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  • How Sean Hannity has talked about Michael Cohen since the FBI raid

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    For four days last week, Sean Hannity attacked the April 9 FBI raid of Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s office and hotel room, all without disclosing that he is also a legal client of Cohen, as Cohen’s lawyers disclosed in federal court today.

    The New York Times reported that FBI agents were looking for records of payments to two women who say they had affairs with President Donald Trump years ago, Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford (also known as Stormy Daniels). They were also reportedly looking for communications between Trump and Cohen about a leaked Access Hollywood tape and records about Cohen’s taxi medallion business. Days later, CNN broke the news that the FBI seized recordings Cohen made of conversations with a lawyer who once represented both women. The Washington Post reported that Cohen is being investigated “for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.”

    The disclosure that the Fox News host is a client of Cohen was made by one of Cohen’s attorneys in court today, after Cohen’s lawyers said they contacted Hannity and he had not authorized the release of his name. Nonetheless, the court ordered Hannity’s name disclosed. As Politico explained, Hannity (and his guests) repeatedly criticized the raids without disclosing his own connection to Cohen until after it was made public in court.

    Hannity dedicated multiple segments of his Fox primetime show to criticizing the raid on Cohen each night from April 9 through April 12 (he spent the entire April 13 edition of his show covering Trump’s airstrikes on Syria.) Here's exactly what he said:

    April 9

    Hannity opened his show by saying the Michael Cohen raid is a declaration of “a legal war on the president.”

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): And this is a Fox News alert. President Trump's long-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, just had his office, his home, and his hotel that he was staying in raided by the FBI today in an early morning raid. Now, what that means is Mueller's witch-hunt investigation is now a run away (sic) train that is clearly careening off the tracks.

    [...]

    HANNITY: All right. Tonight, we have explosive new chapter in Mueller's partisan witch-hunt. Now, we have now entered a dangerous phase and there is no turning back from this.

    [...]

    Now, keep in mind. Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump campaign. This is now officially an all hands on deck effort to totally malign and, if possible, impeach the president of the United States. Now, Mueller and Rosenstein have declared what is a legal war on the president.

    Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said to Hannity that the Cohen raid “abused the law.”

    GREGG JARRETT( FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST): I think the president was right to be frustrated and angry. Americans should be outraged. This is an abuse of the system.

    You know, here you have an attorney general who should never have recused himself and seems to be rather incompetent on the matter. You've got corrupt acts by top officials at the FBI and you've got Rosenstein and Mueller who have abused the law and today was a perfect example of this.

    April 10

    Hannity said the Cohen raid was a declaration of “all-out political war against this president” and advised Trump to continue attacking Mueller and cease any negotiations with him.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): The so-called investigation to Russia collusion, it is now officially moved beyond its mandate into a political takedown of the president you elected, and it seems by any means necessary. Now, just a minute, we will uncover the shocking unfair two-tiered justice system in this country and we'll show you just how abusively biased and corrupt Mueller and his team of investigators are and that they have now declared an all-out political war against this president.

    [...]

    Frankly, the president needs to immediately start advancing the truth about who Robert Mueller is, what his mandate was, how far beyond his mandate is and about his entire team of Democratic donors. And, frankly, any negotiations that were going on with the president talking to Robert Mueller, that should probably likely end if it hasn't already, and the president and his legal team should be preparing to take this all the way to the United States Supreme Court. That's where we are tonight.

    Hannity and Jarrett agreed that the Cohen raid was a “trap” to provoke Trump into doing something rash.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Gregg, I'll start with you. You have referred to the seizing of Michael Cohen's attorneys as an affront to our legal system and our justice system.

    GREGG JARRETT (FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST): And it shows just how unprincipled Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein are. You know, they knew it was outside the scope of the authority of the special counsel, so they gave it to somebody else to do their dirty work. I suspect this was an effort to provoke the president into doing something [rash] that would hurt himself. But he's too smart for that, he's not going to do that.

    But -- think about what's it at risk here.

    HANNITY: Well, it's a trap. Don't you think it's a trap in a lot of ways?

    JARRETT: It's surely a trap, as is a trap of sitting down with Robert Mueller to answer questions.

    April 11

    Wannabe Trump lawyer Joe diGenova told Hannity the Cohen raid shows Rod Rosenstein and Mueller are “using a grand jury to terrorize people” and it’s “an abuse of power” that Rosenstein should be fired for.

