Three witnesses testified under oath that they were told the State Department contacted Sean Hannity. He denies it.
Amid the revolving cast of characters in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Fox News host Sean Hannity is certainly never far from the center. Hannity's show (alongside John Solomon’s deeply flawed pieces about Ukraine in The Hill) has been a recurring motif in released transcripts of witnesses.
Witnesses testify under oath about someone at the top of the State Department reaching out to Hannity
Three witnesses have testified that they are under the impression that someone -- possibly Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or State Department counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl -- reached out directly to Hannity regarding smears about Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch that were repeated on his show.
From Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s October 11 deposition:
From Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent’s October 15 deposition:
From Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale’s November 6 deposition:
The topic came up again later in Hale’s deposition:
Hannity has repeatedly denied the story
Hannity: “I never got a call from Secretary of State Pompeo or anybody else. Why would they lie about this?” [Fox News, Hannity, 11/18/19]
Hannity: “I never ever spoke 2 Sec. Pompeo or anyone else at the State Dept. about Ukraine.” [Twitter, 11/7/19]
Hannity after Yovanovitch’s deposition was released: “I don’t know anything about this woman.” [Fox News, Hannity, 11/4/19]
Hannity: “I never got a call from Pompeo.” [Premiere Radio Network, The Sean Hannity Show, 11/14/19]
Hannity: “I never even heard the names of the people that they say called.” [Premiere Radio Network, The Sean Hannity Show, 11/7/19]
Hannity: “Mike Pompeo never called Sean Hannity.” [Premiere Radio Network, The Sean Hannity Show, 11/6/19]
Hannity: “I got no call from the State Department.” [Premiere Radio Network, The Sean Hannity Show, 11/6/19]
Hannity: “I never got a call from Mike Pompeo or anybody else at the State Department.” [Premiere Radio Network, The Sean Hannity Show, 11/5/19]
Hannity: “Why would Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ever pick up a phone and call me and say either ‘What you’re reporting is true’ or ‘You need to stop’?” [Premiere Radio Network, The Sean Hannity Show, 11/8/19]
While Hannity downplays his involvement, his show is at the center of the story
Media Matters’ Matt Gertz examined all the ways that the impeachment story is a Fox News story. Of particular relevance here is how Hannity aided personal Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s work in Ukraine:
Giuliani, with the president’s approval, developed a shadow foreign policy campaign in Ukraine, working with corrupt officials to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, undermine the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and remove U.S. and Ukrainian players that posed obstacles to that effort. That disinformation campaign played out on Fox.
Giuliani filtered the results of his investigation through John Solomon, a conservative writer with a long record of serving as a mouthpiece for right-wing opposition research. Solomon would write up aspects of Giuliani’s work in columns for The Hill, then go on Fox, where his scoops were woven into the network’s conspiracy theories. Over a six-month period, Solomon appeared on Fox News or Fox Business at least 72 times; 51 of those appearances were on Hannity’s program. (Solomon’s role as a Giuliani henchman led to him landing a contract as a Fox contributor last month.) As Fox’s feverish coverage of the Bidens crescendoed, Trump and Giuliani both appeared on the network to bolster the smears.
In fact, Joseph diGenova, a frequent Fox guest and Solomon’s lawyer, specifically attacked Yovanovitch during an appearance on Hannity:
It is worth noting that it’s possible Hannity is being honest and someone misinformed the State Department witnesses. But right now, their stories simply don’t line up.