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Hannity breaks with Trump on health care

Health care bill's harshest critics: right-wing media

In a notable moment of divergence between the White House and perhaps its most reliable media booster, Fox News host Sean Hannity said Thursday that President Donald Trump was wrong to blame the failure of the Republican health care bill on the faction of GOP lawmakers known as the Freedom Caucus.

“Now in my opinion, it’s not the Freedom Caucus that’s responsible for the GOP failure in this case to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Hannity said on his eponymous program. “Now this legislation was flawed from the beginning. It was created behind closed doors. Not one single member saw the bill until it was rolled out. And that made it a disaster.”

Hannity’s commentary came hours after Trump lashed out at the Freedom Caucus, a group of hardline conservatives and libertarians in the House of Representatives, for the demise of the American Health Care Act.

In a tweet on Thursday morning, Trump said the caucus “will hurt the entire Republican agenda,” and suggested that members should face primary challenges next year.

Hannity said that Trump was off the mark with the tweets.

Related: Conservative media at crossroads early in Trump era

“Now I don’t know who’s telling the White House to focus their anger on the Freedom Caucus, but I do think it’s misplaced,” Hannity said. “Because the Freedom Caucus, I’ve talked to them, they want to make a deal, and they want the win for the president and the country.”

The tepid disagreement was nevertheless significant coming from Hannity, who has been loathe to criticize Trump for anything. Through his radio and television shows, Hannity has acted as an unofficial surrogate both for the Trump campaign and the new administration.

After the AHCA was withdrawn from the House last week, Hannity insisted that it was “not President Trump’s failure.”

But Trump’s criticism of the Freedom Caucus put commentators like Hannity and Laura Ingraham at odds with the White House.

Ingraham, a Fox News contributor who was a candidate to serve as White House press secretary under Trump, joined Hannity’s program on Thursday, where she said the “White House was not as involved as it should have been” on the health care effort.

“It’s ridiculous at this point to start pointing fingers at the Freedom Caucus,” Ingraham said. “I don’t understand Donald Trump’s tweets at all about that today.”

CNNMoney (New York) First published March 31, 2017: 8:46 AM ET

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