by Ryan Nelson, the Fox Hawk
*Fox Hawk note: all quotes attributed to Sean Hannity and his show are pulled directly from transcripts of Hannity on foxnews.com. Bold and italics added by author*
Sean Hannity has aired old and outdated quotes said by prominent Democrat politicians, suggesting to his audience that what was said in the past was what Democrats believed at the time when Mr. Hannity aired the quote.
In the era of Fox News’ new President and CEO, Donald Trump, Mr. Hannity has turned the skills he honed during the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinksi scandal and the Hillary Clinton/email scandal into national fodder for the defense of Donald Trump. Let’s make no mistake, Bill Clinton’s oval office escapade took Fox News from an obscure conservative network founded by Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch into the #1 cable news outlet.
When he aired the old quotes from prominent Democrats, Mr. Hannity failed to inform his audience that since the day when those quotes were originally said, there had been massive developments in the story the quotes were referencing, suggesting that if Sean Hannity were to ask what the speakers thought about the issue when he aired these video clips of quotes, they would say something completely different than what they originally said.
Recently, on an episode of NPR’s Fresh Air, host Terry Gross asked her guest and frequent Fox News critic Gabriel Sherman about the current unique relationship between Sean Hannity and Donald Trump. Among other anecdotes Mr. Sherman recounted, he said this about President Trump’s TiVo habits:
“And one thing that I find so remarkable is that when Trump doesn’t watch “Hannity” live, he will DVR the show and watch it the next day in the small annex room off of the Oval Office where he’s installed televisions. And he likes to sit with all of his newspapers watching cable news. So he’s probably one of the few people in America that actually TiVos Sean Hannity and likes to watch clips of it.” (https://www.npr.org/2018/07/12/628250994/journalist-sees-almost-no-daylight-between-fox-news-and-white-house-agendas)
I would like to add myself to the group of Americans that “actually TiVos Sean Hannity and likes to watch clips of it.” However, I would like to add two caveats: (1) I watch much more Hannity than Donald Trump, and (2) I don’t like to watch clips of Hannity, but I do because that’s my job.
I watch almost every episode of Hannity, and I watch many clips multiple times. I also study transcripts from episodes of Hannity on foxnews.com. I have taken an investigative approach to watching Sean Hannity. I never accept anything Mr. Hannity purports on his show without first verifying it with a reputable outside source. It is in my detailed cataloging of Hannity that I have found many examples of Fox News ‘dirty tricks’ Sean Hannity’s show utilizes that many other Fox News critics have missed.
Sean Hannity owes US Congressman Adam Schiff, Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and former CIA Director James Clapper an explanation.
On January 29th, 2018 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sR2NZP19Tqw&t=7s), Mr. Hannity aired a video montage of quotes from these Democratic members of the House and Senate, ending with a clip of ex-CIA Director James Clapper. Each quote that was shown essentially contained the same assertion: the speakers had seen no evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump Campaign and Russian actors to influence the US Presidential Election.
Mr. Hannity used these quotes to support his assertion that despite all the news the mainstream media had been reporting in January of 2018 about the Trump Campaign’s connections to the Russian influence effort, there were Democratic officials that had seen no evidence of collusion. Reps Schiff, Manchin, Feinstein, Waters, and Mr. Clapper had all confirmed at the time that they had seen no evidence of collusion. Mr. Hannity aired the exact same video during his subsequent show on February 1, 2018.
From Hannity on January 29, 2018 (http://www.foxnews.com/transcript/2018/01/29/conway-are-processing-memo-at-white-house.html)
HANNITY: Now, what’s been playing out here is a coordinated effort by the media to smear, slander, besmirch President Trump with what they know now is a total fabrication. Now, we have seen nothing — I mean nothing — showing Trump-Russia collusion for over a year. OK. Don’t take Sean Hannity’s word for it, forget me, all right? Many top ranking Democrats, people in the intel community, have all said the same thing. This is a reminder for the destroy Trump media. Take a look.
** Fox Hawk fun fact: number of times Sean Hannity began his statements with the word “now” during his opening monologue on this show (1/29/18): 17 **
These quotes were originally recorded on either June 11, 2017 or June 18, 2017. Mr. Hannity aired his montage on January 29, 2018. The implication to Hannity viewers is that these quotes are what the Democratic representatives thought on January 29, 2018, as if there had been no other major developments in Robert Mueller’s Russia/Trump Investigation since June of 2017.
SPOILER ALERT: there had been many significant developments in the Russia Probe between June 2017 and the end of January 2018.
- July 8, 2017: The New York Times broke the news that on June 9, 2016, Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselniskya in Trump Tower under the promise of dirt on then political opponent Hillary Clinton.
- July 26, 2017: Paul Manafort’s home and office were raided by the FBI.
- October 27, 2017: Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury.
- December 1, 2017: It was publicly confirmed through court filings that President Trump’s Secretary of Defense for 20 days, Michael Flynn, had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and was cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That same day, court filings revealed that Trump campaign assistant George Papadopoulos had also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and was cooperating with the Special Counsel. Mr. Popadopoulos’s plea agreement with the Mueller team had been filed three months earlier, but had been sealed until December 1st.
Gee, do you think Mr. Schiff, Ms. Feinstein, Ms. Waters, Mr. Manchin or Mr. Clapper’s opinions would have changed on Russian collusion after these four bombshell developments? Yet there Sean Hannity was in January 2018 showing those old quotes from early June 2017 and claiming that Schiff and the others’ opinion on collusion hadn’t changed.
Here is the transcript of the montage from Hannity (italics and bold added by author for emphasis):
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-CALIF., “THIS WEEK”/ABC, JUNE 18, 2017: The allegation, of course, is that the Russians in the hacking and dumping of documents in the election had essentially relationships with Trump campaign people. But I’m not prepared to say that there’s proof you could take to a jury.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, “THIS WEEK”/ABC, JUNE 11, 2017: Do you agree with this conclusion that the president has reached that there was no evidence of collusion?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN, D-WVA., “THIS WEEK”/ABC, JUNE 11, 2017: You know, we haven’t seen any of that whatsoever, George. We’ve been looking and showing everything that they possibly have. That has not led to that.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN, MAY 18, 2017: The last time we spoke, Senator, I asked you if you had actually seen evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. And you said to me and I’m quoting you now, you said “not at this time.” Has anything changed since we spoke last?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF., MSNBC, MAY 18, 2017: Well, not — no, it hasn’t.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, MSNBC, MAY 18, 2017: I know — just to be clear we haven’t there has been no actual evidence yet?
REP. MAXINE WATERS, D-CALIF., MSNBC, MAY 18, 2017: No, it has not been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: No evidence of collusion. Now, the corrupt media in this country, they seem impervious to facts, truth. They don’t look for the truth any more. They’re believing at this point their own lies I think many have actually convince themselves with their destroy Trump mentality that their phony narrative is actually true without any evidence.
Is it unethical for a journalist to cite an old quote from a public figure, telling his or her readers that the quote still represents what the public figure believes? What about a news commentator? What about the hosts on the Fox News opinion prime time block?
I asked reporter Joe Goldeen the same question. Mr. Goldeen is a staff writer at The Record, a print newspaper in Stockton, California. Mr Goldeen responded: (bold and italics added by author)
If the journalist doesn’t state when an older quote was said, that’s not OK. That essentially takes it out of context. If it’s set up as follows: Politician John Smith said in January — OR — Politician John Smith said in the past blah blah blah but now he believes bleh bleh bleh. That would be OK. This should be the standard for both news reporters and opinion writers, if they want to be taken seriously.