Brian Stelter: Hannity used the Nunes memo to "sow doubt and division" about the Russia investigation
Stelter: "This campaign of confusion is good for Hannity ... and good for Trump, as well. But it's bad for the country"
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From the February 4 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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BRIAN STELTER (HOST): Let's be honest. This week, Sean Hannity won, and the rest of America lost. The pro-Trump media led by Hannity has circled the wagons around President Trump. They've distracted people about the truth involving Trump's Russia ties, and they've done everything possible to destroy faith in [special counsel] Robert Mueller's probe. And look, Hannity won, it worked. You've got to give him credit where it's due. Hannity gave a megaphone to the GOP congressman [Devin Nunes] who said they had a smoking gun memo, proving a deep state conspiracy against Trump. Hannity hyped it night after night after night in January like a human countdown clock.
Trump reportedly watched that and loved it. He told aides the memo needed to come out because it would undermine Mueller. And on Friday, we all saw the coverage. It was never going to live up to the hype when you've got Hannity talking about this being Watergate times a thousand. But the noise around the memo doesn't make much sense anyway. Devin Nunes alleges surveillance abuses, even though he recently voted to support greater surveillance powers. And the timeline doesn't make much sense, either. But come on, when you're trying to confuse people, that doesn't matter. All the questions, all the headlines, all the doubt, all the curiosity, all the concern, that was the point. To get it on the front page, to sow doubt and division, that was the point. And look at cable news. The nation's deep divide was visible in prime-time.
But, the memo, this entire memo thing, I know it's confusing, but it gives the Hannitys of the world an alternative reality to live in. It gives Trump a way to say he's vindicated, even though he's not. It lets Trump allies say Mueller's probe is tainted and needs to be shut down. It allows them to turn every claim around on its head. "Collusion, yeah, there was collusion by the Democrats." Obstruction? "Yeah, the Dems obstructed." It's like that old childhood schoolyard taunt. "I'm rubber, you're glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you." Now the current in vogue talking point is there is an important investigation going on, but it's not the investigation into Russian interference in the election, it's the investigation into the FBI. That's the alternative reality. And look, this campaign of confusion is good for Hannity. His ratings are way up. It's good for Trump, as well. But it's bad for the country.