Ask a Fox News employee what they think about the network’s coverage of Monday’s indictment of President Trump’s former campaign chairman and you might get a terse response: “It’s an embarrassment.”
That, at least, was one response received by CNN’s Oliver Darcy, who spoke with several anonymous Fox News employees about how Monday unfolded. “I want to quit,” one said. The network “feels like an extension of the Trump White House,” said another.
Why? One program in particular can offer something of an answer: Sean Hannity’s 9 p.m. show, which has consistently been one of the most obsequiously pro-Trump bastions in the media. Hannity has often seen strong ratings for taking that approach (a continuation of his explicit endorsement of Trump during the campaign), but it has also meant that his show’s subject matter has become awfully predictable.
On Monday, Hannity used the charges against Paul Manafort and his business associate (and Trump campaign veteran) Rick Gates as a way of highlighting what he called “unequal justice.”
“Does America have equal justice under the law?” Hannity asked. “It appears tonight the answer is ‘no.’ ”
Why? Because while Manafort and Gates had been charged (and Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had admitted to lying to the FBI in a plea deal), there had been no charges filed against Hillary Clinton or Democrats for their scandalous behavior.
Over the course of his opening monologue — nearly 20 minutes in total — Hannity proceeded to make his case, which you can follow easily simply by considering the graphics that he showed on screen.
(The blue and red sections above approximate the amount of time Hannity spent discussing Monday’s indictments versus his theories about Hillary Clinton.)
Hannity began by calling the investigation into Russian meddling led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III a “witch hunt,” echoing the phrasing of Trump himself. He then outlined the charges against Manafort and Gates, noting that they were not related to allegations that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russian agents. Manafort’s lawyer’s defense of his client was excerpted.
As for Papadopoulos, Hannity says he knew “everyone in the Trump campaign” but didn’t know Papadopoulos (who, he added, was only 29 years old at the time).
Then: “So now that we have no Trump collusion, here’s what we do have tonight,” he said. “This is what the media will ignore. This is what matters. These are the facts. This is where the evidence comes in: What did President Clinton — or President Clinton wannabe — President Obama, and key members of the administration, what did they know about the Uranium One scandal?”
What follows is nearly 15 minutes of loosely threaded conspiracy theories that have largely been debunked. Hannity loops in everything: Alleged pay-for-play, questions about the dossier of allegations against Trump and even a recent report alleging that the campaign of Barack Obama helped fund Fusion GPS, the company that created it. (There’s no evidence at all for the claim.) Hannity has picked up Glenn Beck’s early-Obama-era habit of using cherry-picked information to allege a sweeping scandal without actually proving his case.
If you were wondering if the kitchen sink was spared, it wasn’t. Hannity also presented a number of politicians and media types saying there was no evidence of collusion — the most recent example of which was in early June. (The Donald Trump Jr. meeting at Trump Tower came to light in September.)
Hannity also seized on reports that Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, was stepping down from his lobbying firm, news that broke on Monday and probably related more to Manafort’s indictment (in which Podesta’s firm is possibly implicated) than to the 2016 campaign and national politics.
He continued, outlining all of the charges he thought Clinton (and her allies) should face given the various scandals he’d outlined. Why haven’t they? Because Mueller, former attorney general Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein all declined to prosecute because, he implies, they’re corrupt.
“Between Fusion GPS, between Uranium One, we have evidence of real Russian collusion,” he alleged. “America tonight is at a crisis point. Will we have equal justice under the law, or will America just be a banana republic, corrupt at its core? That is what is at stake tonight.”
“Guess what? This program is dedicated to the truth,” Hannity said, with force. “We will get to the bottom of all of this.”
The monologue came to an end. Without pausing for breath, he continued:
“Joining us now, he is the chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. He’s also one of the president’s attorneys. Exclusive tonight: Jay Sekulow,” Hannity said. “Let me start with a simple question: Your take on all of this?”
That’s Hannity, truth-teller, asking Trump’s lawyer to weigh in on his grand conspiracy theory.
On Tuesday, CNN’s Darcy got a response to Hannity’s show from a Fox News employee. The word used to describe Hannity’s arguments on Manafort? “Laughable.”