Michael Cohen | Media Matters for America

Michael Cohen

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  • No crime but a witch hunt: Pro-Trump media’s off-the-wall reactions to Manafort's conviction and Cohen's guilty plea

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen were found guilty and pleaded guilty, respectively, each on eight criminal counts, right-wing media immediately rose to President Donald Trump’s defense. Multiple media figures claimed that none of the charges had anything to do with Trump and that Trump’s former associates pleaded guilty to crimes that “don’t exist.”

  • 83 times Hannity did not mention that his pro-Trump legal guests also had done legal work for him

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox host Sean Hannity has been under fire for not disclosing his legal relationship with President Donald Trump’s associate Michael Cohen. Hannity also has a legal relationship with Trump-linked attorneys Jay Sekulow, Victoria Toensing, and Joseph diGenova. Hannity hosted them (and Cohen) a total of 83 times on his Fox News show Hannity without disclosing the relationships.

    Michael Cohen

    Jay Sekulow

    Victoria Toensing

    Joseph diGenova

    Michael Cohen

    Trump connection: Michael Cohen is Donald Trump’s longtime associate, who has been described as Trump’s “personal lawyer and fixer.” He is currently under federal criminal investigation.

    Hannity connection: On April 16, Cohen’s lawyer disclosed in court that Hannity was Cohen’s client. Hannity has since attempted to downplay their relationship. Despite widespread criticism of Hannity’s actions, Fox News reportedly has no plans to hold Hannity accountable for his failure to disclose his relationship with Cohen.

    Cohen has appeared as a guest on the Fox show Hannity 15 times in the past five years. Additionally, Cohen was mentioned or discussed during Hannity’s show 11 times. Cohen has also been on Hannity’s radio show twice and has been discussed on Hannity’s radio show at least six times. While Hannity has said things such as “we’ve been friends a long time” and “we’re friends … I know you” to Cohen, giving some insight into their relationship, Media Matters found no instances on Hannity where the host disclosed his legal ties to the lawyer. Here are the times Cohen appeared or was discussed on Hannity’s Fox News show:

    4/16/18 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    4/12/18 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    4/11/18 - Fox News - Mentioned  Cohen

    4/10/18 - Fox News - Mentioned  Cohen

    4/9/18 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    1/11/18 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    1/9/18 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    4/28/17 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    4/3/17 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    1/18/17 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    1/12/17 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    1/11/17 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    1/10/17 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    1/5/17 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    8/19/16 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    8/4/16 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    4/18/16 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    4/8/16 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    3/4/16 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    1/4/16 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    10/5/15 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    8/24/15 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    8/10/15 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    8/4/15 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    7/28/15 - Fox News - Mentioned Cohen

    7/24/15 - Fox News - Hosted Cohen

    Jay Sekulow

    Trump connection: Jay Sekulow announced on June 9, 2017, that he was joining Trump’s legal team. He has been on the team since then and is currently the primary attorney for Trump in regard to the Russia probe.

    Hannity connection: In April 2017, after a far-right troll suggested that the CIA “targeted” Hannity for surveillance during the election “because of his perceived ties to Julian Assange,” Hannity claimed that he had hired lawyers Jay Sekulow and Joseph diGenova to investigate and pursue a civil action. Additionally, The Atlantic reported that an Oklahoma radio station received a cease-and-desist letter on May 25, 2017, after right-wing radio host Debbie Schlussel accused Hannity of sexual harassment, that was signed by Sekulow and Victoria Toensing, listing them as “Counsel for Sean Hannity.”

    Since Hannity announced that he hired Sekulow nearly a year ago, Sekulow has been a guest on Hannity’s Fox show 53 times. Sekulow has also appeared on Hannity's radio show at least 27 times in that period. Media Matters found only one occasion throughout Sekulow’s 53 appearances on Hannity’s television show in which the host mentioned he had legal ties to Sekulow. On May 23, 2017, two days before the Oklahoma radio station received a letter from Sekulow on Hannity’s behalf, Hannity stated, “Joining us with reaction, from the American Center for Law and Justice, Jay Sekulow, by the way, who's done legal work for me in the past.” Here are the times Sekulow appeared on Hannity’s Fox News show:

    3/8/18 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    2/2/18  - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    1/23/18 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    1/22/18 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    12/15/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    12/12/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    11/14/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    10/30/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    10/26/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    10/23/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    9/21/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    9/12/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    9/5/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    8/15/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    8/8/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    8/7/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    8/4/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    8/3/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    7/27/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    7/18/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    7/17/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    7/14/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    7/11/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    7/10/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/29/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/27/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/26/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/23/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/22/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/21/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/19/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/15/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/14/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/13/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/12/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    [Sekulow joined Trump legal team]

    6/9/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/8/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    6/7/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/30/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    [Radio station KFAQ received letter signed by Sekulow as “Counsel for Sean Hannity”]

    5/23/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow, “who's done legal work for me in the past”

    5/22/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/19/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/18/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/16/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/15/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/12/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/10/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/9/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/3/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    5/2/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    4/28/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    4/19/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    4/12/17 - Fox News - Hosted Sekulow

    Victoria Toensing

    Trump connection: Trump reportedly wanted to add Victoria Toensing and her husband diGenova to his legal team. Ultimately, neither of them did due to what Sekulow called “conflicts” that prevented them “from joining the president’s special counsel legal team.” He added: “However, those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the president in other legal matters.”  

