On WBUR's On Point, Angelo Carusone explains why Hannity's relationship with Michael Cohen is a conflict of interest

Carusone: “When you're in a role like that and you have that platform, the dividing line from my perspective shouldn't be are you a journalist or not. It should be do you have this platform.”

From the April 19 edition of WBUR's On Point (transcript starts at 19:25):

MELISSA BLOCK (HOST): You've been writing about, thinking about conflicts of interest between journalists and politicians. What takeaway do you have to that when you think about Sean Hannity's role and the role of others. Are they the same or are they different?

ANGELO CARUSONE (MEDIA MATTERS PRESIDENT): I think that's a good question. My initial takeaway is let's not talk about Sean Hannity as a journalist with respect to disclosure because that seems to be confusing everybody. And I think it's very clear that journalistic operations have standards that they apply as it relates to conflicts of interest, and one really clear one is when there's a current matter on which you're reporting, if you have a financial interest or material interest that could in any way bias you, it's not that you're not allowed to talk about it, but you should inform your audience or report to viewers so that they can at least take that into account in your reporting. But let's say we concede that Sean Hannity's not a journalist because I think he's muddied the waters himself, but let's just look at him as a media figure because he is. And in your introduction, you did note that. You talked about the size of his platform and his audience. And he does, he does have a platform. He is a media figure regardless of whether or not he's a journalist. And in that sense -- he has an obligation, does nobody in that position have any obligations, any responsibilities to their employer as well as to their audience. Because I think that that's the -- for me when I think about it, I think that's the issue. When you're in a role like that and you have that platform, the dividing line from my perspective shouldn't be are you a journalist or not. It should be do you have this platform, do you have a trust relationship with a large audience that is largely enabled by this platforms that help you maintain it like Fox News or his radio show, and in that sense, should you actually just make these things apparent, especially when you go out there identifying yourself as a journalist.

So I think one thing that's helpful -- because it seems that that seems to be the defense for Hannity, that he's not a journalist. The other thing that I would just throw out there quickly at the top is the reaction has been very intense. And from my perspective -- you're right. I've been writing and talking about this and Media Matters has for quite some time. And the thing that surprised me -- my initial response was, but he's shared an attorney already with Trump, which was Sekulow for a while and never disclosed it.

BLOCK: Jay Sekulow.

CARUSONE: Yes. So why is this getting the reaction that it did?

BLOCK: This being the Michael Cohen connection.


CARUSONE: I think a part of why it did is because -- especially from the news media but the public at large is that it sort of got to a deeper anxiety or concern that's at issue there. That there's something unique about this dynamic between Trump and Hannity, that as you've been talking about already, that it has a lot of influence over our politics, and our society, and our culture, or at least potential influence. And that there's something unsettling going on there. And I think the evidence for that in particular with Cohen is that he doesn't really have clients. Right? It's not like he's a big law firm and Hannity just solicited his input. The fact that he was a third client is significant because there were three. Right? I mean there were others that were sort of fazed out in the past, but that is significant. And I think it sort of got to a deeper anxiety from my perspective. And so the fact that it wasn't disclosed, especially when Sean Hannity has disclosed another lawyer that he's worked with. Whenever David Limbaugh's on -- and David Limbaugh did work for him years ago, I would point out -- Sean Hannity always points out the fact that David Limbaugh did legal work for him many, many years ago.

BLOCK: Brother of Rush Limbaugh I believe, yeah?

CARUSONE: Yes. Even when it's not relevant to the topic, I mean, he discloses it. So why does he always disclose that, but in this case didn't? So I think that's partly why there's this firestorm. 


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