Sean Hannity protests that he’s not a “journalist.” Last night, he proved it once again.
As Donald Trump faces down more and more allegations that he sexually assaulted women, Hannity chatted with three Bill Clinton accusers. Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey each told their disturbing stories to the “Hannity” host. That part of the segment, said Hannity, would help those who’d never heard the details of what had happened between these women and Bill Clinton.
In chatting with his guests, Hannity established that the conversations were a public service in light of what he suggested was a mainstream media blackout of their experiences. “Has the mainstream media been receptive about asking you about your stories?” asked Hannity.
Willey shook her head “no.”
Broaddrick said, “Oh, definitely not.”
Hannity interjected, “Nobody?”
Jones responded, “Nobody’s asked.”
Hannity pressed on, “The New York Times never called you?” Again, all “no’s” from the three women, though Broaddrick clarified a technicality: “Not until we went into the Trump spin room, and they were there,” she said, referring to the interviewing maw after last Sunday night’s second presidential debate. Broaddrick claimed that big-time TV news organizations such as CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS haven’t called.
With the facts established, Hannity unfurled one of his trademarks, the push-question: “With 26 days to go, and they haven’t contacted you: Does that reek of politics to you?” Very much so, the women concurred.
A truth had been established, in the head of Hannity, at least. Later on in the program, he said: “In the middle of the WikiLeaks dump that shows, basically, the media is in the tank — NBC, ABC, Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, all these people in the media: They ignore the women that we were talking to tonight, but they go after these [Trump] women and lo and behold, it comes out right in the middle of the WikiLeaks dump. Coincidence?” said Hannity.
There’s trouble with the premise. Speaking of the New York Times alone, enjoy this October story by Megan Twohey. No, that’s not the Megan Twohey story (with Michael Barbaro) that confirmed Donald Trump’s own confessions about his sexually assaultive nature. It’s an earlier piece that bore the headline “How Hillary Clinton Grappled With Bill Clinton’s Infidelity, and His Accusers.” Which is to say, it deals very directly with the material that Hannity was sort of addressing on his program Thursday night.
Via journalistic exertion, Twohey was able to establish that Hillary Clinton, back in the days when her husband was running for president, didn’t dissent when campaign aides embraced gutter strategies for dealing with Bill Clinton’s so-called “bimbo eruptions.”
Weeks later, a small group of campaign aides, along with Mrs. Clinton, met at the governor’s mansion in Little Rock, and they made a pivotal decision: They would hire Jack Palladino, a private investigator known for tactics such as making surreptitious recordings and deploying attractive women to extract information.
An aide to the campaign, who declined to be publicly identified because the aide had not been authorized to speak for the Clintons, said Mrs. Clinton was among those who had discussed and approved the hiring, which shifted the campaign to a more aggressive posture.
The story addressed Bill Clinton’s treatment of several women, including Jones, whom she interviewed for the piece. “They sent out people to dig up trash on me,” Jones told Twohey. It appeared on Page A1 of the New York Times print edition.
Moving now to The Washington Post, try this Sept. 28 story by Shawn Boburg under the headline “Enabler or family defender? How Hillary Clinton responded to husband’s accusers.” The cases of Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky and Jones received detailed attention in the story, though Willey’s encounter didn’t get any play.
Why? Because Willey declined to comment in a phone call with Boburg prior to publication, according to the reporter. She commented after the story, however. In an Oct. 2 email, Willey wrote to Boburg, “Your sorry excuse for journalism in this piece is precisely the reason I refused to talk to you on the record. After reading it I was even more comfortable with that decision.” Boburg tells this blog in an email: “I contacted or tried to contact every woman who made allegations about Clinton publicly. Also went to Paula Jones’ home in Arkansas. Didn’t make sense to catalog all my failed attempts to get them to talk to me.” Willey also wrote: “I have to wonder what Ben Bradlee must be thinking about your joke of a newspaper, one which used to be the gold standard for investigative reporting and journalism. The good Lord was looking out for me when I decided not to participate in this clap-trap of a ‘story.’ You should be ashamed of yourself.”
We’re not done here. A (certainly partial) list of other media types who have sought comment from Hannity’s guests are gathered here, courtesy of Politico media reporter Hadas Gold:
For the record, Nuzzi is a reporter for the Daily Beast; Kessler is The Washington Post’s Fact Checker columnist; and Alter is a writer for Time magazine. Don’t forget Katie J.M. Baker’s huge story on Broaddrick for BuzzFeed, which included a trip to Van Buren, Ark., where Broaddrick lives.
So stop the nonsense. Perhaps Hannity, in his campaign to elect Trump, has slid so far into his sensory-deprivation news chamber that he doesn’t notice what the “mainstream media” is doing — though this blog would argue that Fox News is a member of the mainstream media. What Hannity refuses to recognize is that the mainstream media, whatever that is, consists of highly competitive news organizations whose reporters can get ahead if they break out new wrinkles about Hillary Clinton’s treatment of women who claimed abuse at the hands of her husband.
As the Erik Wemple Blog was writing up this post, Fox News host Gregg Jarrett on “America’s Newsroom” directed two panelists to the “Hannity” clip in which the three women disavow mainstream interest in their story. It jump-started a brief conversation. The sequence matters because of how Fox News likes to position its content. “America’s Newsroom” is supposed to be part of the network’s neutral hard-news lineup. Yet here it was, allowing a pro-Trump host with no journalistic pretensions, to steer its coverage of the 2016 presidential race. This is Fox News.