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 is named as client of Cohen
Cohen’s lawyer reveals Hannity as one of Cohen’s three clients. On April 16, Fox’s Sean Hannity “was named as a client of Mr. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen.” According to The New York Times, Judge Kimba M. Wood, “a judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, ordered that Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, disclose the name of the client in question — who turned out to be Mr. Hannity.” From the April 16 report:
From his Fox News pulpit, Sean Hannity has been one of the most ardent supporters of President Trump, cheering his agenda and excoriating his enemies.
He has gone from giving advice on messaging and strategy to Mr. Trump and his advisers during the 2016 campaign to dining with him at the White House and Mar-a-Lago.
Now, Mr. Hannity finds himself aligned even more closely with the president.
During a hearing at a packed courtroom in Lower Manhattan on Monday, he was named as a client of Mr. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen.
The mystery was solved when Kimba M. Wood, a judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, ordered that Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, disclose the name of the client in question — who turned out to be Mr. Hannity. [The New York Times, 4/16/18]
Right-wing media figures defend Hannity’s relationship with Cohen: “Sean Hannity’s been victimized in this process”
Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton: “Sean Hannity’s been victimized in this process.” Before pressuring President Trump to “consider pardoning everybody” caught in the Russia investigation, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton decried the legal system’s “betray[al]” of Hannity when a judge forced his name to be revealed. From the April 16 edition of Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight:
TOM FITTON: I would just presume the worst here, I think --
LOU DOBBS (HOST): You can’t go too far wrong these days, in watching our court system and our FBI and Justice Department operate.
FITTON: Yeah, let me just say, Sean Hannity’s been victimized in this process. I mean, his name was leaked out. There was no reason to betray --
DOBBS: We should explain, his name was leaked out as a client --
FITTON: Well, forced out by the court, forced out by the court. [Fox Business Network, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 4/16/18]
Fox’s Tucker Carlson: “Who [Hannity] hires as a lawyer and why is nobody’s business,” and the revelation means the death of “privacy” and “fairness.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson maintained that “the point of the Russia investigation,” up to and including the disclosure of Hannity as Cohen’s secret client, is simply “to hurt Trump and anyone close to Trump.” He bemoaned that, along with “attorney-client privilege,” “privacy,” “public reputation,” and “fairness” “no longer means anything” after the disclosure. From the April 16 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:
TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Keep in mind that Sean Hannity is a talk show host. He’s not under investigation by anyone for anything. Who he hires as a lawyer and why is nobody's business. No judge has a right to violate his privacy or anybody else's. Those used to be the rules, but the rules have changed.
The point of the Russia investigation, you may have figured out, is not to find collusion. There was no collusion. Everybody knows that, everyone’s always known that. The point is and was to hurt Trump and anyone close to Trump. And, by the way, it's working. Now, maybe you hate Trump and you’re happy about that. But what are the rest of us losing in this process? Attorney-client privilege no longer means anything, we learned that the other day. Neither does privacy, or public reputation, or fairness. If Cohen’s other clients can be exposed by the left solely to embarrass them, what is the next step exactly? Could you punish a Trump ally by, I don’t know, revealing his internet search history? What about someone’s medical records? How about a private conversation with a priest or rabbi? Why not? All of that will happen, no question. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 4/16/18]
Breitbart's Joel Pollak:
Fox’s Steve Doocy: “Ultimately, the big news out of the Sean Hannity reveal was he said he talked to a guy who has been a friend.” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy likened Hannity’s alleged relationship with Cohen to a Fox & Friends co-host asking the guest on a tax segment, “Hey, can I deduct ammo?” From the April 17 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): So, ultimately, the big news out of the Sean Hannity reveal was he said he talked to a guy who has been a friend. In fact, The New York Times tracked down and discovered that Tom -- Sean Hannity said once on his radio show when introducing Michael Cohen, “this is a long-time” -- oh, it was the night of the inauguration, “long-time friend of mine who has known me long before the campaign ever got started.”
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): But, I mean, I know too, it makes total sense, if you have a lawyer and you're trying to buy something and get to be friendly with that, how many times do we have the judge on the couch and we'll say something to the judge, “Hey, judge, what's going on with this?” Or let's say there's -- Ainsley owns a lot of real estate in New York City, most of the big buildings she owns. You might throw a question out about -- legally, (added comma) do I have a standing here?
DOOCY: Sure. Every time we will do a tax segment we'll ask the tax person, “Hey, can I deduct ammo?”
KILMEADE: Right. Yeah, exactly.
DOOCY: We'll have a question. And apparently it sounds like Sean regarded their relationship as something like that. Somebody he'd known for years and occasionally would ask advice about real estate. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/17/18]
Former Fox host Bill O'Reilly:
Erick Erickson: “The left” is “gleefully engage[d]” in “character assassination” against Hannity to distract from James Comey’s opposition to impeaching Trump. According to right-wing commentator Erick Erickson, because “even James Comey believes there is no there, there in the Russian collusion investigation,” the media and the left have decided “let’s talk about Sean Hannity” as “a subtle form of character assassination.” From his April 17 piece:
Cohen noted in his legal filings that he represented seven people providing “strategic advice and business consulting” and another three on other issues. One was Trump, who he represented in the Stormy Daniels matter, another is Elliott Broidy who Cohen represented in a deal to spend over a million dollars killing his child with a Playboy playmate. The third is Sean Hannity. The left is, by virtue of Cohen's filings, trying to claim Hannity's issues are more like Trump and Broidy instead of the other seven. It is a subtle form of character assassination they'll gleefully engage in because Sean is a conservative talk radio host with a show on Fox.