    Hannity connection: Hannity has leaned on Toensing in the past to help push conspiracy theories about both Benghazi and Uranium One. Toensing represented the alleged FBI informant who made allegations about foul play by the Clintons in the Uranium One deal and who was frequently discussed on Hannity’s show. Additionally, Toensing was identified, along with Sekulow, as “Counsel for Sean Hannity” in a letter received by an Oklahoma radio station in March 2017 after right-wing radio host Debbie Schlussel accused Hannity of sexual harassment.

    Hannity has hosted Toensing on his show 11 times in the past two years. And Toensing has been discussed or mentioned on the show nine times. Hannity has previously alluded to Toensing being “one of the great attorneys” and a “friend for years,” and he has actually claimed on multiple occasions that he’d love to hire her. But a Media Matters review found no instances in which Hannity disclosed on his Fox News show that Toensing was or had been his attorney. Here are the times Toensing appeared, or was mentioned, on Hannity’s Fox News show:

    3/26/2018 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    3/22/2018 - Fox News - Mentioned Toensing

    3/9/2018 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    3/8/2018 - Fox News - Mentioned Toensing

    2/21/2018 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    2/8/2018 - Fox News - Guest Mentioned Toensing

    2/7/2018 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    1/29/2018 - Fox News - Mentioned Toensing

    1/4/2018 - Fox News - Mentioned Toensing

    12/4/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    11/28/2017 - Fox News - Guest Mentioned Toensing

    11/21/2017 - Fox News - Guest Mentioned Toensing

    11/20/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    11/13/2017 - Fox News - Mentioned Toensing

    11/6/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    10/26/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    10/25/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    10/24/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    10/18/2017 - Fox News - Hosted Toensing

    5/5/2016 - Fox News - Mentioned Toensing

    Joseph diGenova

    Trump connection: Trump wanted to hire Joseph diGenova to his legal team after he reportedly watched diGenova’s Fox News appearances defending him and presenting the Russia probe “as a conspiracy against him.” But diGenova and his wife Toensing ultimately did not join his team because of unspecified “conflicts” related to their ability to join “the president’s special counsel legal team.” Sekulow added: “However, those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the president in other legal matters.”

    Hannity connection: In April 2017, after a far-right troll suggested that the CIA “targeted” Hannity for surveillance during the election “because of his perceived ties to Julian Assange,” the WikiLeaks founder, Hannity claimed that he had hired lawyers Sekulow and diGenova to investigate and pursue a civil action. Additionally, The Atlantic reported that Toensing’s signature in a May 25, 2017, cease-and-desist letter sent on behalf of Hannity to an Oklahoma radio station “sits above her name and that of her husband Joseph E. diGenova, the members of diGenova and Toensing LLP, who are identified as ‘Counsel for Sean Hannity.’”

    Since Hannity said he hired diGenova nearly a year ago, diGenova has been a guest on Hannity’s Fox News show five times. DiGenova was also discussed on Hannity’s show on one other occasion. Separately, diGenova has appeared on Hannity’s radio show at least seven times in that time period. In March of this year, while discussing diGenova and Toensing, Hannity stated on his show, “I’d hire them in a second.” But a Media Matters review of diGenova’s appearances on Hannity’s Fox News show found no instances in which Hannity disclosed that diGenova’s firm represented him. Here are the times diGenova appeared or was mentioned on Hannity’s Fox News show:

    4/16/18 - Fox News - Hosted diGenova

    4/11/18 - Fox News - Hosted diGenova

    4/4/18 - Fox News - Hosted diGenova

    3/22/18 - Fox News - Mentioned diGenova

    2/7/18 - Fox News - Hosted diGenova

    5/11/17 - Fox News - Hosted diGenova

    Nick Fernandez, Zach Pleat, Sanam Malik, Steve Morris, and Tyler Monroe contributed to this post.

  • The right-wing media figures defending Sean Hannity’s relationship with Michael Cohen

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & BOBBY LEWIS

    Right-wing media figures are jumping to defend Fox News host Sean Hannity after it was revealed that Hannity has been a client of longtime lawyer to President Donald Trump, Michael Cohen. Hannity’s defenders are suggesting that he has “been victimized” by the revelation of his name, claiming that he “wasn’t engaging” Cohen “as a lawyer,” and even arguing that Hannity possibly “did not know he was a client of Michael Cohen."

