Sean Hannity’s battle of sourcing with New York Times
New York – Sean Hannity urged his viewers to put a New York Times article on the special counsel investigation of President Donald Trump “in your fireplace and burn it.” Instead, he offered a tutorial on the importance of reading.
The Times’ story on a list of questions that Special Counsel Robert Mueller wanted to put to Trump in a potential interview upended cable newscasts Monday night, including Hannity’s Fox News Channel show. Hannity denigrated the Times’ use of anonymous sources, as did Trump, who tweeted Tuesday that the leak was “disgraceful.”
Hannity said that his own sources – which he did not identify – told him that “The New York Times is full of crap.”
“This is how bad the press in this country is,” Hannity said. “They are being fed lies and misinformation.”
He said the story was “clearly a leak by the special prosecutor’s office.”
Yet for a story reliant on anonymous sourcing, the Times was unusually forthcoming about where the information came from. It didn’t point toward Mueller’s office.
The Times story said that special counsel investigators read a series of questions to Trump’s lawyers, who compiled those questions into a list. That list was provided to the Times by “a person outside Mr. Trump’s legal team,” the newspaper said. Hannity did not discuss that disclosure on his show.
The story’s author, Michael S. Schmidt, offered more detail in an interview on the newspaper’s daily podcast Tuesday. He said Trump’s lead lawyer John Dowd and colleagues were invited by Mueller’s team in March to hear the questions. It was a sales job; the special counsel’s office wanted the interview.
Instead, the more he listened to what investigators wanted to ask, the less interested Dowd became in having his client submit to an interview. He later resigned from Trump’s legal team since it became apparent that Trump did not want to take his advice, Schmidt said.
Trump “has to look at himself or his legal team, because that’s where this information came from,” Matt Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman and a commentator on MSNBC, said on Tuesday.
Hannity did not outline why he believed the leak came from Mueller’s office and Fox had nothing to add to it on Tuesday. His guest on Monday’s show, reporter Sara Carter, also said she believed the special prosecutor’s office was responsible for getting the questions out.
The Times had no comment on Hannity or the president, a spokeswoman said.
The issue of whether Hannity is a journalist or a commentator has been muddled and became an issue in recent weeks when it was revealed that he also accepted legal advice from Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.