RFK Jr. scores some hits with conservatives on FOX News's town hall Tuesday
In the third FOX News town hall of the 2024 election season (the first two were with President Trump), Democrat presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. appeared for an hour Tuesday night on Sean Hannity's prime time program Hannity. The setting was a sizable venue in New York City with a large audience. The program was recorded earlier Tuesday for showing at 9 P.M. E.T. with a replay five hours later. A FOX News online report on the town hall with a video clip is here.
Hannity's questions largely avoided areas where there might have been potential disagreements. This has been Hannity's style in the channel's town halls this year, which — when Donald Trump was the guest — came off more like pep rallies.
The hour (actually 40 minutes, when the time allotted to four commercial breaks is subtracted) did result in some news-making comments by the 69-year-old Kennedy, who is making his first run for political office.
High on that list was Kennedy's reply to a typically lengthy comment ending with a question by Hannity that occurred around 25 minutes into the program (transcript provided by FOX News Media Relations):
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I will — I would tell you, here would be my agenda. And I think you'll agree on some of these things. I want to secure our borders. I believe every American has the right to be safe and secure in their town, in their city. That means we have to have law and order. It's a prerequisite to pursue happiness.
I want an economy that is thriving and [sic] opportunity economy where everybody, regardless of where you start life, can climb that ladder to success. I want a mean tough kick ass killer military that would serve as a deterrent to any hostile regime that might have ill intentions towards us.
I believe in peace through strength with all my heart, control our borders, all these things. They're — I believe that — educational school choice.
We agree on these things?
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yeah, we agree on all those things. [emphasis added.]
Kennedy agreeing on "all of those things" with veteran conservative broadcaster Sean Hannity is quite something — and is part of the evidence of why he appears to be as or more popular with conservatives than he is with the Democrat party's woke base.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. listens to a question from Sean Hannity on the FOX News Town Hall, July 25, 2023.
In this next exchange, which occurred close to the program's end, Kennedy also appeared to agree with Hannity. Meanwhile, whatever one thinks of Hannity and FOX News, it is useful to keep in mind that he and the channel are held in total contempt by almost every Democrat party partisan and officeholder, especially the ones at the highest rungs of power — with the exception, of course, of RFK Jr. In addition, Kennedy is considered persona non grata by the other two major cable news channels, CNN and MSNBC, and will likely never have an opportunity to appear in an interview on either of those outlets.
HANNITY: We have a minute left in this hour, and I want to ask you this — you're talking to the American people tonight, why should they vote for you for president? Tell them — make — . . .
HANNITY: — in a one-minute final statement.
KENNEDY: I mean, you know, I'm running on a — on a — I'm the most — Americans are at each other's throats today. We have the worst polarization that we've ever had since the American Civil War. It's more dangerous and more toxic —
HANNITY: Well, the '60s were a little crazy, too. I mean —
KENNEDY: The '60s, yeah, when my father ran. It was — you know, there was a lot of division at that time.
It's hard to say — to see how this is ever going to end well. And what I have said is I want to end that polarization and I want to do that by telling the truth.
KENNEDY: You know — the way that we're going to do that, the first step we have to take is to tell the truth. Have somebody, have a president who's willing to tell the truth about everything.
KENNEDY: People — people in this country know the system is rigged and they know that they are being lied to, and we could be —
At this point, Hannity launched into one of his short monologues that often ends up with a question.
HANNITY: You look at Donald Trump — all — like for — look at, for example, the way Hillary Clinton, top secret classified information. No prosecutor would ever prosecute. No raid at Chappaqua.
You got four locations, Joe Biden has, top secret classified information. They didn't raid his home.
Donald Trump, they raid Mar-a-Lago.
And then the question is, the 2020 election, for example, the FBI had Hunter's laptop in December 2019. They verified its authenticity in March 2020.
Why was the FBI in the months leading up to that election meeting with the big tech companies and telling big tech companies that they may be victims of misinformation campaigns and it may be about Joe or Hunter Biden when they knew damn well they already authenticated it?
