Rough justice slapped mouthy Sean Hannity upside his head two times Monday. First, in a federal court, the Fox News prime time star—against his will—was exposed as a law client of Michael Cohen, the sleazy fixer for President Donald Trump who is now under federal investigation.
Next, Hannity got surprised on his own TV show by Alan Dershowitz. The Harvard law professor told Hannity that he should have revealed his legal relationship with Cohen last week, when he angrily defended Cohen after federal agents busted Cohen in New York.
Hannity must have felt sandbagged. He’d tried set up Dershowitz with a different question about a chronic Hannity gripe regarding the anti-Trump dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele in the 2016 campaign. But Dershowitz wrote his own script.
“Well, first of all, Sean, I do want to say that I really think you should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen when you talked about him on this show,” Dershowitz said.
After a few more words over a few more seconds, a flustered Hannity interrupted and tried to offer an excuse.
“You-you-you understand the nature of it, professor?” Hannity said. “I’m gonna deal with this later in the show.”
That’s curious. Most shows on cable news—even on Fox—were dealing with it much more than Hannity. And this was the 19th minute of a 60-minute show. Sure, Hannity teased the issue briefly in the show’s opening. But he ignored totally the ethical aspect of his failure to come clean about his ties to the man he defended.
He didn’t get around to discussing Cohen until the 58th minute, after a self-indulgent mashup of sound bites showed many other newscasters speaking the word “Hannity.” Then Hannity repeated canned statements from the afternoon about how Cohen never really represented him in legal matters.
“I never received an invoice,” Hannity said. “I never paid Michael Cohen for legal fees. I did have occasional, brief conversations with Michael Cohen—he’s a great attorney—about legal questions… My discussions with Michael Cohen never rose to any level that I needed to tell anyone…”
There’s irony here with all this law-talkin’ involving Hannity. For more than two decades, Hannity has turned his Fox hour into a right-wing kangaroo court, with Hannity as the crooked prosecutor who asks questions loaded with twisted innuendo and misleading insinuation.
In boxing terms, Hannity is a cheap-shot artist and sucker-puncher who hits below the belt and after the bell to support white racism, exploiters of financial wealth, environmental polluters and war mongers.
He’s good at what he does. His ratings lead all cable news, most of the time, although Rachel Maddow on MSNBC actually beat him last month in the 9 p.m. hour in both total audience and the prime demographic.
Now that it is known that Hannity has close ties to two people under federal investigation—Cohen and Trump—perhaps Hannity might get a chance to swear an oath himself on a Bible to testify to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in a court room or, maybe, to a congressional committee.
In the true spirit of Hannity’s interrogations on Fox, here are a few questions Hannity should answer under penalty of perjury:
- Mr. Hannity, Mr. Cohen says he is your lawyer. You say not so much. Who is lying, you or him?
- Mr. Hannity, you seemed to suggest Mr. Cohen might have given you real estate advice. Given the real estate parameters of the Trump investigation, did you ever do any real estate deals to launder large sums of money for Russian gangsters?
- Mr. Hannity, did you inform your Fox bosses that you were connected to the subject of a major news story, or did you hide it from them, too? Do you think they’ll suspend you? Do you think you’ll get fired? Yes or no, Mr. Hannity. YES OR NO!!
- Mr. Hannity, Rachel Maddow on MSNBC beat you in March, head-to-head, in the ratings. In that you’re such a tough, strong, macho guy who brags about expertise in martial arts, are you at least a little embarrassed that you’re getting your butt kicked by a woman?
- Mr. Hannity, you’ve often said that you’re not a journalist and that “journalism is dead.” Now that your deception has been made public, you’re not going to hide, are you, behind the First Amendment?
- Mr. Hannity, for years you’ve worked with and befriended rich, powerful sex creeps like Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes. And, on Monday, you seemed careful to imply—without really saying so—that your friendship with Mr. Cohen involved no payoffs to porn film actresses or pinup girls to cover up sex affairs like those that Mr. Cohen handles for Mr. Trump and at least one other fat-cat Republican sleaze ball. Are you sure he never paid off any women to keep their mouths shut about you?
- Mr. Hannity, as you know, Mr. Trump enjoys frank “locker room talk” about sexual matters, you know, just among the fellas, heh-heh-heh. In that you have interviewed Mr. Trump many times and he has praised you for your interrogation technique, can you tell us, after interviewing the president, do you spit or swallow?
As you might expect, both CNN and MSNBC covered the Hannity scandal far more than Fox. On CNN’s AC-360 with Anderson Cooper, media watchdog Brian Stelter wondered about Hannity’s legacy.
“In 30 or 40 years, are Hannity and his kids going to be proud of the way he’s handled this moment in American life?” Stelter asked. “Every night attacking the FBI, attacking (Special Counsel Robert) Mueller, attacking (former FBI Director James) Comey… Is he going to be proud of this attempt to tear down our institutions in America?”
On MSNBC’s All In, host Chris Hayes seemed almost gleeful and could not keep the smile off his face. One of his contributors, Emily Jane Fox, described the tense mood in court just before Hannity was exposed.
“Such a reality show moment,” she said. “The energy in the room felt like the whole court was going to explode.”
In the next hour, Maddow—smiling—quoted a written report from NBC’s Tom Winter about the instant Hannity’s name was announced.
“Those gathered in the court room gasped,” she read. “The mouths of reporters dropped open. Some struggled not to laugh.”
The smiles carried over to the 10 p.m. hour where Lawrence O’Donnell, host of The Last Word, welcomed frequent guest Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels. She is one of Trump’s sexual friends from the past.
Avenatti—who sometimes exaggerates and fantasizes—had a dire prediction about Hannity, who insisted Monday he has a right to privacy. The fight to keep Hannity’s name secret was made by Trump’s lawyers at Hannity’s request. What could they possibly be hiding?
“His world just exploded,” Avenatti said of Hannity. “There is no question in my mind that there is one or more documents with Sean Hannity’s name on it that Michael Cohen does not want disclosed.”