it was Indonesia. I’m trying to remember his biography. It’s going back so long. He admits he went to a Muslim school. It’s on his audiobook, if you want a tape of it—you can hear him say it himself.
I’m a Christian. All people are the children of God. I’m just telling you what Obama said in his own words. He didn’t go to a madrassa, which has negative connotations, but he did study the Koran and Islam and learn prayers that he could recite with a perfect accent, according to Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. As for the issue of his birth certificate, I thought that was one of the oddest things, a noncontroversy that the White House easily could have ended but didn’t. If you’ve got the birth certificate, just release it and move on. That’s what I said.
PLAYBOY: Let’s talk about the racial dimension of having successful black conservatives on your show attacking the president. What’s the fascination?
HANNITY: Who? I don’t know who you’re talking about.
PLAYBOY: Dr. Ben Carson, Allen West, J.C. Watts, Herman Cain——
HANNITY: You know, maybe you see life through the prism of race. I don’t. We’re Americans. I don’t look at life that way. You seem to want to make this a race issue that doesn’t exist in my life. All right, so I guess we’ve had on some African Americans who oppose Obama. They’re human beings. I mean, if you want to deal with the racial component of electing the first African American president, I think it was good for America. The beauty of our founders and framers, while nobody is perfect, is they put into place a system of governing where we can right the wrongs and correct injustices. Through their wisdom, that is what this country has shown it is able to do. Sometimes too slowly, but we usually get it right in the end.
PLAYBOY: Okay, let’s switch gears. Do you ever miss Alan Colmes?
HANNITY: I see him all the time. Things have worked out pretty well for both of us.
PLAYBOY: What ended Hannity & Colmes?
HANNITY: We were at the point where the format was problematic. Let’s say we had an eight-minute segment with one or two guests. Colmes and I would get in maybe one question each, and then you’re fighting to get your words in. We just felt that it had run its course, and he was happy to go to Fox News Radio.
PLAYBOY: How often do you see Rupert Murdoch?
HANNITY: I don’t. He has more important things to do than meet with little old Sean Hannity. But we’ve bumped into each other. I ran into him on the street once and said, “Hi, Mr. Murdoch.” And he said, “Ah.” So he knew immediately who I was, which was reassuring.
PLAYBOY: What do you think of his position on climate change, which he believes is occurring, and his statement that the Keystone XL pipeline isn’t needed? He’s also in favor of gun control, including a ban on assault weapons.
HANNITY: I might disagree with him on all that. But one of the great things about working at Fox is I’ve never been told what to say or what positions to take, nor has anybody that I know. There’s a real liberty and freedom here that I doubt exists elsewhere, from what I’ve heard from my friends in other media.
PLAYBOY: What did you think when you heard about News Corporation’s phone-hacking scandal that implicated key Murdoch staffers?
HANNITY: It’s a corporation that has anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 employees. As somebody who had employees once in my life, people who worked for me…you know you’re always going to have one or two bad employees. We have bad government officials all the time. It reflects on them, not on the company or the corporation.
PLAYBOY: You never trained as a journalist. Any regrets?
HANNITY: None. Absolutely not. Look, you can have people with multiple degrees who have gone to the finest journalism schools in the country. I’ll give them a microphone and teach them how to do it, and they wouldn’t be able to pull it off. You either have this innately or not, I think. You have a desire, first, to communicate, and for me, I just loved talk radio when I was a kid. I wanted to get behind a radio microphone, and when I eventually did, the minute the light went on, something changed. All the stuff started flying out of me, and people have hated me ever since.
PLAYBOY: Does it bother you that some people hate you?
HANNITY: Never. I don’t care, not even a little bit.
PLAYBOY: That’s good. What’s your secret?
HANNITY: I’ll tell you a story. There was somebody who works at Fox—I won’t mention this person’s name—and one of these websites started attacking this person. The first thing I said was, “Welcome to the big leagues.” If they’re not attacking you, you’re not doing your job effectively. I also said, “If you want to feel better, go google my name.”
PLAYBOY: How often do you google your name?
HANNITY: Never. And I don’t read blogs except to get information. I don’t read comments and stuff. Never read any of it. Don’t care. I accepted a long time ago that people aren’t going to like me for some of the things I say, and that’s okay. I don’t get invited to the White House Christmas party or the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but so what? I concluded a long time ago that most media people are biased. They don’t like conservatives. They’re never going to like conservatives. I don’t want to hang out with those people, whoever they are. I’m really happy hanging out with my close friends, my family and my kids.
PLAYBOY: Are you the same at home as you are on your shows?
HANNITY: It’s funny. My kids watch me do radio sometimes and go, “Dad, you’re screaming into the microphone!” And I’ll go, [speaks softly] “Hi, this is Sean. Welcome to the program.” And they understand why that wouldn’t work.
