Just when we thought the dark clouds surrounding President Donald Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen couldn’t get any more Stormy, it appears Fox News anchor Sean Hannity has stumbled into the crossfire.
While it should seem obvious that journalists should adhere to ethical standards, put aside personal biases and answer only to the public, it appears that Hannity, as a news anchor, has forgotten these principles in his haste to bash Robert Mueller, the Special Prosecutor in charge of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. This is why he should no longer be on air.
On April 9, Cohen’s office, home and hotel were raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after a tip from Mueller. After lambasting the raid, it was revealed in court that Hannity was Cohen’s “secret” third client.
Two of Cohen’s clients, Elliott Broidy, a Republican philanthropist and Trump and are currently under investigation by the FBI for violating campaign finance laws when they paid off women they supposedly had affairs with, including adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Before this revelation, millions of Americans tuned in to watch Hannity criticize Mueller on Fox News and defend the actions of the president and his lawyer. With his relationship with Cohen now public, his criticism of Mueller raised ethical concerns and put Hannity’s credibility into question.
“I did have occasional brief conversations with Michael Cohen,” Hannity said on his show. “He is a great attorney about legal questions I had, or I was looking for input and perspective.”
Hannity later stated that he and Cohen spoke almost exclusively about real estate. Not once during these events did Hannity decide to disclose his association with Cohen to his audience.
Once it was revealed that Hannity was a client of Cohen, red flags were immediately raised about Hannity’s journalistic integrity.
Let’s lay out the guidelines of a journalist. First and foremost, a journalist is supposed to seek the truth and report it — they should be accurate, fair and honest.
While he kept this relationship under wraps, he demonized Mueller and his investigation. On one of his more recent shows, Hannity likened Mueller to a mob boss, putting up a graphic labeled “The Mueller Crime Family?”
He has claimed that Mueller is unfit to lead the “witch hunt” investigation because as a prosecutor in Boston, Mueller allegedly “looked the other way” when dealing with a notorious gangster and killer, Whitey Bulger.
During the segment, Hannity tried to discredit the investigation by saying that Mueller’s staff consisted of some Clinton donors, which he portrayed as a conflict of interest.
Which leads to perhaps most important ethical standard that reporters live by — to work independently in order to avoid any conflict of interest.
By this, journalists are never supposed to lobby in political campaigns and must work to secure the public’s trust. Their primary allegiance should be to the public and if he or she strays from that, they risk destroying their credibility.
Hannity has been a staunch supporter of Trump and has consistently defended the president’s actions.His criticisms of Mueller’s investigation could be seen as defending an ally or friend, rather than defending the public’s interest.
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, one of Hannity’s most frequent guests and an outspoken defender of the president, said Hannity should have told of his relationship with the lawyer.
“I really think that you should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen. You talked about him on this show,” Dershowitz said during an unrelated interview on Hannity’s show. “You could’ve said just that you asked him for advice or whatever, but I think it would’ve been much, much better if you had disclosed it.”
Hannity shouldn’t be trusted to stay on the air and talk about the Mueller investigation now that his affiliation with Cohen has been revealed. Because of his relationship with the major players in this investigation, everything he has said up this point should be considered moot.
The fact that Fox News has yet to suspend Hannity is very telling about how much the network cares about the public’s need to know. If it were any other news outlet, the anchor might be suspended or even fired.
Regardless of what Hannity chooses to refer to himself as, either an advocacy journalist or opinion journalist, he shouldn’t be considered a journalist anymore. In this era of fake news, Hannity’s lack of ethical standards only adds to the public’s negative perception of news media. In essence, Hannity is spitting in the face of journalists all over the world who pride themselves on unbiased and objective reporting.