Sean Hannity was in no mood to celebrate the news that the special counsel did not find coordination between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Instead, he was infuriated. There was no collusion, no obstruction, no conspiracy, he said, just as he had been telling his audience all along.
“You should be angry at what has happened here,” Hannity said. “All of America — I am pissed off and so should the rest of the country be over what has happened.”
While Monday was occasion for a victory lap for some Republican lawmakers and Trump allies, Hannity and the prime time hosts on Fox News approached the end of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s 22-month investigation with anger and vitriol toward Democratic lawmakers, intelligence officials, liberals and the media. Their message echoed President Trump’s own plan to seek “vengeance and accountability” from critics, as The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey reported, even as Democrats push for a full release of Mueller’s report and insist the president is far from vindicated by its findings.
"This must be a day of reckoning for the media, for the deep state, for people who abuse power, and they did it so blatantly in this country,” Hannity said. “If we do not get this right, if we do not hold these people accountable, I promise you, with all the love I can muster for this country and our future for our kids and grandkids, we will lose the greatest country God has ever given man. We will lose it.”
During the course of his 25-plus-minute monologue, Hannity, in a blue suit and red-and-white tie and wearing an FBI flag pin he said was given to him by an agent, accused Democrats and Trump’s adversaries, specifically former FBI director James B. Comey and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), of lying to the public.
“We will hold every liar, every propagandist, every conspiracy theorist accountable,” Hannity promised.
The same went for the media, he said, pointing out headlines from The Washington Post, the Atlantic and Vox that he claimed were false or unfair. He did the same for cable-news competitors CNN and MSNBC, playing past clips of hosts and pundits talking about potential Russian collusion. Labeling these outlets the “hate-Trump media mob,” Hannity also called out MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who, he said, “sold one conspiracy theory night after night after night.”
“Journalism, I told you in 2007, it’s dead, it’s buried and it’s not something I said lightly,” Hannity said. “They have earned their horrible reputations.”
As The Post’s Paul Farhi noted, Attorney General William P. Barr’s summary of Mueller’s findings was a thunderclap for the mainstream media outlets that have emphasized the narrative that Trump may have colluded with Russia. This is especially so for the cable news networks, namely CNN and MSNBC, that have dedicated hundreds of hours of coverage on the topic. Despite the blowback from those siding with the president, national outlets are largely standing by their coverage.
In a dizzying display, Hannity then rattled off a number of stories in recent years in which, he said, the media was too quick to judge, with subjects ranging from the police-related deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Freddie Gray in Baltimore to accusations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and Jussie Smollett’s claims of a hate crime in Chicago. The host later welcomed Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lawyer who was fresh off arguing with CNN’s Chris Cuomo that the network should apologize for having “tortured” Trump for the last two years.
Hannity also took time to praise many in conservative-leaning or right-wing media — talk-radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin and the crew at “Fox & Friends,” to name a few — for being “brave, logical, independent thinkers standing alone.”
“There would have been no one out there advocating for the truth, discovering the biggest abuse of power, scandal in our history,” Hannity said.
Leading into Hannity was Tucker Carlson, who, in addition to piling on about Kavanaugh and other stories the media was allegedly too quick to judge, questioned why liberals were supposedly not relieved that the president wasn’t “an agent of a foreign country.” The notion left Carlson not just befuddled but also disgusted.
“They are not celebrating for their country. They are not grateful,” Carlson said. “They are angrier than ever.”
Carlson, who equated those who believed Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia with people who said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, welcomed on Donald Trump Jr., a crucial player in the special counsel’s investigation. A key part of the case was Trump Jr.'s meeting in June 2016 with a Russian attorney who had promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Calling the accusations of Russian collusion leveled against him, his father and associates “a stain on our Constitution,” the president’s eldest child said he was optimistic of what his father could accomplish now that the special counsel’s investigation is over.
“My father did amazing things with all of this stuff going on, with this cloud over his head,” Trump Jr. said. “Imagine what he could do if you could let him do his thing?” He then advised those still opposing his father to “sit this one out” and “jump on the Trump train.”
On Fox Business Network, Lou Dobbs called Monday “a great day, a grand day in America,” all while, featuring a graphic that read, “Vindicated & Exonerated.” The graphic was consistent with the president’s description of the report’s findings being “a complete and total exoneration.” In fact, in his summary Barr noted, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Democrats are pushing for Barr to testify and demanding a full accounting of the evidence in the special counsel’s investigation be made public. Though the president is not facing charges of Russian collusion, nearly every aspect of Trump’s business career remains under investigation by state or federal authorities, The Washington Post has reported.
Nevertheless, Dobbs took joy, he said, in those opponents of the president “seemingly writhing in pain today in the bright light of truth.”
“The president has prevailed against the evil forces that for a time challenged the republic itself,” Dobbs said.
At the start of Laura Ingraham’s show, the grinning host pondered to Hannity what “the meaning of life post-Mueller report” might look like for a network that has relentlessly echoed Trump’s claims that the entire case was a “witch hunt.”
“What will we do with all the time on our hands, Hannity?” she asked her Fox News colleague.
“We’re going to get to the bottom of it,” Hannity replied.
Though Ingraham echoed the “reckoning” theme of the night’s programming, she also took time to play the role of on-air adviser for the president. “He should take this moment as an opportunity to reset and relaunch his presidency,” she said. The graphics accompanying her talking points for taking things “into high-gear” included “secure border,” “find and deport illegals with removal orders” and “win over America.”
She concluded the segment reminding Trump, as if she were speaking directly to him, that he was charming and how he needed to show his heart to the American people. Then, she offered a piece of 2020 advice to Trump in what remains a new and unclear post-Mueller landscape.
“Now, gloating won’t get you reelected and neither will the Mueller report,” she advised, “but your record of success, properly framed and explained, that will. Which may be the best reckoning of all.”
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