CNN Debunks Sean Hannity's Conspiracy Theories About Hillary Clinton's Health, Sourced From Pro-Trump Twitter Accounts
Brian Stelter: Hannity "Brings On Only Guests That Will Agree With Him" To Push Conspiracy Theories
Video ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
From the August 12 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin:
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BROOKE BALDWIN (HOST): There is then this rumor, that her health is failing. It's a narrative being pushed by Fox News' Sean Hannity in prime time all week. Watch.
BALDWIN: All right. CNN senior media correspondent, host of Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter, is with me. Brian, I was at loss for words for a moment there. This has been the center of coverage all week long for Hannity.
BRIAN STELTER: Hannity thinks he's on to something here, and so do some fringe websites on the right that have picked up on this and tried to make it into a story in recent days. You know that saying that looks can be deceiving? Well, photos and videos can also be deceiving.
BALDWIN: So I -- let's pull up that photo, because at the center of the coverage all week long has been the photo of Clinton being helped up the stairs there by FBI agents. It is so important to have the context.
STELTER: When this photo was shared over weekend by pro-trump Twitter accounts, which then went to a fringe right-wing blog, which then went to the Drudge Report, there was no context for this photo, which is that it was taken in February, and that she happened to slip while walking up the stairs. It was made out to be a brand-new photo, and it was made out to have some dangerous health warning attached to it.
BALDWIN: And I think I misspoke, those are Secret Service agents.
STELTER: Exactly. You know -- by the way, if cameras followed me around all day they'd find a lot more embarrassing stuff than they've got with Hillary Clinton. But the point is it made its way all the way to the Drudge Report, one of the biggest conservative websites on the internet, and that's why it made its way to shows like Sean Hannity.
And I think what we're seeing here is how this ecosystem exists, where something starts, in this case on pro-trump Twitter accounts, and it makes its way all the way up to some of the top shows on cable television, even though it's really rooted in a conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theory is that she is secretly ill, that she's not well, that she won't be able to be president, even though her physician very clearly said a year ago she is fit to be president.
STELTER: This clip is an example of someone laughing, laughing at a joke. And I think if we were followed around by cameras, and we started laughing at jokes, especially at different angles you could make up a conspiracy theory about our health as well.|
The reality is when Hannity brings on only guests who agree with him, who tell him what he wants to hear, he's actually doing damage to the viewer's knowledge of Clinton, and of what's going on in this presidential campaign.
BALDWIN: Because this is an important distinction to make, and you pointed it out in your show as well, Hannity doesn't bill himself as a journalist. As down the middle, right? He's a commentator, a pundit, call it what you will. But many people go to Fox News for their news, it is their primary news source, and that's where the line gets very blurry.
STELTER: Yeah, even commentators, even interviewers who are explicitly pro-Trump, or on the left explicitly pro-Clinton, still have a responsibility to their audience not to mislead the audience, not to mislead the viewers at home.