I have been doing this for 25 years.
I thought I had seen it all. But Monday brought revelations of the most egregious journalistic misconduct I have ever witnessed.
FOX News has become nothing but Trump administration propaganda. That’s their right in America. Just because you have the right to do good journalism doesn’t mean you have to. The New York Times and National Enquirer all have the same protections under the First Amendment.
But what FOX News has done recently is a defining moment for legal conflicts of interest.
Donald Trump’s “fixer” Attorney Michael Cohen tried to protect a clandestine client from court proceedings after his office was raided by federal agents. Cohen’s work includes allegedly using his own $130,000 to pay a porn star to stay silent about an affair for President Trump — who Franklin Graham says is the first president in years to know the power of prayer. I guess if I got caught having an affair with a porn star weeks after my third wife had my fifth child, I might pray a little harder as well.
But Cohen isn’t just a porn star non-disclosure expert. He also worked to help a staunchly pro-life Republican Party official pay for an abortion for a former Playboy model. Cohen seems to have a certain expertise.
Cohen tried to keep a third client secret but the court didn’t allow it. Now we know that FOX News’ Sean Hannity was that third client, but he swears he never paid Cohen a dime or discussed any matter concerning a third party. He says he and Cohen are buddies and only asked a few questions about real estate.
Cohen seemed convinced Hannity was a client. Hannity swears he wasn’t. I am not sure what kind of real estate deal doesn’t involve a third party, but this is Hannity we are talking about. Also, if he only asked a few questions, why would Cohen have documents concerning Hannity that could be seized and what kind of real estate deal doesn’t include a third party?
These guys should have spent more time getting their stories straight.
But tonight I am feeling generous. I will pretend I believe everything Hannity is saying about his newly revealed situation.
Even if Cohen weren’t his attorney and was only a friend, the fact that Hannity didn’t discuss that during dozens of reports is a huge issue that destroys his credibility and that of stations that host his broadcasts.
When you make a statement like this on behalf of a friend or an attorney and don’t reveal that relationship, you have no ethics — or morals.
“Now, we turn to some other developments, including those surrounding Robert Mueller’s overreaching witch hunt,” Hannity said during his nightly screed after the search was conducted. “Former Federal Election Commission chairman, his name is Bradley Smith, he’s a Republican appointed by President (Bill) Clinton, is throwing cold water on the notion that Michael Cohen could or should be charged with a crime in connection to this whole Stormy Daniels payment.”
Shepard Smith had the unenviable task of announcing the network’s biggest name also being named in perhaps the most important and controversial search warrant in the history of the American legal system.
“We just spoke with his publicist here at FOX News who says that he says they have been friends a long time, he never denied that he was his lawyer, that he did some legal work for him along the way, and that’s the extent of that,” Smith said.
But don’t worry, FOX did nothing in an attempt to salvage any remnant of their credibility.
Hannity continued his misdirection on factual issues and misuse of the language at his regularly scheduled time Monday.
Even more repulsive than Hannity misusing a common phrase by saying “the cherry on the cake” instead of the “cherry on the sundae” is the fact that Hannity wasn’t suspended or fired on the spot when these bombshells were revealed in court. FOX News still aired his hit piece on James Comey mere hours after he was discovered to be Cohen’s third — and secret — client.
When Alan Dershowitz told Hannity on his own show that he should have disclosed his relationship with Cohen before discussing the raid, Hannity shot back that he “has a right to privacy.”
He said his relationship with Cohen was minimal. He said it had to do with real estate and nothing political. It became political exactly when Cohen worked for two other political figures — one of whom is the president — and his offices were raided. Hannity knew he was the undisclosed client. Hannity still discussed Cohen like his opinion was unbiased. He was a friend and legal counsel. Cohen considered Hannity a client.
This is egregious. Commentators on this channel are constantly railing against the “liberal media” but no one at the New York Times is sharing an attorney with a president who happens to be facing a criminal investigation.
What Hannity did — or didn’t do — by failing to disclose this relationship is another black mark on this “news” channel and this administration.
I can’t wait to see the documents that Cohen was trying to protect to see if Hannity’s story is even close to factual.
But even if it is, failing to mention it before filing those stories is an affront to the poor viewers who actually believe Hannity has the capacity to tell the truth.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.