    JOE DIGENOVA: Look, I must tell you, I find this raid of Mr. Cohen's office so appalling in every sense -- legal, ethical professional responsibility. What Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller have done is weaponized in an unconstitutional way the criminal investigation process which should be sacrosanct.

    And what they have done is they have conducted and are conducting now something that is called an in terrorem grand jury. They are using a grand jury to terrorize people. That is an abuse of power. Mr. Rosenstein is responsible for it.

    And while I agree with Alan wholeheartedly that Mr. Rosenstein cannot possibly ethically participate in this, it will make no difference to him because he now has an animus toward the president of the United States, which disqualifies him from the performance of his duties and Jeff Sessions should fire him tomorrow morning.

    Hannity said that the Cohen raid is “what we expect in Venezuela.”

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): All right as we continue with Joe diGenova and professor Alan Dershowitz, these tactics are not American. That's the point. This is -- this is what we expect in Venezuela. This is not the United States or anything.

    April 12

    Hannity cited the Cohen raid to smear Mueller’s investigation as an “overreaching witch hunt” and complained that liberals weren’t standing up for Cohen’s rights.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Now, we turn to some other developments, including those surrounding Robert Mueller's overreaching witch hunt. Former Federal Election Commission chairman, his name is Bradley Smith, he's a Republican appointed by President Clinton, is throwing cold water on the notion that Michael Cohen could or should be charged with a crime in connection to this whole Stormy Daniels payment.

    [...]

    So, now, it's actually moved into Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal and the "Access Hollywood" tape and worse. And raiding the home of the president's personal attorney to find those issues, not about Russia -- at some point, I am wondering where is the left in this country? Where are the civil libertarians in this country?

    All transcripts are from the Nexis database.

  • Fox News has spent years claiming that Scooter Libby's conviction was unjust. Trump just pardoned him.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President Donald Trump on April 13 pardoned Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, saying, “I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly.” In the past year, Fox hosts, contributors, and guests have repeatedly compared special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion of the Trump campaign with Russia with Libby’s case and subsequent conviction. Libby was convicted of four felonies including for obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI during an investigation into who leaked the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame to journalists.

    Various figures on Fox primetime have made repeated claims in the last year that Scooter Libby was unfairly prosecuted. On February 1, conservative radio host and author Mark Steyn said on Tucker Carlson Tonight that the Scooter Libby investigation was “disgraceful.” On January 29, Libby’s lawyer Victoria Toensing (who almost joined Trump’s legal team in March along with her husband Joe diGenova) bemoaned Libby’s fate on Fox News At Night, saying he “didn’t lie” to investigators and was indicted “without one other minutia of evidence.” Fox host Sean Hannity said on January 25 that Libby was given “a raw deal” and said the next day that he was “innocent.”

    Nexis transcripts show various mentions of Libby in 2017 when Fox personalities talked about the supposed unfairness of the Mueller investigation. On November 8, Fox host Laura Ingraham said on her show that officials like Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who led the investigation of Libby, are “out of control.” On August 7, Hannity also made a reference to Libby, saying that Libby was caught in a “perjury trap” (a claim he repeated on June 13 and 19) because he “wouldn’t give up the vice president.” During his August 1 show, Hannity cited Libby as a victim of “investigative creep,” which is “a real problem with all special counsels” -- a point he also made on July 21 when he said he’s “been warning about this investigative creep.” Former Fox contributor Monica Crowley, who was slated to join the Trump administration but chose not to amid allegations she heavily plagiarized a 2012 book and parts of her PhD dissertation, said on the June 8 edition of Fox News’ Hannity that prosecutors went after Scooter Libby “as a way to go after Dick Cheney,” Fox contributor Newt Gingrich appeared on Hannity on May 30 and said, “I have said over and over again that the conviction of Scooter Libby in the Bush administration is one of the greatest scandals in modern America.”

    Plame’s covert status as a CIA operative was blown in July 2003 after The Washington Post published a column by Robert Novak that outed her as “an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.” The outing happened after Plame’s husband Joe Wilson revealed evidence casting doubt on the George W. Bush administration's claims Iraq was seeking to obtain uranium. Fitzgerald, who was appointed to investigate this leak, explained to the media that Libby “was the first official known to have told a reporter” about Plame’s CIA employment. Libby was convicted “in 2007 of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice.” President George W. Bush commuted his sentence, but did not pardon him.

