On Thursday, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple analyzed how Sean Hannity, one of President Donald Trump’s prime cheerleaders on cable news, has sharpened his focus into directly attacking former special counsel Robert Mueller in the wake of his resignation speech on Wednesday.
“Fox News host Sean Hannity savaged special counsel Robert S. Mueller III for his statement earlier in the day on the findings of his nearly two-year investigation. ‘Now, today, he officially resigned from the Office of Special Counsel but not before showing the world, of course, what we already know on this program, his partisan hackery true colors, if you will,’ said Hannity, in his typical spitfire delivery,” wrote Wemple. “Riffing and ripping, Hannity decided to assert his all-encompassing expertise and wisdom: ‘Number one, Mr. Mueller doesn’t know the law. He’s basically full of crap, and the special counsel’s regulations, they are very clear,’ said Hannity.”
Mueller’s words, Wemple argued, were among the only time many of Hannity’s viewers would be exposed to the straight facts of the case, getting nearly all of their media diet from a tightly-woven circle of conservative sources spinning Mueller’s report to the benefit of the president.
And because what Mueller said so baldly contradicted Hannity’s narrative, he had no choice but to go on the offense.
“What happened? Television happened: Mueller stood before the cameras and summarized his findings,” said Wemple. “The affair was covered by every media outlet of consequence. It was such an event that the major cable news networks speculated about it for more than an hour before it happened. They couldn’t talk about anything else, even though it hadn’t even happened yet. This very spectacle — the special counsel, in his first public remarks on the investigation — forced Hannity and many others to reckon with the Mueller team’s actual findings. As opposed to the findings that Hannity had been announcing to his viewers in the intervening weeks.”
As Wemple pointed out, Hannity has spent the better part of several weeks proclaiming the Mueller report details “no collusion, no obstruction.” Mueller, by contrast told Fox viewers yesterday what every other network explained from the start: that the report did not exonerate Trump and laid out incidents of obstruction that Congress could use to impeach the president.
“Propagating misinformation, as it turns out, is a complicated business,” concluded Wemple. “To properly air the ‘no collusion’ mantra, Hannity has to hype the Mueller probe’s investigative thoroughness. To properly air the ‘no obstruction’ mantra, Hannity must simultaneously aver that Mueller is ‘basically full of crap.’ It’s one of the luxuries of Hannity’s bubbled existence at Fox News that he will never be forced to choose between the two.”