Media critic details how Sean Hannity is poisoning the minds of viewers against democracy

Media critic details how Sean Hannity is poisoning the minds of viewers against democracy
President Donald J. Trump participates in a town hall interview taping with Sean Hannity of Fox News Thursday, June 25, 2020, at Green Bay-Austin Struble International Airport in Green Bay, Wis. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
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Like other opinion hosts at Fox News, Sean Hannity has been quick to promote President Donald Trump's baseless claims that he was a victim of widespread voter fraud in this year's presidential election and that Joe Biden isn't really president-elect. Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple slams Hannity for promoting false claims and conspiracy theories about the election on his show in a new column this week, stressing that it is bad for democracy.

"Long a merchant of false and harebrained lines of attack against Democratic politicians, he has moved to a more alarming perch: advocate for disenfranchising voters," Wemple argues. "With each errant utterance, Hannity pushes his viewership closer to a breakup with U.S. democracy. So, when the next presidential candidate tries to hijack an election, the 'Hannity' base will be primed to believe whatever random allegations about fraud and irregularities get tossed into the public square. It's enough to qualify Hannity as the No. 2 threat to U.S. democracy, right behind his phone buddy in the White House."

Wemple goes on to offer a detailed "A-to-Z guide" to Hannity's "sprawling and dangerous attack," noting that his coverage of the election results often differed considerably from what was reported by Fox News' hard news division.

On Election Day, Fox News' decision desk — much to Trump's chagrin — called Arizona for Joe Biden. Fox News' hard news division, in fact, reported Arizona as a Biden win when CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and other major media outlets were still holding off on calling Arizona for the former vice president.

Wemple notes that on Saturday, November 7, Fox News' hard news division called the election for Biden. But Hannity, in contrast, refused to acknowledge Biden as president-elect. And on November 9, Hannity told viewers, "We begin tonight with a major Fox News alert. Attorney General Barr has now authorized the Department of Justice to probe substantial allegations of voting irregularities in multiple states. We'll have full coverage throughout the hour on this major development."

One pro-Trump election lawsuit after another has been rejected or thrown out in the courts. But Wemple points out that for "Hannity" viewers, "a Trump Electoral College victory is always around the legal corner."

"Time and again, Hannity alerts his viewers to how many people are buying into the idea that the election was stolen," Wemple observes. "On November 10, he riffed, 'Now, tonight, millions of Americans, you do feel betrayed. According to Politico, look at this: 70% of Republicans, they don't believe this election was free, fair, and for a good reason.' Could it be that a lot of those Republicans get their news from Hannity?"

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