I was not surprised by the news that landed this morning concerning Sean Hannity and Fox News, but it was dismaying. While the politics of the story is concerning in relation to the 2020 election, the underlying theme of a major news operation linked at the hip with the Republican Party is most worthy of more public attention.
The central story concerns CNN obtaining 2,319 text messages that Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows sent and received between Election Day 2020 and President Joe Biden’s January 20, 2021, inauguration. Meadows selectively provided these messages to the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
Among the trove of texts are more than 80 from Fox’s Sean Hannity.
Hannity spews and hates in equal measure in the text messages, which is his true character, as we know from his on-air broadcasts to these now-public texts. He writes that “Biden is a semi conscious corpse”, uses Michael Corleone as a reference point, and clearly demonstrates how he is as much a partisan huckster as a blow-haired bloviator during his evening program.
“Also if this doesn’t end the way we want, you me and Jay are doing 3 things together. 1- Directing legal strategies vs Biden 2- NC Real estate 3- Other business I talked to Rudy.”
The fact that Hannity both blatantly gives advice on White House politics and strategy and asks for direction and guidance so clearly obliterates the lines between Fox News, his show, and the Trump White House that it leaves a citizen almost breathless.
The sole purpose of Fox News is not in doubt. News has always been an alleged function of the network. It is an active echo chamber in the media for all things Republican and conservative. The undermining of facts and any sense of journalistic responsibility for the presentation of actual news and holding to journalism standards is the last concern of Fox News. It is also about their partisan interests.
Which then undermines the rest of the news world which does strive to do the job of journalism.
History-minded readers might recall the name Philip Freneau. When Thomas Jefferson became so piqued with Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists he turned to Freneau to form a newspaper that would publish views of the opposition. The National Gazette was not unlike most of the papers of the time—and there were scores of them–in that the content was abrasive and politically toxic.
So the idea of amassing resources and creating a ‘news source’ has long been a feature of our nation. But over the centuries the standards for journalism have evolved, and we better understand the vital necessity in a democracy created of an informed electorate. Fox News has turned back the calendar to the days of Freneau. And that does not serve the best interests of the nation.
While Hannity is–well, what he is–it does need noting that there must be an ethical aspect to the role he plays at Fox News. While no one would term him a journalist, he still has an ethical obligation to not participate in the issues he rants about. Even Hannity should be able to understand that point.
Admittedly, I come from the ‘old school’ where it was not acceptable or professional for a news organization, or any of their faces or voices as the case may be, to actively engage with the newsmakers and especially with politicos to alter the page of history that is being written. Such behavior would be blatantly unethical. (This very reason is why Chris Cuomo needed to be jettisoned from CNN.)
Such behavior from Hannity and others of his stripe has sadly added to the public mistrust and lack of regard for the actual news reporters and ethically bound journalists who do strive to maintain standards. The latter are the majority among the media, but of course, it is the ones who break the bonds of trust with the public who gets the headlines.
And so it goes.