Media critic

On his Tuesday night program, Fox News host Sean Hannity criticized competing cable-news outlets for giving multiple interviews to Sam Nunberg, the fired Trump campaign aide who recently received a subpoena in connection with the Russia investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. With unhinged comments about President Trump, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and others, Nunberg prompted an ethics debate about whether he should have been accorded so much air time.

For Hannity, here’s how the ethics play out: “Now, never mind the fact that this guy, Sam Nunberg, was in the middle of what is obviously a complete and a total breakdown after getting served a subpoena by the special counsel Robert Mueller,” said Hannity. “Now, the media didn’t care about any of that. They cheered Nunberg, of course, they were cheering him on because he was attacking the Trump administration, during a series of really what are incoherent interviews. Watch the exploitation.”

So then Hannity went on to play a number of Nunberg lowlights, including these:

• “Why do I have to give them a personal communications? Steve Bannon, Roger Stone? Roger is my mentor. I email, Ari, with Roger 50 times a day.”

• “For Sarah Huckabee, to start criticizing me, I would say, and I know you may not like the way I say it. She should shut up her fat mouth.

• “Sarah should shut up.”

• “They are not going to send me to jail. You know what, Mr. Mueller, if he wants to send me to jail, he can send me to jail and then I will laugh about it.”

• CNN’s Erin Burnett: “And talking to you, I have smelled alcohol on your breath.” Nunberg: “Well, I have not had a drink.”

Based on the foregoing, Hannity fired away: “They didn’t care if this guy was literally melting down on national television because they were using him as a tool to attack the Trump administration. It didn’t matter if Nunberg wasn’t making any sense, that he was contradicting himself or perhaps intoxicated because the media saw this as an opportunity to attack the president and they seized on it just like they always do,” he said.

An alternative explanation is that media outlets were eager to secure feedback from someone who had met in person with Mueller’s legal team, not to mention a guy who was in Trump’s orbit. CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Nunberg about that now-famous meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 — involving Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer, among others:

TAPPER: President Trump says he knew nothing about the meeting. Do you think that that’s true?


TAPPER: You don’t think that’s true?

NUNBERG: No. It doesn’t — and, Jake, I have watched your news reports. You know it’s not true. He talked about it a week before.

And I don’t know why he did this. All he had to say was, yes, we met with the Russians. The Russians offered us something, and we thought they had something. And that was it.

There were many other revelations from Nunberg — revelations about what sort of questions Mueller’s team was asking; revelations about which Team Trump figures Mueller is interested in; revelations about Nunberg’s relationship with longtime political adviser Roger Stone. And, perhaps most important, revelations about the competence of one of Trump’s early campaign advisers. Nunberg himself, that is.

For some reason, Hannity glossed over such newsworthy tidbits. Instead, he cherry-picked the worst of Nunberg’s interviews. And then he blames others for “exploitation.”