No, I’m essentially the same person. The thoughts are the same, the expressions are the same. Everything is from my heart, and I think deeply about any issue before I take a position on it. I spend a lot of time preparing every day. I try to be as knowledgeable on a subject as I can be. The volume might be a little higher on my show, but you have to keep things interesting.
PLAYBOY: How does your wife handle your outspokenness?
HANNITY: Everybody in her life told her not to marry me. Even the minister who married us pulled her aside and said, “Don’t marry this guy.”
PLAYBOY: Ha! Why?
HANNITY: We had a big fight when we went through our pre-marriage counseling, and I said, “That’s the problem with the liberal church.” And he didn’t appreciate it. So he ended the session. What’s funny is that he married a number of our friends at the time. This is 20 years ago. We’re the only ones still together.
PLAYBOY: What are the keys to a lasting marriage?
HANNITY: Don’t leave things to fester, or you become resentful of each other. Be honest about everything.
PLAYBOY: What do the Hannitys do for fun?
HANNITY: Nothing. I’m terrible. I didn’t dance at my own wedding. I never go out. I’m home every night. I eat cereal for dinner. The one thing I’d like to do is build a racquetball court. I’m really into fitness and staying in shape, and it gets cold in the winter and I have to hit a ball. But that’s it. The last place you’ll ever see me is at the Playboy Mansion hanging out with Bill Maher.
PLAYBOY: You watch Bill Maher?
HANNITY: I hate him. Can’t stand him. I’m a channel flipper. I saw him the other night for five seconds, but that’s all I could take.
PLAYBOY: Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow—do you watch them?
HANNITY: Never. I mean, have I seen MSNBC? Yeah. But honestly, I don’t watch it. I don’t see CNN either. I don’t even watch Fox News that much. I’ll listen to Rush Limbaugh sometimes. He’s the Babe Ruth of our industry. We’re friends, and his brother has been my agent for more than 20 years. There’s nobody funnier, more unique, bright or talented.
PLAYBOY: You almost have more Twitter followers than Bill O’Reilly and Limbaugh combined. Does that give you some satisfaction? Even your hair has a Twitter account: @SHannitysHair.
HANNITY: How about that! Someone set that one up. So funny! Honestly, I had to cut back on Twitter because it was an addiction. I’ve got all these amazing people I interact with. Early on, people were so helpful in showing me the ropes on Twitter, so we created the Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled Twitter army. Had T-shirts printed up and everything. They showed me how to retweet and all that. Regular people like @TheFriddle and a girl named Natalie—@LNYHBTkid. And @PaulyShore too. He’s a huge fan.
PLAYBOY: Who do you like in Hollywood? Or are they all just a bunch of bleeding hearts?
HANNITY: No, I loved Gladiator and Braveheart. I liked The Passion of the Christ. That’s a great movie.
PLAYBOY: Do you know the difference between Kate Upton and Downton Abbey?
HANNITY: Very funny. I’m not oblivious to the world, but I’m not a big Downton fan. Kate Upton? I prefer Megan Fox. She’s obviously very attractive. Angelina Jolie is very attractive. Scarlett Johansson is very attractive. But what do I know? I’m just a 51-year-old fat guy.
PLAYBOY: By the way, what’s the deal with the football you throw around on set?
HANNITY: It breaks things up. We keep one in a special place so people won’t steal it. I love football, and we used to throw one around among the crew during breaks. One night I just threw it while on the air, and it took on a life of its own. There are videos on YouTube that have nothing to do with the show of me just throwing the ball and hitting things.
PLAYBOY: Do you ever just unplug completely and spend time alone?
HANNITY: All the time. I like being alone. If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re bad company. I like quiet time, downtime, even meditative time. I’ll give you a liberal thought there.
PLAYBOY: You meditate?
HANNITY: I just close my eyes and still my mind. You know, there’s a lot of chatter 24/7. I need to quiet myself sometimes, and I can quiet myself very quickly, actually. Sometimes I’ll take the entire weekend offline and off media. I have two young kids who are both athletic, so we spend a lot of time doing their events.
PLAYBOY: What’s your hope for them as they grow older?
HANNITY: You know what? It’s hard as a parent not to wish that your kids succeed at the highest levels and take on every opportunity this country can give them. I keep telling my daughter, who’s 11, to become a doctor. “I don’t like blood, Dad.” My dream for them is that they become the people they were born to be. The Latin word that education derives from is educo. It means to bring forth from within. And whatever they were born with—and I believe every human being is born with some gift, some talent, created by God—I want that to manifest itself in life.
PLAYBOY: How would you feel if one of them turned out to be gay?
HANNITY: I love my children. Period, end of sentence, unconditionally.
PLAYBOY: And if one of them turned out to be a Democrat?
HANNITY: Well, that might be a different story.