Fox News TV personality Sean Hannity serves as one of the most vocal supporters of and a critical mouthpiece for the Trump administration. As the professional entertainer continued to rail against the FBI’s investigation of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, it was revealed Monday, April 16 that Hannity was actually a client of Cohen’s — raising significant questions about the ethical stature and credibility of Hannity as a TV host in the political arena. The revelation that Hannity did not disclose his conflict of interest to viewers before commenting on it is of itself a damning stain on his reputation; however, the revelation does little more than remind us of who we already knew Sean Hannity as: An irresponsible commentator who follows few conventional rules and will make any sacrifice to protect the president.
Michael Cohen appeared in court for a legal hearing on April 16, and disclosed he has worked as a lawyer for 10 clients, including Donald Trump, Elliott Brady and a third client whom he attempted to avoid naming. United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Kimba M. Wood, however, ordered Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, to disclose the name of the third “mystery client,” who was revealed to be Fox News personality and Trump advocate Sean Hannity.
Following the revelation, Hannity shot back, denying that he was a client of Cohen’s, saying “Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice or paid legal fees,” in a statement released by Fox News. Later that day on his radio show however, Hannity appeared to contradict these statements, saying “I occasionally had brief legal discussions with him where I wanted his input and perspective” and that he “might have handed” Cohen $10 and said “I want attorney-client privilege on this.”
Unless Hannity was outright lying, which, despite his history of toying with the truth, is highly unlikely, it’s clear that Cohen never served as Hannity’s personal lawyer. Yet the fact that Hannity shares a personal as well as a professional and legal relationship with him casts a nebulous ethical cloud over Hannity, who has been incendiary in his coverage of the FBI’s raid of Michael Cohen’s office in New York.
Most people familiar with Hannity can deduce fairly easily that he is a sycophantic hype-man of the president who will stop at nothing to strengthen his image and attack his enemies. Thus his attacks on the FBI and the rule of law are still incredibly troubling, but still socially acceptable to a degree. The fact that the man who said Special Counsel Robert Mueller had “declared war” on the president following the raid has a direct relationship with the man who is under criminal investigation, however, exposes Hannity to an entirely new level of ethical burdens.
Unsurprisingly though, Hannity has not backed down from his role as mouthpiece of Trumpian propaganda and FBI critic. The fact that Hannity hasn’t addressed this complication, which seems to be noticeably more damning and irresponsible, reveals a fundamental truth about Hannity. Hannity isn’t a journalist; he’s an entertainer. He’s said it himself, yet he certainly doesn’t entertain his audience responsibly. Hannity is the man who ran ridiculous segments on the fact that President Obama once had Dijon mustard on his burger, has defended birtherism and calls nearly all mainstream reporters “disgustingly biased, ideological and corrupt.” He is the man who regularly accuses lifetime Republican and George W. Bush appointee Robert Mueller of leading a “partisan witch hunt,” and relentlessly pushed the bogus “Uranium One” scandal aimed at implicating Hillary Clinton, whom he has accused multiple times of being a criminal without any evidence, in treason.
Many Washington pundits wrote about how Hannity had crossed a new ethical line in regards to the Cohen scandal, and that he had tossed out his credibility. The fact is, however, Hannity lost his credibility a long time ago. A master of whataboutism and professional entertainer for fans who wouldn’t stop loving him and Trump even if they “shot someone in the middle of 5th avenue,” what makes Hannity most dangerous is that he is unrealistically popular amongst his base.
Sean Hannity and Donald Trump have nearly become avatars of perfection amongst their base, an incredibly dangerous quality that both men should know reflects poorly on their character. Their propaganda has grown to more than just an echo chamber, it has become a weaponization of people’s worst fears and deepest insecurities. Hannity’s latest ethical lapse reminds us of this all the same, he isn’t there to advance truth, but to push a wicked agenda through toxic groupthink. As George Patton once said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.”