What is new is what is shocking. James Comey does not think Donald Trump should be impeached. He thinks he should be voted out of office. Comey said he does not think Trump is mentally unfit or crazy. But this is the thing that really does stand out. Despite what Comey knows about Donald Trump that he is not saying publicly and despite what the former FBI Director knows about the Trump campaign and Russians, he does not think Donald Trump should be impeached.
Despite the bluster and yelling, it appears even James Comey believes there is no there, there in the Russian collusion investigation. So let's talk about Sean Hannity. [The Resurgent, 4/17/18]
Fox’s Brian Kilmeade: “You know, for the most part, Sean Hannity is going to be defending the president a lot. Does his relationship with Michael Cohen change that at all? Not at all.” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade took to his radio show to downplay Hannity’s relationship with Cohen, saying that viewers “know, for the most part, Sean Hannity is going to be defending the president a lot. Does his relationship with Michael Cohen change that at all? Not at all.” From the April 17 edition of Fox News Radio’s The Brian Kilmeade Show:
BRIAN KILMEADE (HOST): And what the heck is Sean Hannity doing in the middle of this firestorm? He happens to know Michael Cohen, guilty as charged. And that’s what he tweeted out yesterday, Sean Hannity, listen: “I didn’t have any formal relationship with him. I never paid him, but I did ask him for some legal advice.”
Now, people say he should have said that straight up. What difference does that make, whether he says it straight up? You know, for the most part, Sean Hannity is going to be defending the president a lot. Does his relationship with Michael Cohen change that at all? Not at all. [Fox News Radio, The Brian Kilmeade Show, 4/17/18]
Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano: “I'm not so sure that Sean was his client ... There was no bill, there was no fee, there was no attorney-client relationship, he didn't do any legal work for him.” Responding to the statement that Hannity had just released in his defence, Napolitano expressed doubt that Hannity was Cohen’s client, leaning on Hannity’s claims Cohen never formally billed him for legal services. Napolitano, with host Neil Cavuto, later suggested that Cohen and Hannity had interacted as friends, though Napolitano noted that if that was the case, attorney-client privilege would not hold. From the April 16 edition of Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto:
ANDREW NAPOLITANO: I’m not so sure that Sean was his client, in light of the statement that you just read that Sean gave. There was no bill, there was no fee, there was no attorney-client relationship, he didn’t do any legal work for him. So that leaves Donald Trump and this fellow in Los Angeles, whose last name is Broidy, I forget his first name. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 4/16/18]
CNN’s David Urban: “Maybe Sean Hannity … wasn’t engaging him as a lawyer.” [CNN, The Lead with Jake Tapper, 4/16/18]
Matt Schlapp: “Why is Sean Hannity deprived of his right as an American citizen to talk to anybody he wants about any topic he wants?” American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp asserted that Cohen being required to disclose the name of his clients proved a “double standard for people who have a conservative point of view,” and concluded, “You're allowed to have your individual life and your individual relationships and still do your professional responsibilities, and I don’t think there should be a double standard.” From the April 17 edition of CNN’s New Day:
MATT SCHLAPP: You have your own television show. You talk to thousands of people. You're very well connected. That is the job of everybody in television news. You should talk to as many people as you want. There shouldn't be a double standard for people who have a conservative point of view with their television shows.
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): Yeah, I get it, listen, I talk to Michael Cohen, of course. I don’t go to him for legal advice, and if I did, I would have to disclose that.
SCHLAPP: Well, Sean said he did not go to him for legal advice and he said --
CAMEROTA: Yes he did, wait a minute, he says he does go to him for legal advice.
SCHLAPP: He said that he had informal conversations with him about real estate, which, I mean, I don’t see why that’s -- why is Sean Hannity deprived of his right as an American citizen to talk to anybody he wants about any topic he wants?
CAMEROTA: He can talk to anybody he wants, and shouldn’t he have to disclose that since what he’s been saying --
SCHLAPP: Do you disclose -- do you disclose all your conversations?
CAMEROTA: Hold on, let me get the question out, hold on, Matt.
CAMEROTA: He has been going after Robert Mueller, he has been going after James Comey, he -- wouldn’t it have been helpful for his viewers when he went bat crazy about the raid on Michael Cohen’s house to be able to say, “Part of why I'm so upset about this is they may have seized some of my phone calls or my records.” That would be helpful information.
SCHLAPP: My question is back to you: You talk to thousands of people, you’ve probably talked to thousands of people about this very topic. I don't expect you to explain all those conversations and all those relationships. Sometimes people, like myself, are married to people that are involved in some of these things. This is the complicated part of humanity. You're allowed to have your individual life and your individual relationships and still do your professional responsibilities, and I don’t think there should be a double standard. [CNN, New Day, 4/17/18]
MSNBC's Hugh Hewitt: “It is possible” that Sean Hannity “did not know that he was a client of Michael Cohen.” MSNBC political analyst and right-wing talk show host Hugh Hewitt posited that “it is possible” that Hannity “did not know that he was a client of Michael Cohen.” From the April 17 edition of MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle:
HUGH HEWITT (MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST): I want to point out that it is possible -- not likely, but possible -- that Sean did not know that he was a client of Michael Cohen. If Michael Cohen gives advice --
STEPHANIE RUHLE (HOST): If he didn't know that he was a client of Michael Cohen, why would Michael Cohen have him listed?
HEWITT: Because if Michael Cohen -- and I don't know Michael Cohen. I do know Sean. I know Elliott Broidy from Los Angeles circles. I know the president, but I don't know Michael Cohen. If Michael Cohen goes back to his office and makes a memorandum of conversation with Sean Hannity with the expectation of confidence, it's covered by the [attorney-client] privilege. It just is. And Sean may not know about that. I just wanted to point out it's possible for them both to be telling the truth. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, 4/17/18]