Fox News Channel executives said they would give primetime host Sean Hannity the network’s “full support” despite being blindsided by news that he may have had a business relationship with Michael Cohen, the controversial Trump Organization attorney, that he did not disclose even as he offered commentary on the network about current events involving the lawyer.
“While Fox News was unaware of Sean Hannity’s informal relationship with Michael Cohen and was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday, we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support,” the 21st Century Fox-owned network said in a statement.
The ties between Hannity, the most-watched host on cable-news, and Cohen, a longtime Trump associate and lawyer, were revealed Monday in U.S. District Court in New York, where Cohen was ordered to appear after the FBI raided his office last week. Among the documents seized was information about the $130,000 porn star Stormy Daniels said she was paid to keep quiet about allegedly having an affair with Donald Trump in 2006, before he was elected President of the United States. Cohen has been described by the adult actress as a key player in negotiations to keep her quiet about her relationship with the candidate before the 2016 election. The disclosure raised hackles in many journalism circles, where reporters, anchors and hosts are supposed to disclose relationships that may prejudice their coverage or commentary.
“I think the onus should be on both Fox and Hannity to clear their names here because both were compromised by the failure to disclose Hannity’s glaring conflict-of-interest when he defended Cohen on the air without acknowledging that he served as his lawyer,” says Mark Feldstein, chair of broadcast journalism at the University of Maryland, in an email exchange.
Speaking on his Fox News program Monday night, Hannity told viewers he has never paid Cohen for legal services. “Let me set the record straight – here’s the truth. Michael Cohen never represented me in any legal matter. I never retained his services, I never received an invoice, I never paid Michael Cohen for legal fees. I did have occasional brief conversations with Michael Cohen – he’s a great attorney – about legal questions I had where I was looking for input and perspective,” he said in the final minutes of his 9 p.m. show. “My discussions with Michael Cohen never rose to any level that I needed to tell anyone that I was asking him questions and to be absolutely clear, they never involved any matter, any – sorry to disappoint so many – matter between me, a third party, a third group – at all.”
Fox News has reason to keep Hannity – the only one of its primetime anchors who has been with the network since its debut in 1996 – on the air.
(Excerpt) Read More in: Variety