In an interview on his Monday night program, Fox News host Sean Hannity pressed Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii about her position on drug policy. When she didn’t directly answer his queries on heroin legalization, he said, “Don’t make me be a jerk.”
Actually, Hannity needs no encouragement on that front, as he showed in another moment on Monday’s program.
In a field trip to a rally for former vice president Joe Biden in New Hampshire, Hannity talked up the Democratic faithful. A highlight compilation featured the host in a series of good-natured exchanges with Biden supporters, who issued compliments about Hannity’s looks and demeanor. “You are nicer in person. You seem nicer than you are on TV, I have to give you that,” one woman said to Hannity.
Yet Hannity couldn’t stop himself from spreading the sorts of false narratives that generally go directly to a much different audience with each edition of “Hannity.” For example, he approached an older man and mentioned the famous 2018 speech in which Biden boasted about withholding $1 billion in loan guarantees from Ukraine. “You saw the tape of Joe Biden: ‘You’re not getting a billion of our taxpayer dollars unless you fire the prosecutor investigating my son, who has zero experience in energy that’s being paid millions.’ Do you have a problem with that?” asked Hannity.
The man replied, “I don’t like Trump.”
Here’s what Hannity’s conspiracy question omitted: When Biden in late 2015 pressed Ukraine on the misdeeds of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, he was speaking for the entire Obama administration, not to mention European allies and international organizations. Though it’s true that Biden’s son Hunter served on the board of Ukrainian energy concern Burisma, the Ukrainian investigation into that company was inactive at the time of Biden’s pressure. Envoys had pushed to oust Shokin before Biden made his own case.
So the scenario that Hannity presented to the man in New Hampshire was so devoid of context as to be false. Others apparently received a similar litany of misleading circumstances from Hannity, and one of them responded correctly, “Other countries wanted him fired.” Obviously not a “Hannity” viewer.
Of course, Hannity himself could have secured a more accurate depiction of the Biden-Burisma affair if only he had read an internal Fox News document. Bryan Murphy of the network’s so-called Brain Room prepared a 162-page primer on the Ukraine scandal, with lots of details on Shokin, Rudolph W. Giuliani and a gigantic disinformation scheme. An item in the Brain Room timeline from page 35 reads as follows:
Late 2018 (Unspecified date): Giuliani participates in a Skype call with the former top Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was ousted from office after multiple Western leaders, including Biden, pressed for his removal. It’s around this time that Giuliani says he first learned of a possible Biden-Ukraine connection. “I arranged the Shokin call with the mayor,” Lev Parnas later told NPR. (241)
In a chat with another Biden rally attendee, Hannity issued this challenge: “Tell me one thing that I’ve said that’s false.”
Over the past several months, Hannity and fellow prime-timer Tucker Carlson have blasted Biden on every conceivable front, which is the sort of treatment you might expect Fox News would direct toward a front-running candidate. That may well explain why Hannity popped up at a Biden rally and not an Amy Klobuchar rally.
Things are changing, however, with Biden’s top spot in the polls tumbling and crowds at his events flagging. It might be time for Hannity to omit important facts about some other up-and-coming Democratic candidate.