“They're colluding, yes,” Assange said of the media and Clinton, adding that he believes the arrangement worked like this: “You rub my back; I'll rub yours.”
The trouble for Assange and Hannity is that the emails published by WikiLeaks during the campaign didn't really support such a breathless conclusion.
Assange and Hannity did not cite any examples of collusion in their conversation, but various conservative websites have published lists of emails that supposedly prove the media was playing for Team Hillary. Some are just plain silly. Others do show real coordination in isolated instances but are hardly indicative of a widespread problem among journalists.
In the second category are the infamous messages in which Donna Brazile tipped off Clinton's team to the nature and wording of several Democratic primary debate questions. At the time, Brazile was a Democratic National Committee vice chair and also a commentator on CNN.
“My conscience — as an activist, a strategist — is very clear,” Brazile said after CNN cut ties with her.
Brazile most definitely colluded with Clinton, but her conduct said more about the ethos of some political operatives than about the integrity of reporters. Brazile is not, and never was, a reporter.
Another email chain indicated that Univision chairman Haim Saban offered Clinton aides his advice on messaging to Latino voters. Not a good look. But it is worth remembering that Saban's support for Clinton was already well known; he and his wife had previously donated $10 million to a pro-Clinton super PAC.
Saban does not run the Univision newsroom. If you are skeptical of separation between a network chairman's politics and the network's news coverage, that is perfectly understandable. But even if that's your view, it makes little sense to view Univision as representative of the mainstream, English-language media.
Several other email exchanges that outraged conservatives simply don't qualify as collusion. One showed that Clinton's team viewed New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman as a “friendly journalist” to whom the campaign could offer a scoop. But there is no evidence that Haberman did anything improper, and it is common practice for political campaigns to pitch stories to reporters they believe will treat them well/fairly.
Another email written by Clinton's traveling press secretary, Nick Merrill, said the candidate and CNN producer Dan Merica “are basically courting each other at this point.” According to the Daily Caller, Merrill's note “illustrates the Democratic nominee's buddy-buddy strategy for manipulating campaign journalists.”
Or it was a joke. Merica and the Clinton campaign actually seemed to have a tense relationship at times, such as when he complained (regularly) on Twitter about a lack of news conferences and when other hacked emails revealed nervous aides trying to prevent him from asking questions.
In any case, there is no indication that Merica colluded with Clinton in any way. And there is nothing in the raft of emails published by WikiLeaks to suggest a broad media conspiracy to work with Clinton and help her win the White House.
For Assange and Hannity, charges of collusion by the media are self-serving. Both men seek to undermine confidence in the media while positioning themselves as more trustworthy alternatives. The vague accusations bandied about in their interview just don't hold up to scrutiny.