And what's interesting is the head of site integrity at the time, Yoel Roth, actually testified in a Missouri case that, in fact, they said it might be about Hunter. And then none of these big tech companies allowed anybody to read the laptop story in the weeks leading to that election.
Now, to me, that is our government, in this case through the FBI, putting cinder blocks on a scale of an election. Is that something you would stop? And do you agree with me?
KENNEDY: Yeah, I would stop. And, in fact, I'm going to issue an executive order the moment I get into the White House, the first day, forbidding — ending the weaponization of our agencies for political purposes and —
HANNITY: It's worse than it's ever been. In my view, it's worse than it's ever been. And, you know, one party will be in power and then they'll start doing it to the other party and it goes back and forth.
KENNEDY: Of course, of course.
The Biden administration — President Biden took the oath of office on January 21st, 2021 and the White House ordered Twitter to begin censoring 37 hours later. I was the first name to be censored.
And then three weeks after that, my Instagram account, which was my major way of talking to the public, was deplatformed, and disappeared.
HANNITY: Oh, by the way, you see at the censorship hearing, you got a great line when you said, I'm at a censorship hearing and you're censoring me. I mean, I thought that was pretty funny.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; Sean Hannity; and a small part of the audience at the FOX News Town Hall, July 25, 2023.
This is Kennedy's second televised town hall on cable television. The first one was a 90-minute live broadcast on the fledgling NewsNation channel on June 29. Its audience was fewer than 200,000 total viewers. When the overnight ratings are in later today, FOX News's town hall (which included no questions from the large audience) is sure to have attracted in the neighborhood of three million total viewers.
Despite the time accorded to RFK Jr. last night, I am still waiting for a long-form interview with the candidate that includes specific questions on some or all of the following issues that I have not seen raised in any of his previous encounters on FOX News, including:
- His justification for disagreeing with the recent Supreme Court decisions against affirmative action in college admissions and President Biden's "student debt forgiveness."
- What is his current position on "climate change," which has become an article of faith for Democrats, and how far would he go to mandate changes in that area? And does he think Trump was on the right track with his policy of energy independence that contributed to the nation's strong economy before COVID became a factor in early 2020?
- The fact that the economy (and inflation) is considered the #1 issue for most voters. What steps would RFK Jr. take to restore prosperity to the United States?
- Regarding Biden's Open Border policy and the entry into the country of at least seven million illegal aliens since January 2021 — how would Kennedy address that problem? Related is the fentanyl crisis (related to the wide-open border) that results in tens of thousands of American deaths annually.
- Another hot button issues is abortion. Now that Roe v. Wade is no more and abortion policy is up to individual states, does Kennedy agree with the policy of blue states like New York that have placed no restrictions at all on abortion procedures, including up to — and possibly beyond — the moment of natural birth?
Along the way, Kennedy has tweeted comments on some of the above, but it would be good to see him questioned in real time on these and some other subjects.
To his — and FOX News's — credit, Sean Hannity provided RFK Jr. with a fair and respectful, and a high-profile, forum Tuesday night. This kind of event with Kennedy is simply not possible, and I expect will never take place, on CNN and MSNBC. Even the NewsNation town hall, moderated by Elizabeth Vargas, had its adversarial moments, especially when the topic of COVID was introduced. COVID was discussed on the Hannity-RFK Jr. town hall, but the candidate was allowed to state his opinions without criticisms or put-downs.
So, for now, in the mainstream media at least, vis-à-vis the ongoing, interesting, and potentially influential candidacy for the presidency of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., FOX News is it.
Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who has covered national politics and the politics and economics of health care, popular culture, and media for over five decades. He is a regular contributor to the BBC Radio and Television. His web page with links to his work is http://peter.media. Peter's extensive American Thinker archive: http://tinyurl.com/pcathinker. Peter's Twitter account is @pchowka.