CNN host Chris Cuomo declared Thursday that President Donald Trump is effectively following orders from Fox News star Sean Hannity, a known influential confidante of the president.
Cuomo suggested that Hannity and other Fox News hosts, such as Ann Coulter, are “in his head all the time, rent free,” while speaking with Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz about the deal on border security funding.
Cuomo and Gaetz were debating whether the funding plan—which offers far less money than Trump initially demanded—was a success for the president. Gaetz called it win for Trump, arguing he got the deal “without a lick of amnesty.”
But Cuomo replied, “I don’t know why it’s a win for him… Who knows where he is now that, you know, he’s got Hannity and [Ann] Coulter and all these people in his head all the time, rent free by the way.”
Laughing, Gaetz replied, “Wow,” and said Cuomo was “throwing shade at Hannity,” who he described as “transformational figure in the media” during the Thursday interview.
But Cuomo, who said Hannity had been “a friend to me,” claimed that the Fox News host is “incredibly persuasive and powerful,” and “without question the most powerful person in the media because what he says, the president does. Not vice versa.”
“What Hannity says the president does,” Cuomo stressed again. “We’ve never seen that before. What what he says the president does.”
Gaetz responded by saying the president consults a variety of aides and friends, bouncing “ideas off of a lot of different people.” But this only seemed to give Cuomo more steam.
“We could go on all night, as a statement against interest, of how crazy it is that with all the expertise the president is privy too, that he chooses someone like me to listen to about major policy matters, is something that I could really scrutinize all night,” Cuomo said.
Gaetz retorted by rejecting the idea “that Hannity is someone like you,” adding, “You’re very different.”
“We are different,” Cuomo agreed. “But when it comes to what either of us knows about national policy and how to lead and how to govern, we’re both at zero. That’s why we’re on TV, and not in elected office.”
“And he knows it,” Cuomo continued. “He’d be in public service if he thought he could do it better than everybody else. He likes this life, and he’s loving his access. Good for him.”
Trump opponents have long criticized his close relationship with Hannity. The two men reportedly speak regularly by phone—sometimes several times a day—with Hannity advising Trump on a variety of policy matters. Hannity has also been revealed as a former client of Trump’s ex-attorney and now convicted felon Michael Cohen, raising questions over a possible conflict of interest in his televised defense of the president and Cohen.
Hannity has even joined Trump on stage at one of his high-octane political rallies, billed as the president’s “special guest.” His cameo at an event in Missouri last year earned him a censure from Fox News, though Hannity said he did not know he would be invited to speak at the rally.
Other CNN hosts have pursued the same line as attack as Cuomo. Earlier this week, for example, CNN host John Berman branded Hannity the “co-president,” suggesting he was dictating Trump’s response to ongoing negotiations over border wall funding.