After disastrous first impeachment hearing, House GOP chairs retreat to Hannity

After the first hearing of House Republicans’ undercooked impeachment inquiry predictably ended in disaster on Thursday, the three committee chairs who presided over the debacle promptly retreated to Sean Hannity’s program, where they repeated the same debunked talking points while the Fox News star showered them with praise.

Fox dragooned House Republicans into trying to impeach President Joe Biden based on the network’s convoluted conspiracy theories. On the GOP propaganda shows hosted by Hannity and his colleagues, House Republicans largely avoid having to answer difficult questions about the utter lack of convincing evidence linking Biden to wrongdoing while being allowed to overhype and misstate what the documents and statements they cite actually show.

But during Thursday’s impeachment hearing, chairs James Comer (R-KY), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Jason Smith (R-MO) and their colleagues had to reckon with contrary information brought forward by well-prepared House Democrats, as well as their own witnesses’ refusal to say that their committees had produced evidence that justified Biden’s impeachment. The results were devastating to their credibility. 

“The first hearing in House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into President Biden featured their star witnesses testifying that they lacked proof that he committed impeachable offenses, multiple procedural skirmishes the G.O.P. majority nearly lost and, at times, nearly a dozen empty Republican seats,” The New York Times reported. “What it did not include was any new information about Mr. Biden’s conduct — or any support for Republicans’ accusations that he had entered into corrupt overseas business deals.”

“I don't know what was achieved over these last six plus hours,” Fox anchor and senior vice president Neil Cavuto offered after the hearing came to a close. “When you begin to trumpet what you have as the beginning of an explosive inquiry into the president of the United States to potentially remove him from office, you would think you would bring your A-game.”

Even Republicans themselves quietly acknowledged their failure. “Picking witnesses that refute House Republicans' arguments for impeachment is mind-blowing. This is an unmitigated disaster,” one senior GOP aide told CNN.” Another told the Washington Post that “Comer has lost control, allowing Dems to land attacks.” After a Democratic congressman said that the hearing had devolved into a “disaster,” PunchBowl News’ Jake Sherman commented, “Many in the GOP leadership agree.”

Reality had been very mean and unfair to the House Republicans, and so they left it for Hannity’s warm embrace. The Fox star and Republican operative opened his show by explaining to his viewers that the day’s hearing had actually gone just great.

Video file

Citation From the September 28, 2023, edition of Fox News' Hannity.

“We have a pathetic new chapter from your President Joe Biden, and it's now unfolding before our eyes. Day one of the house impeachment inquiry into Biden, what I call the Joe Biden bribery and money laundering scandal allegations,” he said at the top of his monologue. “It is now in the books. It's officially started. It did not disappoint.”

“The mob and the media and all these Democrats, [they say] ‘There's no evidence.’ No, there's a mountain of evidence,” he went on to claim, as an on-screen graphic made the same point. “It would take us hours to play all the evidence presented just today against Joe Biden.” 

After walking his viewers through aspects of the Hunter Biden argle-bargle the House Republicans had highlighted that day, he brought on Comer, Jordan, and Smith for a curtain call.

Video file

Citation From the September 28, 2023, edition of Fox News' Hannity.

The host’s questions were really more prompts for his guests to monologue about the supposedly important work they were doing, including:

  • “All right. Jim Jordan, let me start with you. I keep hearing from the media mob and Democrats and the White House, ‘But there's no evidence, none at all.’ You have a list of evidence. I think you could probably go on for the next 10 minutes giving us evidence.”
  • “James Comer, let's go over the evidence — and there's a lot of it — to sum up the biggest evidence that you and your committee — and you had a great couple of lines in an opening statement today that I think everybody needs to see, talking about the bank records. Tell everybody watching right now, what evidence do you have?”
  • “Jason Smith, the House Ways and Means Committee, you have an important role in all this investigation. Your — all of your investigations seem to run in tandem. What have you learned about Joe Biden, his family — never mind it all started with lies and the fact is he met with and talked to many foreign business partners and even had dinner with a Russian oligarch and other, you know, business partners at Cafe Milano. It doesn't sound like a guy that never talked to his son, brother, or anybody for that matter about business. What have you learned at the House Ways and Means Committee?”

The chairs used the pliant platform to push a variety of false claims, misrepresentations, exaggerations, and decontextualized nonsense, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted. In particular, Hannity gave Jordan the opportunity to again recite his mind-numbingly wrong “four facts” reiterating the right’s Ukraine conspiracy theory

Hannity closed by asking each of the chairs whether he is “correct in describing this as the Joe Biden bribery, money laundering scandal allegations” (they all agreed that he was), then telling them: “Thank you for sharing your time and your information with the American people that are being lied to by the media every single day and by the Democratic Party. We appreciate it.”