Sean Hannity was 'actively misinforming' Fox News viewers during Sidney Powell interview: columnist
On Wednesday, December 21, Sean Hannity, according to the New York Times, sat for a deposition in connection with the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit that Dominion Voting Systems has filed against his employer Fox News. Dominion, in the lawsuit, alleges that Fox News committed defamation against the company when it promoted false claims that its voting equipment was used to help Democrats steal the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump.
The U.S. Supreme Court under Republican Chief Justice Earl Warren set a tough standard for proving defamation with its unanimous 1964 ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan. According to the Warren Court, defamation requires “actual malice.” And that’s what Dominion has to prove in the defamation lawsuits it has filed against Fox News, Newsmax TV, One America News (OAN), former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and others who promoted Trump’s debunked claims of widespread voter fraud.
Fox News’ legal team, in response to Dominion’s lawsuit, has maintained that Fox News never accused Dominion of wrongdoing and was simply presenting different points of view after the 2020 election. Powell was a guest on Hannity’s show on November 30, 2020 and aggressively promoted the Big Lie during that broadcast, falsely claiming the election had been stolen from Trump with Dominion’s help. But when Hannity, under oath during the December 21 deposition two years later, was asked about Powell’s claims, he admitted, “I did not believe it for one second.”
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The Washington Post’s Philip Bump discusses Hannity’s actions in 2020 and 2022 in a December 22 column, and he is vehemently critical of the far-right Fox News host. Bump recalls that even though the Trump campaign had distanced itself from Powell, Hannity gave her a warm reception on his show.
“The ostensible predicate for Powell’s appearance was that she was acting as a lawyer for Mike Flynn, Trump’s one-time national security adviser, who had pleaded guilty to misleading federal investigators,” Bump explains. “Halfway through the interview, though, Hannity turned the discussion to Powell’s claims about voting machines. He noted that he’d discussed the issue with her on his radio show, asking her why the people she claimed had observed the election being stolen hadn’t signed affidavits to that effect.”
Bump continues, “She indicated that some were government employees worried about repercussions. One of Powell’s sources, we later learned, was a guy she’d presented as having served in military intelligence but who, instead, had been a trainee in one program, dropping out before it was completed. But Hannity was apparently satisfied with that answer. He asked if anyone had examined the machines for evidence of this activity; Powell promised that such analysis was imminent.”
Bump notes that during the deposition, Hannity “reportedly admitted that he offered Powell a platform despite her lack of credibility.”
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“Perhaps the Fox News host thinks this makes him look better; he wasn’t hoodwinked by this obvious nonsense!” Bump writes. “But, of course, he put Powell on the air anyway. He broached the subject of voting machines. He failed to push on her claims of secret evidence, treating them as though he believed them, even if he more recently claims he didn’t.”
Hannity, Bump argues, was “actively misinforming” his audience when he gave Powell a platform.
“Hannity has long been and continues to be the most explicitly partisan host on Fox News, if not on cable news broadly,” Bump writes. “Over the course of the midterms, he spent hours interviewing Republican Senate candidates, including multiple Nerf-ball hour-long ‘town hall’ meetings with candidates in close races. He endorsed Trump before 2016. It’s all unsubtle.”
Bump adds, “But that is different from promoting baseless nonsense about the election being stolen…. In the weeks after the election — and in the weeks before the violent attack at the Capitol by people convinced the election was stolen — Hannity was offering a platform to a conspiracy theorist whom his own network and Trump himself had dismissed as unreliable.”
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