Hannity Slammed for Failing to Disclose Cohen Connection

Experts say it raises major ethical issues
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2018 4:25 AM CDT
Updated Apr 17, 2018 6:07 AM CDT
Hannity Slammed for Failing to Disclose Cohen Connection
In this April 12, 2018 photo, Sean Hannity attends The Hollywood Reporter's annual 35 Most Powerful People in Media event in New York.   (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Sean Hannity is trying very hard to downplay the fact that he failed to disclose that he was among attorney Michael Cohen's clients—but even some of his fellow Fox hosts are taking him to task. On The Five, Juan Williams wondered why Hannity neglected to mention his relationship with President Trump's personal lawyer when he was denouncing the raid on his offices last week. "Why when Sean was on the air, strongly an advocate for President Trump, not saying, 'Hey, I’ve got a relationship with the lawyer?'" Williams asked. "I think that’s a question." Late-night hosts, meanwhile, reacted with undisguised glee at the news of the connection, which was revealed during a court hearing Monday. More:

  • A scolding. Harvard law Prof. Alan Dershowitz told Hannity off on his own show Monday night for failing to disclose the relationship, saying it would have been "much, much better" if he had mentioned it, the New York Daily News reports. Hannity told viewers that no third party was involved and although he consulted Cohen on legal questions, he never paid the attorney for any services. It "never rose to any level that I needed to tell anyone that I was asking him questions," Hannity said. He earlier said the conversations had been mainly about real estate.

  • Ethics questions. Ethics experts say the omission appears to be a violation of journalistic ethics, despite the fact that Hannity sometimes describes himself as an "opinion journalist" or not a journalist at all, Politico reports. "It doesn’t matter if you’re a newspaper reporter or an opinion journalist," says Poynter Institute journalism chair Indira Lakshmanan. "If you want to maintain credibility with an audience, and be honest with them, you have to disclose all facts."
  • Calls for firing. Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly called for Fox to fire Hannity, calling the conflict of interest a "big stain" on the network, the Hill reports. "I think he is so into this like a pig in the mud he can’t get out of it. And I think he deserves to be fired. His word can never again be trusted," he said.
  • "This is CRAZY!" Stephen Colbert wondered if Hannity had failed to tell Fox about the "massive conflict of interest," or if they had ignored it. "This is CRAZY! Cohen only has two other clients and all he does for them is pay off mistresses!" Colbert said, per Mediaite. "Which raises the obvious question, who does Sean Hannity have sex with? Now we don’t know, and I can’t prove this, but I think it’s that football he’s always holding!"
  • Kimmel weighs in. Jimmy Kimmel, who recently feuded with Hannity, questioned the host's description of his relationship with Cohen. "That sounds normal: He has a lawyer—he doesn’t pay. By the way, I’m thinking of hiring Michael Cohen as my lawyer," Kimmel said. "He only has three clients and apparently, he works for free. He doesn't take money from anyone."

  • "Glaring conflict of interest." Brian Stelter at CNN says the fact that Hannity was taking "free legal advice from someone on the president's payroll" is a "glaring conflict of interest" that Fox needs to address. The connection shows how "tight-knit the pro-Trump media world is," he writes. "Not only does Hannity advise Trump, not only does Trump promote Hannity's show, not only does Hannity attack Trump's critics—Hannity and Trump even share the same lawyer."
  • "Not mad, just scared." Daily Show host Trevor Noah said the episode is "pretty shady, even for Hannity" and played clips of the host reporting on the raid on Cohen's offices. "Now, we can see that Hannity wasn’t just mad, he was scared,” Noah said, per Mediaite. "You know, now that we know that he was working with Cohen, that looks like less like a news show and more like a guy really stressed giving himself a pep talk."
  • What Hannity said about Cohen. The Washington Post looks at what Hannity had to say about Cohen last week, when he strongly denounced the raid on his home and offices On Tuesday, Hannity said it was "an unprecedented abuse of power. It needs to be countered and countered immediately."
(More Sean Hannity stories.)

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