This is one of those cases where Fox News host Sean Hannity’s hypocrisy is so gobsmackingly clear that it's difficult to figure out how much one can write about it.
Hannity is a hack. I know it, you know it, Republican senators know it, conservative columnists know it. He’s a mouthpiece for whatever argument the GOP is making at any given time, a peerless propagandist for President Donald Trump with no core ideology or beliefs. It’s a running joke here at Media Matters that if you look into any criticism he makes of a Democrat, you can inevitably find him praising a Republican for doing the same thing, and vice versa.
And yet. Even by those standards, this one is a doozy.
Trump has continued to place calls from his unsecured personal cell phone even after his aides have told him that Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies are listening in and using the information they glean to try to undermine administration policy, The New York Times reported last Wednesday. The president denied the report, as he denies all reports he considers damaging; the Times stands by its work. On Thursday, NBC News matched the story and added an additional detail: Hannity is one of the informal advisers Trump consults using that unsecured channel.
You may recall that communications security was the single most-discussed issue during the 2016 presidential elections. Trump, congressional Republicans, and right-wing commentators all loudly declared that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server was a major breach of security and evidence of her vast criminality, driving both chants of “lock her up” at Trump’s rallies and overwhelming media coverage of the topic.
Hannity has continued to fixate on Clinton’s email server since Trump’s election, often citing the FBI’s decision not to recommend charges despite what Hannity describes as clear proof that she “committed felonies” as evidence that Trump has been treated unfairly by special counsel Rober Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Hannity and his guests accused Clinton of crimes in 218 segments about the Mueller probe in its first year.
While the FBI has said its agents found no evidence Clinton’s servers were compromised, Hannity has often blasted Clinton for damaging national security by purportedly making her emails available to foreign intelligence agencies in China, Russia, and elsewhere. Hannity often cites statements on that issue by former FBI Director James Comey; those comments were later condemned by the FBI’s inspector general. For example (all quotes via Nexis), Hannity said:
- On July 13: “And excuse me, how many countries hacked Hillary Clinton's email server? Was is it China, Russia, was it the Iranians, the North Koreans? And despite the known risk, Hillary Clinton, well, she decided to conduct official top secret government business on that private server to the illegal, which we know was hacked by at least five foreign powers.”
- June 25: “We know Hillary's email server was hacked by at least six foreign intelligence service[s], so God knows where it came from.”
- May 29: “We do know that Hillary Clinton's server and the original draft of Comey said that there were six foreign intelligence services that got into her email server? So, it could have been Russia, China, North Korea, Iran -- and I'm just guessing.”
- April 9: “With Hillary's email hacked by so many foreign agencies we would never know where the emails came from, would we? ... They probably were the Chinese and Iranians and North Koreans.”
- March 19: “Did Russia hack into that server? Did China, did Iran, did North Korea, did they gain access to America's top secrets in Hillary's emails?”
On Wednesday, we learned that Hannity’s worst-case scenario with regard to Clinton’s server had actually occurred with regard to Trump’s phone. On Thursday, we learned that Hannity was a direct recipient of some of the calls the president was making in casual disregard of national security.
Hannity has not addressed either report on his Fox program in the week since the Times report broke. The easiest explanation for why is that he is not actually deeply invested in ensuring that top federal officials engage in best practices for communications security. He wants Republicans to defeat Democrats, and he will say and do whatever he thinks will lead to that outcome.
Video by John Kerr