Sean Hannity is surrounded by jackasses.
The Wall Street Journal columnist who called Hannity the "dumbest anchor" on Fox News is a "jackass," according to Hannity. The forensic psychologist who suggested a blood vessel had popped inside Hannity's brain is a "jackass." Even the conservative MSNBC host who sometimes criticizes President Donald Trump is a "jackass."
If you criticize Hannity, or the Trump administration, there is a fair chance he will call you a "jackass" on Twitter. The chances of being called a "jackass" by Hannity are significantly higher late at night. Of the 21 people Hannity called a "jackass" in the last year, nearly half were told off between 9 p.m and 2 a.m.
Hannity, Trump's biggest backer on television, has said this is entertainment for him: "I am a counterpuncher," he told one Twitter user who asked why he was so antagonistic. "I do not start fights but I finish them. This is pure entertainment for me. If people take cheap shots I hit back."
Still, Hannity's version of entertainment can go too far. Last year, after ending one of his many spirited on-air arguments with liberal contributor Juan Williams, Hannity pulled out a gun and pointed it directly at Williams, according to three sources with knowledge of the incident. He even turned on the laser sight, causing a red dot to bob around on Williams' body. (Hannity was just showing off, the sources said, but the unforeseen off-camera antic clearly disturbed Williams and others on set.)
For the record: Hannity's colleagues brought the Williams incident to the attention of Fox News executives, though it's not clear whether anything came of it. The sources said it went to Bill Shine, the network's co-president and longtime Fox News executive, who is Hannity's longtime friend and a former producer. A Fox News spokesperson said the incident was referred to the legal and human resources departments.
"Sean Hannity has been trained in firearm safety since he was 11 years old and has a license to carry a gun in five states, including New York," Fox News said in a statement to CNNMoney. "The situation was thoroughly investigated and it was found that no one was put in any danger." (The spokesperson said the incident took place in October 2016.)
The Fox News spokesperson also provided the following statements from Hannity and Williams.
"While discussing the issue of firearms, I showed my good friend Juan Williams my unloaded firearm in a professional and safe manner for educational purposes only," Hannity's statement read. "Every precautionary procedure that I have been trained in since the age of 11 was followed. I've had a conceal carry permit in five states for all of my adult life. Any other interpretation of this is outright false reporting."
"This incident is being sensationalized -- everything was under total control throughout and I never felt like I was put in harm's way," Williams' statement read. "It was clear that Sean put my safety and security above all else and we continue to be great friends."
If it feels like Hannity is spoiling for a fight, perhaps that's because he is. Off camera, he has become an avid student of Mixed Martial Arts. He has a brown belt in Karate. He even has a personal sensei (martial arts teacher) who travels with him. Last year, Hannity and his sensei paid a visit to UFC champion Chuck Liddell to learn some new techniques. The visit was featured as a segment on Hannity's show, which provides some insight into his passion for the hobby.
On camera, Hannity also seems to thirst for confrontation. The fact that Trump won the presidency -- which gave Hannity "told you so" rights over his critics -- did not temper him. If anything, it made him feel more emboldened.
Before Trump's victory, Hannity's attacks against the political establishment and the mainstream media were usually limited to the familiar populist complaints about ineffective bureaucrats and overpaid liberals. He once critiqued the media for riding around in "chauffeured limousines" and enjoying "fine steakhouses" -- an odd criticism, given that Hannity, one of the highest-paid hosts on cable news, flies in private jets and enjoys steak.
Since Trump's victory, Hannity has become downright conspiratorial. He recently suggested that the CIA conducted "false flag" cyberattacks against Americans. He has embraced the idea that there is a "deep state" of federal officials working to undermine Trump from within government. He now calls the mainstream media the "propaganda press" and the "alt-left." When MSNBC's Rachel Maddow revealed two pages of Trump's 2005 tax documents on Tuesday night, Hannity dedicated an entire segment to what he described as "corporate jihad" by her employer, NBC.
For Hannity, there is no room for dissent from his worldview. Critics are dismissed outright as shills and propagandists -- two terms Hannity's critics frequently use against him.
Earlier this month, Hannity conducted an interview with Monica Crowley, the conservative commentator who would have become Trump's deputy national security adviser were it not for her rampant plagiarism, which was uncovered by CNN's KFile. Hannity announced that anyone who had questions about Crowley's plagiarism -- which, again, had been well documented -- could "go to hell."
Watching his show, reading through his Twitter feed, it's clear that Hannity has become a hammer and everyone who disagrees with him has become a nail.
Or rather, a "jackass," and Hannity's life is one big game of pin the tail on the donkey.