    Trump may have also heard personal appeals from Toensing and Fox regular Alan Dershowitz. Toensing, who is also one of Libby’s lawyers, met with the president in March along with her husband when he was considering adding both of them to his personal legal team. Dershowitz, who worked on Libby’s appeal of his conviction, reportedly had dinner with Trump just days ago. According to CNN, “Trump did not follow his predecessors' practice of consulting with lawyers at the Justice Department before announcing his decision.”

  • Key Fox shows are ignoring the network’s damning interview with Scott Pruitt

    Ed Henry’s interview received more coverage on MSNBC prime time than Fox News prime time

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Seeking to recover from a storm of ethical scandals with a tour of conservative news outlets, embattled Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt sat down with Fox News’ Ed Henry for an interview yesterday afternoon. Pruitt was surely hoping for the same softballs he has regularly received on the right-wing network. But to his credit, Henry grilled the EPA director, pushing back on Pruitt’s defenses of his conduct. Journalists from other outlets have rightfully praised the interview, with MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle commenting, “Ed Henry, good on you,” after airing a portion of it this morning.

    Observers have largely been struck by the dog-bites-man quality of a Fox reporter savaging one of President Donald Trump’s top appointees. But a review of Fox’s coverage of the interview demonstrates that the story is a bit more complicated. A network that pulls off a widely praised, newsy interview generally trumpets it in every hour of its coverage. The Henry-Pruitt sit-down, however, has been either completely ignored or significantly downplayed on several of Fox’s most-watched broadcasts.

    In fact, during prime-time hours from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET, MSNBC’s liberal hosts devoted more time to discussing Fox’s interview (roughly 14 minutes) than did Fox’s conservative ones (about nine minutes), according to a Media Matters review. Pruitt’s corruption just doesn’t fit the narrative of many of the network’s hosts, even when their own colleague is the one advancing that story.

    Ethical misdeeds have trailed Pruitt throughout his tenure at the EPA. The major recent allegations revolve around him racking up substantial costs to the taxpayer on first-class flights, paying below-market rent for a condo that is co-owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist, and exploiting a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act to raise the salaries of two top aides by tens of thousands of dollars against the wishes of the White House. Conservatives who appreciate that Pruitt has shredded important environmental regulations at EPA have rallied around him, even as Democrats and Republican members of Congress have called for his resignation.

    Pruitt defended his actions with regard to all the allegations under often-withering questioning from Henry.

    Portions of the interview first aired yesterday afternoon on Fox’s The Daily Briefing, and it also garnered substantial coverage that day on Special Report with Bret Baier, The Story with Martha MacCallum, and Shannon Bream’s Fox News @ Night.

    But the network’s two highest-rated programs, Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight, completely ignored the Pruitt interview, with the hosts instead devoting their programs to their usual paeans to President Donald Trump and attacks on “Big Tech,” Hillary Clinton, and the “fake news” media. Other Fox programs like Your World with Neil Cavuto and the panel show The Five also did not make time to talk about Pruitt.

    Meanwhile, over on MSNBC, Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow extensively discussed the Pruitt story, with each airing substantial portions of the Henry interview that his own colleagues had not mentioned.

    The third Fox prime-time show, The Ingraham Angle, did give Pruitt substantial airtime, with guest host Brian Kilmeade airing a chunk of Henry’s interview, discussing it with Henry, and leading a debate between conservative commentator Mollie Hemingway and Democratic operative Richard Goodstein about the story’s ramifications.

    But Kilmeade’s handling of the story nonetheless demonstrates the way the network’s right-wing hosts twist coverage to benefit conservatives. He introduced the story by claiming that the EPA director was “fighting back big time” after becoming “the latest Trump administration member targeted by the left and the mainstream media” and disparaging the “bizarre” criticism against him.

    The next day, on Fox & Friends, Trump’s favorite morning cable news show, Pruitt coverage was limited to two airings of a 40-odd-second news brief* featuring a portion of the Henry interview. The program, which the president regularly watches, and which provides a hagiographic look at his presidency, often relegates damaging stories about the Trump administration to the news briefs segments.

    There’s no ideological reason for conservatives to support government bureaucrats using loopholes to funnel raises to their aides, or living large on the taxpayer’s dime, or getting cut-rate housing arrangements -- indeed, it’s easy to imagine the same Fox personalities savaging the same behavior under a Democratic administration.

    But with Trump in the White House, many of Fox’s hosts are willing to provide cover, even when their own network has the scoop driving the story.

    Shelby Jamerson provided additional research.

    CORRECTION: This piece originally stated that the Fox & Friends news brief aired only once. Media Matters regrets the error.​