Yesterday, cable news took on the dramatic veneer of an '80s daytime soap. Naturally, President Trump was involved. The afternoon's big story was the courtroom revelation that Fox News host Sean Hannity was the third, previously unnamed client of President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen.
The disclosure was made during a court hearing about whether records seized last week in a raid on Cohen's office and home would be suppressed. The mysterious third client had asked for their identity to remain secret because they would be "embarrassed" to have it revealed, but District Judge Kimba Wood ordered it to be disclosed. The announcement drew "audible gasps from the spectators," the New York Times reported.
Why do people care that Sean Hannity is Michael Cohen's client?
Sean Hannity's Fox News show "Hannity" is the most-watched cable news program, with 3.2 million nightly viewers. Also the host of a three-hour afternoon radio show, Hannity is one of the leading conservative voices in media — if not the leading voice.
On both programs, Hannity has been a loud defender of President Trump and an unrelenting critic of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. He has said the investigation should be shut down. Michael Cohen appeared on "Hannity" at least a dozen times to defend Trump. Hannity never mentioned that he was a client of Cohen's.
In the week after Cohen's office was raided, Hannity discussed Cohen and his involvement with Trump several times, again without disclosing that he had a personal connection to Cohen. Although Hannity only occasionally considers himself a journalist — he has said he is an "opinion journalist" but more recently tweeted "I'm not a journalist jackass" and was dragged for omitting a comma — audiences generally appreciate knowing if commentators have conflicts of interest.
Last night on "Hannity," guest Alan Dershowitz (himself a fierce supporter of Trump) said that Hannity should have been more above board. "I really think that you should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen when you talked about him on this show," said Dershowitz. "You could have said that you had asked him for advice or whatever."
Earlier in the afternoon on his radio show, Hannity said he had given Cohen "ten bucks" and had only talked with him about business. Today, he added it had been about real estate.