by Ryan Nelson
*this article was written on May 6, 2018, but because it was submitted to another publication for possible publishing, Fox Hawk had to wait until he got the rejection email from this unnamed institution.
*full disclosure: Michael Cohen is my personal attorney.
*Just kidding. I am an avid Fox viewer with the ability to obsess. I am obsessed with Fox News opinion shows, such as Hannity, and how the public can know if the information presented on these programs is opinion or fact.
In the days since Sean Hannity was revealed as Michael Cohen’s third client, Fox News has faced issues concerning the line between true, verifiable news and opinion programming on their #1 rated station
Since the bombshell admission by Michael Cohen attorney Stephen Ryan in court that Sean Hannity is in fact a legal client of Mr. Cohen’s, Fox has faced a credibility crisis the likes of which…umm…Fox’s credibility crisis began when…ahh, it dawns on me now that for Fox News to have a credibility crisis, they must have credibility at stake. As Trump and Hannity supporters have shown in spades, Fox News has no credibility to lose in the first place. The only real uproar that could have an effect on Fox News decision makers is one by the legitimate journalists that work at Fox News, but are extremely tired of their association with Fox & Friends & Hannity.
As if to placate their own staff’s legitimate complaint that what Sean Hannity does is unnecessarily feed Americans false facts in order to reinforce their decision to support Trump. To address this…we’ll say issue, Fox News has made two specific as-of-yet unheard of changes to their opinion:
- The OPINION BAR: featured for the first (and probably last) time during the Opening Statement of Justice with Judge Jeanine host Judge Jeanine Pirro. Aired on Fox News Saturday, May 5, 2018.
- FULL DISCLOSURE: Sean Hannity now has to give a full disclosure of any previous relationship he has had with a guest on his show. Multiple examples exist, but this article will focus on Sean Hannity’s first disclosure after the Cohen/Hannity connection was revealed.
Between the OPINION bar from Judge Jeanine Pirro and the requirement for Sean Hannity to fully disclose his prior and current relationships to guests on his show, the latter is currently in place, although the former looks like a one time deal.
Mr. Hannity typically discloses his private associations jokingly, adding a line at the end like “Full disclosure, David has negotiated every single radio and TV contract and book contract of my career. And I usually pay for dinner.” This was said about attorney and author David Limbaugh, appearing on May 18, 2018, the Friday Hannity.
However, Sean Hannity’s first on-air disclosure after he was outed in court as Michael Cohen’s client was awkward. Hannity shifted his eyes and almost apologetically asked if it was okay if he endorsed Hannity guest and Republican governor contender in Florida Ron DeSantos.
Mr. Hannity is right, it is hilarious that he now has to disclose any prior or current personal connection with every single one of his guests who has one. The OPINION bar from Judge Jeanine, however, seems to be a one-time test, as I have not seen it since.
- Sean Hannity, host of Fox News’ #1 rated program, was recently outed as a third client of embattled attorney Michael Cohen. Cohen is the personal attorney of President Donald Trump whose office and home were raided by the FBI and officers representing the Southern District of New York.
- Facing amounting pressure from both outside and inside it’s ranks, Fox News has tested two measures to delineate which Fox News programs are fact-based and which are opinion-based. It seems that currently, only one measure has survived the testing phase and is used regularly by Sean Hannity (in a joking way).
- (1) During the opening monologue on a Fox News opinion program, a banner was displayed across the bottom of the screen: OPINION. This happened in the opening minutes of Justice with Judge Jeanine on Saturday, May 5, 2018.
- (2) Mr. Hannity must now disclose any prior association they have with guests on their show. This is evidenced by Sean Hannity disclosing his endorsement of Florida Congressman Ron DeSantos in his campaign for Florida governor.
Did anyone else watch Justice with Judge Jeanine yesterday? *Note:this article was originally written on 5/6/2018, but now includes information up to 5/19/2018. May the 5th, 2018 will be remembered as a banner day for Fox News. You will understand why that is funny further down.
This particular Saturday, Judge Jeanine welcomed to her show embattled Trump lawyer and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The Giuliani interview, interesting though it was, did not snap me to full attention like the OPINION bar did. It was Fox News testing a way out of their current quandary: how to tell their audience that their opinion block is really opinion without the host coming out and saying it.
During Judge Jeanine’s opening statement, there appeared on the bottom of the screen a banner I had not previously seen on Fox, or any other news station for that matter. The banner said one word: OPINION. My eyes bulged out like Wile E. Coyote looking at no ground under his feet. I saw that Fox News had labeled the Judge’s opening speech as opinion.
This gave me pause, as I had believed that the whole purpose of having shows like Justice and Hannity was to present political opinion as fact, and not let viewers know the difference. Yet there was the banner. OPINION. As far as I can tell, this banner has not appeared on any other Fox News opinion show, just the night Rudy Giuliani appeared on Justice with Judge Jeanine.
This OPINION bar only appeared for part of Ms. Pirro’s opening statement, then it disappeared for the rest of the episode. However, while the OPINION bar hovered on screen, Judge Pirro continued with her monologue, almost as if she wasn’t told the OPINION banner would be there. She stated opinion as fact. She also told the truth. To me there was no correlation between when the bar appeared and what Judge Jeannie said at the time.
