This all played out exactly how Sean Hannity hoped it would — with him getting to play victim of the Destroy Trump Media’s malfeasance and bias.
The Fox News star and presidential late-night phone pal took to the air Thursday night to excoriate the mainstream media for not getting that he was obviously being sarcastic and highlighting a double standard when dispensing his phone-smashing advice to Mueller witnesses.
“These same people don’t get the fact that Hillary [Clinton] actually did all of that,” he exclaimed. “She wiped away, acid washed her hard drive, deleted 33,000 emails that were subpoenaed, had an aide smashing phones with a hammer and lied about all of it. Are you really that dumb? Please Tell me it’s not true.”
He then noted that he did not want those being asked for their phones by the special counsel to destroy them because they “won’t get the same treatment” as Hillary, adding that the media had hit a “new low.”
Now, just to recap, this bit of controversy all began with Hannity’s Wednesday night broadcast. During his monologue, he made the following remarks:
“Maybe Mueller’s witnesses, I don’t know, if I advised them to follow Hillary Clinton’s lead. Delete all your emails, and then acid-wash the emails and hard drives on your phones, then take your phones and bash them with a hammer into little itsy bitsy pieces — use BleachBit — remove the sim cards.
And then take the pieces and hand it over to Robert Mueller and say, ‘Hillary Rodham Clinton, this is equal justice under the law.”
Those comments quickly went viral, and let to widespread media coverage and outrage, thanks mainly to Media Matters researcher Andrew Lawrence tweeting out a video clip of Hannity dishing out that advice minutes later.
Hey remember when Assange DM'd Hannity asking him to reach out on an encrypted app?
Tonight Hannity is freaking out about Mueller searching encrypted apps and "advised" all Mueller witnesses to "bash" their phones "into itsy bitsy pieces" pic.twitter.com/cZhaUqVNQk
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) June 7, 2018
As has been pointed out since then, and what Hannity focused his Thursday night monologue on, is that Lawrence’s video cut off right before Hannity said these words:
“How do you think that would work out for everybody who Mueller is demanding their phones of tonight? I’m certain the result would not be the same as Hillary’s.”
Hannity would go on and mention the phone-destroying advice a couple of more times in his show, noting that he was “just kidding” and that it was “bad advice,” something Lawrence highlighted on Twitter as well:
He just said it again, but this time said he was "just kidding" and that it's "bad advice"….but then still told them to do it pic.twitter.com/HouMUyqLfv
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) June 7, 2018
With a number of media outlets — including this one — doing up stories on Hannity’s eyebrow-raising remarks, several other sites published pieces arguing that Hannity was being misrepresented and that he wasn’t actually calling on witnesses in the Mueller probe to destroy evidence. The Washington Free Beacon’s Alex Griswold wrote that Lawrence took Hannity out of context to “falsely accuse him of lawbreaking.” He ended his piece with this:
“I mean, it’s clear as crystal. Sean Hannity didn’t call on witnesses to destroy evidence. You’re welcome to think his “What about Hillary” rhetoric is tired or lame, but the notion that he’s guilty of calling for a felony in earnest is just wrong.”
Law and Crime’s Ronn Blitzer told the media to “stop hyperventilating” because the Fox News conservative commentator “did not tell Russia probe witnesses to commit a crime.” Blitzer explained that Hannity’s advice was both “purely hypothetical” and “sarcastic” and that the point he was trying to make was what’s “good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Blitzer and Griswold — both former colleagues of mine — make valid points and have legitimate arguments. Nothing they wrote is wholly inaccurate and under normal circumstances, they’d be completely right in calling out the media for being unfair to a high-profile news personality.
But Hannity is not a normal case. And he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the accusation that he was unfairly maligned and taken out of context.
As Esquire’s Jack Holmes noted Thursday, Hannity’s attempts to couch this within sarcasm is the Fox host’s “way to smuggle toxic bullshit into the discourse.”
He continued, “How many of Hannity’s viewers will internalize what he just said primarily as a joke? How many will have moved closer to rationalizing potential obstruction on the part of Trump and his associates Because Hillary Did It Too? This galaxy-brain Whataboutism is particularly dangerous in our current era of absolute lawlessness, as Republicans embrace convicted criminals as heroes and the president blatantly interferes into an investigation into himself and his associates in public. In fact, Trump is already under investigation for obstruction of justice.”
And, as previously highlighted, Hannity descriptively mentioned his hypothetical, sarcastic, only-meant-to-point-out-a-double-standard advice three different times on his broadcast Wednesday night. As we’ve noticed time and time again with Hannity, he uses repetition to drive home a specific point or phrase to his audience. Why mention the phone-smashing idea several times? To drive it home. To implant it. And, perhaps, to get a certain regular viewer to nod along in agreement.
Sean is not arguing in good faith, either, when it comes to the Mueller probe. The man has spent a year devoting nearly every broadcast to derailing, discrediting, and disparaging the investigation and the special counsel. From May 17, 2017 — when Mueller was appointed — to May 16, 2018, Hannity devoted 487 segments to the investigation. 53 percent of the segments focused on criticizing the media, 45 percent involved Hannity and guests accusing Hillary of crimes, and 38 percent pushed a counternarrative claiming the real collusion was between Democrats and Russia.
On top of that, let us not forget Hannity’s own conflicts of interest when it comes to the Russia investigation and Team Trump. Besides speaking to the president on a nightly basis and acting as a shadow chief of staff, he shared Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. And while he had a legal relationship with Cohen, he devoted airtime to railing against the FBI raid on Cohen’s office and home, all while not disclosing to his audience that he was Cohen’s client.
No, Sean gets no benefit of the doubt here. None. He knows just what he’s doing when he sends out these signals. He can no longer be analyzed or critiqued like a normal member of the press. His history, his habits, are the context needed when weighing his remarks.