Hannity’s Obligation To Viewers

April 19, 2018

Fox News personality Sean Hannity can be believed when he says he did not hire President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, “in any conventional sense” because Cohen is not a lawyer in any conventional sense. Cohen is a fixer — a strong-arm artist wielding his clients’ checkbooks. Cohen is best known for paying porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 during the 2016 presidential campaign not to reveal an affair she had with Trump in 2011. He also arranged a $1.6 million payoff for the silence of a former Playboy model who was impregnated by Trump fundraiser Elliot Broidy. The U.S. attorney for Manhattan recently seized documents and computers in furtherance of its investigation of Cohen’s business dealings and potential campaign finance violations for the payoff to Daniels and another to former Playboy model Karen McDougal (who is not the same woman involved with Broidy). At a hearing Monday, Hannity was revealed to be the third of Cohen’s three clients. Even if Hannity is accurate that Cohen did not perform for him the same service that he carried out for Trump and Broidy, Hannity still has stuck himself in an ethical quagmire. After federal agents raided Cohen’s office, here’s what Hannity said on-air without revealing his own relationship to Cohen: “(Special Counsel Robert) Mueller’s witch hunt investigation is now a runaway train. Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump campaign. This is officially an all-hands-on-deck effort to totally malign, and if possible, impeach the president of the United States.” Hannity has said he is not a journalist, to which anyone who knows anything about journalism readily would agree. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an ethical obligation to inform his viewers of his own close connections to people about whom he comments.