  • Hannity’s disclosure hypocrisy

    When ABC News was caught in a disclosure scandal, Hannity went nuts

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Media Matters

    Sean Hannity is the perfectly crystallized representation of Trump-era punditry. Much like the president he slavishly devotes his entire programming schedule to deifying, Hannity is aggressively dishonest, unencumbered by anything remotely resembling a principle, and eager to rigorously impose harsh standards of conduct on his enemies that he would never dream of applying to his allies or himself. And, as with Trump, Hannity thrives despite his toxic, corrupt behavior because he operates within the poisonous world of conservative politics where the myopic pursuit of power and wealth are the only things that matter.

    That brings us to yesterday’s revelation that Hannity was the mystery client of Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who is currently under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in New York. Hannity never disclosed his relationship with Cohen, even as he railed against the FBI raids on Cohen’s home and office last week, calling them a declaration of “legal war on the president” and part of an “overreaching witch hunt.”

    This lack of disclosure comes nowhere close to being the worst abuse Hannity has committed, but it does help illustrate how Hannity exploits his utter lack of accountability and holds himself to a far laxer standard of conduct than he holds other media figures to.

    For example, in May 2015, the conservative Washington Free Beacon reported that ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos had donated money to the Clinton Foundation and “had not previously disclosed it to ABC viewers, despite taking part in on-air discussions about the Clinton Foundation and its controversial relationship with foreign donors.” ABC News and Stephanopoulos recognized this as a breach of journalistic ethics (made all the more thorny by Stephanopoulos’ previous work as a Clinton campaign and White House staffer) and it was covered as such by the media. Stephanopoulos made a public apology to viewers, and the network acknowledged that he had broken rules about charitable giving by “failing to disclose it when covering the recent reports about the foundation.”

    Hannity went wild with this story. “A major scandal developing tonight surrounding ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos who was forced to apologize earlier today over a huge conflict of interest after it was revealed that he donated $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation from 2012 to 2014,” Hannity crowed at the opening of his May 14, 2015, show. After quoting the “embattled anchor’s” apology for failing to disclose his donations on air, Hannity responded with a snide: “Gee, George, you think?”

    Hannity interviewed the Free Beacon reporter who broke the story, kicking off his questioning by calling Stephanopoulos “such a hack” and asking: “How could he possibly have not known that he should reveal this? Do you believe that?” Hannity questioned whether ABC News “really did an investigation” and suggested that “George Stephanopoulos coordinated perhaps with the Clinton campaign here.”

    “He didn't think to disclose this? I don't buy it for one minute!” Hannity continued later in the program. “I think he thought he'd get away with it and didn't disclose it. And I think ABC News is going to take a credibility hit,” he said, adding: “This goes to the credibility of a news organization.” Hannity closed the show by asking viewers: “Should George Stephanopoulos be punished by ABC News, and if so, what should that punishment be?”

    Now let’s contrast the mocking attacks on Stephanopoulos’ lack of disclosure (and the attendant claims that the credibility of Stephanopoulos’ employer rested on how harshly it treated him) with Hannity’s self-serving and determinedly opaque explanation for why he neglected to disclose his own relationship with Michael Cohen.

    “For hours and hours, the media has been absolutely apoplectic and hyperventilating over some breaking news that I was listed in court today as a client for longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen,” Hannity said at the beginning of his April 16 show, offering himself as the wrongly maligned victim. When his own guest, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, lightly chided Hannity for not disclosing his ties to Cohen “when you talked about him on this show,” Hannity refused to hear it. “If you understand the nature of it, professor -- I’m going to deal with this later in the show,” he shot back. “I have the right to privacy. … It was such a minor relationship.”

    When he finally did roll around to addressing the Cohen situation (at the end of the program) Hannity was by turns defensive and evasive, and he offered as little information as he possibly could. After once again slapping the media for its “wild speculation” and for going “absolutely insane” and providing “wall-to-wall, hour-by-hour coverage of yours truly,” Hannity claimed that he’d never paid Cohen and had only “occasional brief conversations with Michael Cohen … about legal questions I had, or I was looking for input and perspective.” Despite his earlier claim that he had in fact paid Cohen because he “definitely wanted attorney-client privilege,” Hannity insisted that “my discussions with Michael Cohen never rose to any level that I needed to tell anyone that I was asking him questions.”

    That was it: a vague excuse that offered no concrete details as to the extent of their relationship (Hannity said he sought Cohen’s advice on real estate-related matters) packaged in a wounded attack on the media for even covering it. Hannity, meanwhile, is as deeply immersed in Trump’s world as one can be without actually being a Trump employee and/or family member, but all those unseemly (and unethical) ties to the president apparently have no significance to this supposed non-story.

    Fox News (which, by Hannity’s standard, has its credibility on the line) has been silent on the Cohen issue, and there’s little reason to believe it will take any action against Hannity given that the network has already let him get away with stoking insane murder conspiracy theories. Network executives seem to be perfectly content to let Hannity tell whatever story he wants, and if it turns out later on that he lied, they won’t care about that either. Hannity, like Trump, thrives on lies, flagrant hypocrisy, corruption, and the promise of never facing serious consequences for anything he does.