About 20 minutes after midnight, MSNBC anchors Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow announced a wee-hours breaking story. “We’ve had a remarkable turn of events,” said Maddow. “This started on social media. People on Twitter first started circulating some eyebrow-raising claims about Melania Trump’s speech this evening. That led us . . . to go dig up the archival material and check these claims, and it does appear that there are some unusual similarities, some unusual, very tight parallels between Melania Trump’s speech tonight and Michelle Obama’s speech in a similar position in the 2008 nominating convention for her husband, Barack Obama.”
Around that time, Fox News’s Sean Hannity was raving about Trump. “First of all, she’s an amazing woman . . . smart, charming, kind nice.”
At about 12:28 a.m., CNN’s Anderson Cooper spoke of something “bubbling up as a potential story that you’ll see a lot about probably tomorrow.” Noting that Trump’s speech was highly anticipated, Cooper dug in on its “similarities” with Michelle Obama’s 2008 version. With the issue properly teed up, CNN commentator David Axelrod dubbed it “flat-out plagiarism.”
Around that time, Hannity was talking about how previous Republican presidential nominees didn’t align with his strong conservative outlook. “I’ve had to suck it up. Bob Dole was sucking it up. John McCain was sucking it up.”
And so it went for the next half-hour. CNN and MSNBC went into cable-news monofocus, breaking down the issue in all of its particulars: Who wrote the speech? How did this happen? What are the implications?
Fox News viewers might not have known what was happening, because of Hannity. He was busy with non-Trump-speech-purloining material, including a chat with two mothers whose sons were killed by illegal immigrants and a panel on race. Signing off from his program, Hannity proclaimed that it had been a “great first night.” Such pom-pom deployment is what you might expect from Hannity, who is a self-professed Donald Trump supporter. So much so that he once orchestrated a round of applause from a live audience for Donald Trump’s proposal to ban entry by Muslims into the United States. Ever a transportation helper, Hannity flew Newt Gingrich to Indiana to meet with Trump as part of the vice-presidential interview process, according to CNN.
When bad news is breaking on the Trump campaign, in other words, Hannity is the wrong guy for the anchor chair.
Once his time was up, Hannity yielded to news coverage. Fox News correspondent Shannon Bream noted the speech echoes just after 1 a.m. No telling how many Fox News viewers went to bed unaware of the night’s big story.