Sean Hannity, the primetime Fox News Channel host, regularly comments on the news cycle, but on Monday, he found himself at the center of it.
Hannity has used Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s embattled attorney for legal advice, Cohen was forced to reveal on Monday. in U.S. District Court in New York. Cohen was ordered to appear in court 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 Trump in 2006.
Lawyers for Cohen had previously refused to identify Hannity, arguing that the revelation was “likely to be embarrassing or detrimental to the client.” Hannity is one of three people Cohen has represented between 2017 and 2018. In addition to Trump, Cohen has also represented Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy.
“I understand if he doesn’t want his name out there, but that’s not enough under the law,” Wood said in response Cohen’s request to keep his client history private.
The disclosure is likely to generate more attention around Hannity, who was the most-watched cable-news host in the first quarter of 2018 (MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow commands the most viewers in the demographic most coveted by advertisers, people between 25 and 54). The interest, however, is likely something executives at Fox News, could do without. The 21st Century Fox-owned cable-news outlet is still grappling with a defection of advertisers from 10 p.m. host Laura Ingraham, who recently took a swipe at David Hogg, one of the survivors of the February 14th shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. Ingraham returned to the air last week after taking a brief vacation around the Easter holiday.
The Hannity revelation is likely to bring with it charges that the host has not disclosed his ties to Trump and Cohen even as he has commented on issues surrounding them on his 9 p.m. program on Fox News. Other TV-news networks might reprimand a host who did not acknowledge links to subjects of coverage. When Hannity was spotted appearing in a Trump campaign video in 2016, Fox News made him stop and in a statement noted “he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election.” But other anchors have transgressed such journalistic norms and been left alone. ABC News did not punish George Stephanopoulos in 2015, for instance, after he disclosed he had made donations to the Clinton Foundation even as he reported on both President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clifton.
In a statement, Hannity acknowledged he did turn to Cohen for advice, but said he was never an official client. “Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter,” he wrote. “I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective.”
“I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party,” he went on.
In an earlier statement to multiple outlets, Hannity said, “We have been friends a long time. I have sought legal advice from Michael.”