UPDATE — 4/23, 12:22 p.m. EDT: According to public documents reviewed by The Guardian, Fox News’ Sean Hannity bought millions of dollars worth of apartment buildings through Georgia shell companies in 2014 with mortgage loans guaranteed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Failing to disclose his business relationship with the federal agency to his audience, Hannity interviewed now-HUD Secretary Ben Carson in June 2017, where the TV host praised the retired neurosurgeon and said he “like[d] the idea” of home ownership for low-income families who receive residential subsidies.
Responding in a statement on his website, Hannity said: “I have never discussed with anybody at HUD the original loans that were obtained in the Obama years, nor the subsequent refinance of such loans . . . I had no role in, or responsibility for, any HUD involvement in any of these investments.”
On Monday, conservative media pundit Sean Hannity was revealed to be Michael Cohen’s third client during heated legal arguments in New York over how to handle the documents seized from the lawyer’s office and home.
Over the past year, Mr. Cohen had only three clients. The first two names were already known: President Trump, whom Cohen has represented for over a decade, and Elliot Broidy, the disgraced former RNC deputy finance chair. Cohen’s services have notoriously involved payments for mistresses to ensure their silence on alleged affairs.
Initially, Judge Kimba Wood seemed willing to keep the third client’s name secret — Cohen’s lawyer having offered to write the name on a note and hand it to her in a sealed envelope.
Before the name was scribbled however, Rob Balin, a lawyer representing the press, pushed to have the name revealed. Balin argued public interest outweighed the client’s desire for privacy. Citing the 1980 case Richmond Newspaper v. Virginia: “People in an open society do not demand infallibility from their institutions. But it is difficult for them to accept that they are prohibited from observing.”
Shortly after, Judge Wood demanded the name be read out on the spot.
While there are no legal ramifications for Hannity being a client for Cohen, it is quite embarrassing for the man who has spent the past week vehemently defending Cohen after the FBI raid.
Hannity has explained his involvement:
“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 input and perspective. I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any mater between me and a third party.”
Voices from both the right and left have expressed displeasure with Hannity’s lack of transparency, but there hasn’t been any clear violation of ethics.
While journalists are expected to recuse themselves from a story where they are personally involved, TV personalities aren’t held to such a standard.
“I never claimed to be a journalist,” Hannity said in an interview with The New York Times in 2016.
Fox News also admitted to being blindsided by the announcement, but have decided to stand by their man. The network argues there is a clear separation between the news and opinion and they consider Hannity to be the latter — an understatement given the TV host’s reportedly tight-knit personal relationship with the president himself, which includes around-the-clock phone calls where professional advice is exchanged.
Political hack might be a better description for Sean Hannity than “opinion host”.
[Reuters] [ABC News] [Twitchy] [The Independent] [Photo courtesy Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images via Cheat Sheet]