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Hannity interviews Trump. Screengrab via YouTube

As the White House tariff decision looms, Fox News personality and radio host Sean Hannity has come out against proposals for new penalties on imported solar panel equipment.

Why it matters: Hannity is friends with President Trump, and has a big platform.

The White House will make the final decision on potential new import restrictions at some point after next month's recommendations from the U.S. International Trade Commission, which concluded in September that low-cost imports from Asia and elsewhere are harming U.S. manufacturers.

Hannity cut a radio ad that ran in South Carolina over the past two weeks that calls the tariff petition by two financially distressed panel-makers an attempt to "manipulate" trade laws, and a "bailout" that would increase prices by "government mandate."

  • "Now that the Obama gravy train has run dry, well now they want President Trump to also stick you with the bill for their bankrupt businesses," Hannity says in the spot. "Taxpayers should not have to bail out one foreign-owned company only for their foreign financiers to get another payout."

One level deeper: The spot was commissioned by the group Solar Powers America. The group, a relatively new entrant in the renewables advocacy world, is focusing on topics including the benefits of solar energy in southeastern states, according to Bret Sowers, a board member.

Hannity was compensated for the ad, but Sowers did not disclose the amount of the payment or the overall cost of the buy. It was targeted around Trump's visit to South Carolina a few days ago.

  • "Sean Hannity is a well-respected voice in the south," Sowers, an executive with the South Carolina-based solar developer Southern Current, told Axios on Thursday. "We were pleased with it and we hope to work with Sean and others to continue educating the public on this trade issue," he said.

"The solar industry itself needs to be working with conservatives, needs to be working with both sides of the aisle," Sowers said.

Why you might be hearing about it: The spot achieved wider circulation when the Solar Energy Industries Association—a trade group that fears tariffs would spike costs for solar power projects enough to badly hinder growth—circulated it via Twitter and YouTube on Tuesday.

A spokesman for SEIA said: "We were sent the audio via email, and we thought the message was so great that we put it to video and shared it on social media. Sean Hannity is a highly-influential conservative voice and we are thrilled to have him speaking on behalf of American solar workers."

Big picture: The ad underscores how the tariff petition has emerged as one of the most intense, closely watched energy policy battles of the Trump era. Solar Powers America is also part of U.S. Made Solar, one of the industry coalitions fighting new tariffs via ads on Fox News and other steps.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
1 hour ago - Health

Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden's plan to accelerate the reopening of K-8 schools faces major challenges from a still out-of-control pandemic and more contagious coronavirus variants.

Why it matters: The longer American kids miss in-person schooling, the further they fall behind. But the uncertain state of the science on the role young children play in the pandemic continues to complicate efforts to reopen schools.

Focus group: Former Trump voters say he should never hold office again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."

Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.