Will the hatchet be buried between two publicly feuding info-tainers with an eye on their ratings? The surprising answer: Stay tuned!
Fox News host Sean Hannity, one of President Donald Trump's biggest defenders, and late-night comic Jimmy Kimmel, who has emerged as a prominent Trump critic, had been engaged in a running fight on their respective TV shows and over social media, and Hannity on Monday night had promised to answer Kimmel's attempt to end the beef.
But in true cable-news fashion, the conservative host just kept teasing it. On his Monday show, Hannity kept the suspense up. First, he addressed the Monday afternoon news that FBI agents had raided the home and office of Trump's personal attorney. "Everything we warned you about is now coming to fruition," Hannity warned viewers. After segments on the "witch hunt" and plenty of venting at former Trump rival Hillary Clinton (also, Syria!), he finally unveiled his verdict at the close of his show.
In his ending monologue, Hannity grudgingly accepted the olive branch, though he called it a "forced, Disney apology." He invited Kimmel onto his show for a fuller debate, since Kimmel has taken on the administration's positions on health care and immigration.
"It's over," Hannity declared of their week-ong fight. But, in true tune-in-for-more spirit, he vowed that the drama could continue. "If you start up again," he said. "I'll punch back even harder."
The whole saga began when Kimmel, on his ABC show, "Jimmy Kimmel Live," made first lady Melania Trump a punchline of one of his jokes, referencing her accent. Conservative critics, including Hannity, quickly pounced.
In what was one of the more enlightening public political debates since the exchanges between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, a nasty exchange ensued. Hannity leaped to the first lady's defense, calling his rival a "despicable disgrace," a "sick, twisted, creepy, perverted weirdo," and "Harvey Weinstein Jr." Kimmel retaliated by insinuating that Hannity was in thrall of the president in a tweet that conservatives called homophobic: "Don't worry - just keep tweeting - you'll get back on top! (or does Trump prefer you on bottom?)," Kimmel wrote. "Either way, keep your chin up big fella..XO."
Kimmel eventually apologized and sought to quell the drama, calling the heated exchange "harmful to our country." He apologized to the gay community and though he cast his initial joke about Melania Trump's accent as a "harmless and silly aside," he said in a statement that "Mrs. Trump almost certainly has enough to worry about without being used as a prop to increase TV ratings."
It was up to Hannity on Monday night to either end or inflame. And, shocking exactly no one, he did something in between. Hannity cast the comedian's joke as a broader effort by "the media" to "literally hurt this president and bring this family down," he said. "These cheap shots need to end."