Fox News host Sean Hannity will no longer receive the Media Research Center’s William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence at the group’s September gala.
Sources familiar with the situation said it was because Buckley’s son, Christopher Buckley, was unhappy with the decision and expressed his views to MRC head Brent Bozell, who is also Buckley’s nephew. But Hannity and the MRC are claiming it’s a “scheduling conflict.”
Hannity’s name has been removed from the event’s website.
“It’s a cover up,” a source in conservative media familiar with the situation told POLITICO. Buckley declined to comment.
Sources close to Hannity said he “had to decline” the award because he couldn’t attend the gala, and that it wasn’t “fair” to the conservative media watchdog organization if he couldn’t make it to the event. A spokesperson for the MRC, Ryan Moy, also said the schedules did not align. A Fox News spokesperson said Hannity couldn’t attend because of scheduling problems and that he “apologized that he was unable to attend the event, which is their big annual fundraiser.”
CNN first reported that Buckley was unhappy with Hannity receiving the award, and that the scheduling reason was “concocted” as an excuse.
Hannity responded on Twitter on Friday, saying “If [National Review] ‘Never Trumpers’ or WFB’s son were upset about me receiving the award, they never told me. Now I’m really glad I said ‘No thanks,’” he wrote. “Fact; ‘Awards’ are BS ways to raise $. The only "Award" I care about is serving my audience, the support of my audience, and saving the USA”
Previous recipients of the award, most recently the late conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, received the award and did not attend the gala. Schlafly accepted via video message. Moy said it’s Bozell’s “policy that award recipients attend in person.” Schlafly, he said, “was scheduled to attend up until the last moment but was unable to and submitted a video.” Moy did not respond to a follow up question about who, if anyone, would receive the award instead. Previous winners of the award include Andrew Breitbart, Charles Krauthammer and Charlie Daniels.
The Media Research Center’s annual gala, where conservatives are honored and mock “DisHonor” awards are bestowed on liberals, is one of the organization’s main fundraising events each year. Tickets go for $500, and the gala is often held at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who has become Hannity’s bete noire, used a recent column to excoriate the MRC’s decision to give the Fox News host an award bearing Buckley’s name.
"As honors go, neither the award nor the organization bestowing it — the Media Research Center — is particularly noteworthy,” he wrote earlier this month. “But sometimes symbolism is more potent than fact. If we have reached the point where rank-and-file conservatives see nothing amiss with giving Hannity an award named for Buckley, then surely there’s a Milton Friedman Prize awaiting Steve Bannon for his insights on free trade. And maybe Sean Spicer can receive the Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent for his role in exposing ‘fake news.’ The floor’s the limit.”
Hannity responded to the column at the time by tweeting that he agrees with Stephens in that he does not "deserve the [Buckley] award,” but that he doesn’t care what Stephens thinks.