On Monday, when it was finally announced that President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, also represented Fox News host Sean Hannity, it was clear that the channel could soon be facing certain challenges if it decided to keep Hannity as a host.
As The New York Magazine reports, there is no bigger Trump cheerleader in the cable news channel than Hannity himself. Especially ever since the president was accused of having an affair with an adult film star.
Media pundits and Hollywood producers alike pointed out on Twitter that a conflict of interest is evident when a television anchor is so supportive of the president's attorney while holding a secret relationship with him. So will Fox News act accordingly?
Is @FoxNews going to take action with regard to Sean Hannity “reporting” on Michael Cohen despite an undisclosed conflict of interest? Likely not, which further abdicates any pretense they’ve ever had of being a legitimate news source.— Beau Willimon (@BeauWillimon) April 16, 2018
All the lols, forever. Imagine doing segment after segment about Cohen & not disclosing you're his client. https://t.co/zph9e3k6df— David Roberts (@drvox) April 16, 2018
Cohen quickly entered the national spotlight when it was reported that Trump allegedly attempted to keep adult film star Stormy Daniels from talking about her affair with the president and the lawyer brokered the deal between the two.
But even after Cohen’s office and home were raided by the FBI, Hannity, who already had a professional relationship with the attorney, never disclosed that fact while reporting on the raid. Unfortunately, the conflict of interest appears to have never crossed the host's mind, as Hannity pushed his own theory regarding Cohen to the public without thinking twice.
To the host, the FBI is after Cohen not because he was part of a scheme to quiet Daniels. Instead, he told his viewers, the whole thing is part of an intricate plot to bring the president down.
But after the cat was out of the bag, he realized that he could no longer pretend there wasn't a problem in him having deals with Cohen.
In order to try to play down the potential risks of conflicts of interest, Hannity took to his radio show to first deny the accusations and then to launch a self-preservation campaign.
At first, he said that he might have given the attorney a few bucks, then later, he said that his conversations with Cohen did not revolve around a third party, like what happened to Trump. And that he never retained Cohen or pay him for a service. Instead, he said, all the legal advice he asked Cohen involved real estate.
Sean Hannity just explained on his radio show that his conversations with Michael Cohen were privileged because, "I might have handed [Cohen] 10 bucks and said, I definitely want privilege on that."— Susan Simpson (@TheViewFromLL2) April 16, 2018
Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective.— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) April 16, 2018
I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party.— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) April 16, 2018
In response to some wild speculation, let me make clear that I did not ask Michael Cohen to bring this proceeding on my behalf, I have no personal interest in this proceeding, and, in fact, asked that my de minimis discussions with Michael Cohen,— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) April 16, 2018
which dealt almost exclusively about real estate, not be made a part of this proceeding.— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) April 16, 2018
But regardless of what the host claimed, he still appears to have had a close relationship, if not merely a professional one, with the president’s personal attorney. As such, it makes us wonder if his extensive and positive coverage of both the president and his attorney couldn’t be seen as conflicting once you understand that he as a news personality has influence over the viewership.
If he’s a serious journalist who puts his reputation first (something we find unlikely), this scandal could considerably hurt him. But what’s worse, is that this could potentially hurt the image of Fox News by having a host continue to report on the Trump presidency while having a relationship with his attorney.
So while it’s clear that a conflict of interest exists, we are still not sure if Fox News will listen to critics and give Hannity the boot.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Reuters,