When it comes to Donald Trump’s legal troubles, Sean Hannity is not just another Republican player. On the contrary, the Fox News host has an insider’s perspective precisely because he’s long been a member of the former president’s inner circle.
When former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ Jan. 6 texts reached the public, for example, there were extensive communications that made it seem as if Hannity was effectively, if not literally, a member of the then-president’s political advisory team. The host had Trump’s interest at heart, and he appeared practically desperate to lend a hand.
More than 20 months later, Hannity still wants to help his Republican ally. It’s just not going especially well.
This week, the host aired a segment that presented Trump as a good and honorable leader who’s being harassed by rascally opponents who should just leave the poor guy alone. To bolster the point, Hannity showed viewers a lengthy list of investigations surrounding the former president.
There was, however, a rather important problem with the list: It was a little too good. As a Washington Post analysis explained:
The tactic (which Hannity deploys with some regularity) was to imply unimportance by indicating volume. Surely this barrage, unspooling slowly over Hannity’s shoulder, is proof that Trump’s opponents are trying to use any possible tool to derail him? If we slow it down, though, picking out the actual investigations included by Hannity, the picture changes. A lot of these investigations ... make a lot of sense.
Quite right. The Fox News host wanted to give the impression that the long list was proof of harassment. Viewers were supposed to see it and think, “Wow, those darned investigators sure have bothered Trump a whole lot.”
But the closer one looked at the list, the more Hannity’s segment backfired: Viewers were actually reminded of all the completely legitimate scrutiny. What was supposed to present Trump as a victim instead made him look like a scandalous and prolific lawbreaker.
The list included investigations into:
- Trump’s Russia scandal
- Russian interference in U.S. elections to assist Trump
- The controversy surrounding the Trump inaugural fund
- Alleged Emoluments clause violations
- Trump’s hidden tax returns
- Improper gifts Trump allegedly received
- Post-defeat election interference
- Trump bringing classified materials to Mar-a-Lago
- The Jan. 6 attack and efforts to overturn the 2020 election
- Trump using military aid to extort Ukraine
- Trump’s “hush money” controversies
- Trump’s dubious pardons
- Trump’s dubious fundraising operation
- Trump’s alleged real estate fraud
Sure, Hannity padded the list with investigations that didn’t directly relate to Trump, a matter related to a former Trump lease that really wasn’t investigated at all, and a lawsuit over voting rights filed by the NAACP that could hardly be described as an “investigation.”
But putting that aside, the Trump scandals that Hannity listed on the air are proper controversies that, by any fair measure, are obviously worthy of scrutiny. In fact, it was generous of the host to package them together like this for the former president’s detractors.
Last week, by way of his social media platform Trump argued that Fox News is “really pushing the Democrats and the Democrat [sic] agenda.” It looks like Hannity stumbled into an instance in which he inadvertently bolstered the complaint.
CORRECTION (Sept. 16, 2022, 6:10 p.m. ET): An earlier version of a photo caption misstated the location of Cape Girardeau. It’s in Missouri, not Mississippi.