For Justice that night, there was definitely a disconnect between what was seen on Fox News and what was heard on Fox News. The thing is, this is not the first time Fox News has used this dirty trick. As reported by Fox Hawk on Thursday April 12, 2018, Sean Hannity engaged in the time-honored Fox News tradition of leading their audience to believe a quote featured on Fox is current, while the quote is actually quite old.
As I point out in that article, one example of the purposeful disconnect between what is heard and what is seen on the screen of Fox News is when Hannity would air a news clip of Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein saying that she had not seen any evidence of collusion. The clip he shows is from an interview Senator Feinstein gave to Jake Tapper on November 5, 2017. Back then, the Russia Investigation was in it’s infancy. Here is the full interview.
Sean Hannity would play the clip months later, after major news broke (many times) from Robert Mueller’s office, insinuating that Ms. Feinstein said that quote recently, while the original air date (11/5/2018) appeared at the top right corner while the Californian senator spoke. Why wouldn’t Mr. Hannity just say the date of the video as it rolled? It seems easy enough to do…Maybe Fox News has found that Fox Viewers don’t really read the screen while they listen to Hannity.
For a fuller treatment on Trump and Hannity’s claim about what Ms. Feinstein said, go to politifact.com
The Monday after Rudy Giuliani appeared on Justice, I noticed a change in Sean Hannity’s show, too. It seems that because of his failure to disclose his relationship with Michael Cohen, Mr. Hannity must now disclose his previous relationship with every guest on his show. Some of his disclosures come in jest, but Sean does disclose a lot more since his involuntary unmasking.
To the Fox Hawk, this seems like a compromise between the real journalists at Fox News and Fox executives. I get the feeling that John Roberts and Shepard Smith, among others, are tired of being grouped in with the likes of Hannity, Carlson, Pirro, and Ingraham. In fact, this is a great clip of John Roberts pointing out that The Washington Post published a true, verified report about Mike Pompeo visiting North Korea. Sean Hannity didn’t say a word to refute that the Post published the truth.
One particular disclosure stood out to me, because it was the first time I had heard Sean Hannity say anything like this. It happened on the May 1, 2018 episode of Hannity, after the public knew of Hannity’s legal link to Michael Cohen. For one of the last segments, Republican congressman Ron DeSantis shared the screen with Sean Hannity and Dan Bongino as all three questioned the validity of the Mueller invsetigation. At the end of the segment, Mr. Hannity said this:
HANNITY: All right. By the way, full disclosure – I do want Ron DeSantis to win and be the next governor, unless you do not want me to endorse you, then I will take it back.
That’s odd. I’ve never heard Sean Hannity say anything like that in all his broadcasts.
Fox News has suffered intense backlash after it was revealed Monday, April 16, 2018 that Sean Hannity, host of Fox News’ #1 show, was a third ‘mystery client’ of Michael Cohen. Cohen is President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer who is currently under criminal investigation. In reaction to Mr. Hannity’s conflict of interest bombshell, Fox News released a statement acknowledging that while they had not previously known about Sean Hannity’s connection to Michael Cohen, they had discussed it with Mr. Hannity and no disciplinary action would take place.
However, Fox News did not announce two crucial changes it would soon make to Fox News opinion shows in the wake of Hannity’s disclosure. These changes look like a move to placate Fox News’ legitimate journalists. To me, the message to Fox News executives from their daytime anchors is clear: “Stop grouping us in with Sean Hannity! We want a clear distinction between news and opinion!”
Fox has implemented two specific measures to help Fox viewers distinguish between what is truthful news being reported on their TV screens and what is personal opinion.
- During the opening monologue of Fox News opinion programming, there is a banner displayed across the bottom of the screen that reads: OPINION. *note: this seems to be a one-time test, as it has not been repeated.
- Fox News host Sean Hannity has to disclose any prior relationship with any guest or commentator on his show. This disclosure requirement also applies to whom Sean Hannity endorses in political races.
It seems the legitimate journalism arm of the Fox News channel would like to get as far away from Sean Hannity as possible. Ditto goes for Judge Jeanine, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. The dividing line between real Fox News anchors like Shepard Smith, Niel Cavuto, and Chris Wallace, who hold themselves to the rules of journalistic integrity, and Sean Hannity, with his merry troupe of opinion commentators, has been growing for quite some time.
Recall recently when daytime anchor Shepard Smith referred to Fox’s prime time shows as ‘entertainment.’ Or Ralph Peter’s scathing email to his Fox colleagues as he went out the door, quitting his commentator job at Fox.
Then there was the moment that epitomized what I refer to as the Fox Paradox: Sean Hannity was revealed to be Michael Cohen’s mystery third client. This bombshell dropped on Monday, April 16, 2018, and Fox News just wouldn’t ever be the same again.
“Surely this is the end of Hannity as we know it,” I thought to myself, “Rupert Murdoch has to fire him for not disclosing his relationship to Michael Cohen.” This was double true, I supposed, in light of Sean Hannity’s behavior after the April 9, 2018 raid on Cohen’s office and before Mr. Hannity was outed as a Cohen client a week later.
FBI and law enforcement from the Southern District of New York raided Mr. Cohen’s office on Monday, April 9, 2018. Hannity began that evening’s show proclaiming that Robert Mueller’s investigation was “completely off the rails.” If only we knew then what Hannity knew: most likely, his name would come out in association with Michael Cohen. Like I said, a banner day for Fox. Or week. Yes, a banner week.
Hannity May 1, 2018 @ 29 min 56 seconds