CHARLESTON, S.C. — "Lets say you're a dumb liberal in the media,” conservative radio personality and Fox News show host Sean Hannity opened a Ted Cruz rally at the College of Charleston on Friday. The jab came at no surprise, considering media insults have been in vogue this election cycle, notably trumpeted by Sen. Cruz (R-Texas) himself at an early GOP debate. Plus, six Daily Pennsylvanian editors, myself included, had just been mistaken as volunteers or interns multiple times after introducing ourselves as the press.
“You go ‘knick knack paddywack give a dog a bone’ … and you take the bone back and the dog bites. In a liberal world it's not the dog's fault… whose fault is it?" Hannity asked in a bewildering monologue that apparently everyone in the crowd knew how to respond to: "Bush!"
The rest of the event was similarly disjointed — jumping between Hannity’s impressions of Democratic candidates (Hillary Clinton is him barking and Bernie Sanders is just angry yelling), an impassioned speech by the gray-bearded Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and standard questions and answers between Ted Cruz and members of the audience. I didn’t think it was possible for my expectations to be more thrown off than they already were for how a political rally is supposed to work.
Until Hannity showed up to a Marco Rubio event two hours later.
It was like watching a show on repeat, but in a much quieter, less absurdist setting of a high school gym. The Rubio event proceeded in marked normalcy compared with the performance we’d just come from. Rubio was joined on stage with his latest big name endorser, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and spoke about his usual shortlist of issues — debt, social security, etc.
Then Hannity, who had lauded Cruz just hours earlier, entered the stage. Members of the press in the back exchanged looks with each other, knowing we were experiencing the same deja vu. Hannity ran through his same three jokes: barking impressions of Hillary, asking the crowd if he looks like he lost weight and telling the audience they’re allowed to clap because they were being recorded for radio, not cable.
Hannity’s gusto may not have diminished between events, but his forthright praise did. We couldn’t help but wonder what the audience thought, knowing they probably had no idea the radio host had attended a different candidate’s rally a few hours earlier. As of Friday night, Cruz was polling just slightly higher than Rubio in South Carolina, at 18.4 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively, according to Real Clear Politics. An article on The Blaze posted Friday says Hannity has yet to endorse a candidate, “but leans toward outsiders that the establishment doesn’t like,” an answer that seems to favor Cruz over Rubio.