Fox News lightly criticized host Sean Hannity on Tuesday for campaigning for President Donald Trump after promising that the host would not do so.
Last week, the Trump campaign announced that Hannity would appear alongside conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh at a Trump rally in Missouri. Fox News and Hannity both clarified that he would only be interviewing Trump before the president’s rally, not participating in it.
But on Monday, both Hannity and Fox News host Jeanine Pirro appeared on stage with the president and praised his performance in office.
“The one thing that has made and defined your presidency more than anything else: Promises made, promises kept,” Hannity said, repeating a Trump campaign slogan.
In a statement on Tuesday, a Fox News spokesperson said the network did not condone Hannity or Pirro’s behavior and said the company had “addressed” the matter, though it did not name either host explicitly in the statement.
“FOX News does not condone any talent participating in campaign events. We have an extraordinary team of journalists helming our coverage tonight and we are extremely proud of their work. This was an unfortunate distraction and has been addressed.”
In his own tweet, Hannity explained that his appearance was “not planned.” He also said he was not criticizing his own colleagues when he dubbed the other reporters at Trump’s rally “fake news.”
“To be clear, I was not referring to my journalist colleagues at FOX News in those remarks. They do amazing work day in and day out in a fair and balanced way and It is an honor to work with such great professionals,” he said.
The boundary-pushing political activism from the opinion hosts at Fox News has rubbed some staffers the wrong way.
Several Fox News staffers who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity said that although many employees on the news side have long felt that opinion hosts are allowed more freedoms than the news side, Hannity had publicly embarrassed the network by directly contradicting himself.
“It’s just embarrassing that Hannity is allowed to play by his own rules, and that management is so hapless that they either can’t or won’t do anything about it,” a Fox News staffer told The Daily Beast. “He’s out of control and the second floor needs to step in because it’s getting ridiculous.”
“Sean Hannity dealt a major blow to those who work in the news division here,” another staffer said. “Our leadership should do a better job at protecting the news folks whose great work is overshadowed by selfish moves such as the one we saw last night.”
Participating in explicit political activism on behalf of a candidate is frowned upon by serious news outlets. Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann was suspended for making small donations to Democrats in 2010, while Fox News host Brian Kilmeade apologized last month after he bought Christmas ornaments from the Trump campaign.
While Fox News opinion programs often advocate outright for Trump and other Republican candidates, Hannity and Pirro in particular have both pushed the boundaries and at times actively campaigned for candidates.
In 2010, Fox News stopped Hannity from broadcasting his show from a Tea Party fundraiser, but that didn’t stop him from soliciting donations for a Tea Party group in 2014 and appearing in a video advertisement for Trump in 2016. Earlier this year, Pirro was paid over $24,000 to appear as a fundraising event speaker for Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner.