Compromised

Erik Wemple at the Post says yes, it is sleazy for Hannity to be entangled with Cohen and Trump.

To understand from whom Hannity seeks legal advice, consider what Cohen once told a reporter who was preparing a hard-hitting story during the campaign on Trump and ex-wife Ivana Trump:

“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen said. “So I’m warning you, tread very f[–––]ing lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f[–––]ing disgusting. You understand me?”

“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up… for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet… you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added.

Cohen also masterminded hush payments to women who’d allegedly had affairs with Trump. Meaning: His expertise lies in intimidation and the like.

So not so much a lawyer as an arm-breaker.

Whatever its nature, the association raises more questions about Hannity’s role at Fox News than can be addressed right here and now. Surely he and his backers will leap to the common defense that Hannity doesn’t claim to be a journalist and is thus not bound by the usual ethical considerations of the profession. Yet somehow, the “Fox News” logo remains in place during Hannity’s broadcasts:

“News” organizations employ journalists.

Whether formal or informal, the apparent legal relationship between Cohen and Hannity raises obvious issues. Would Hannity be able to report on wrongdoing by Cohen? Would he be able to report on advice from Cohen that led the president astray? Would he be able to report fairly on the actions of the Trump Organization?

Of course not. The relationship merely reduces whatever independence Hannity had preserved from his buddies in Trump World — which, as we already know, was pea-size to begin with. As reported by this blog, Hannity during the presidential election actually participated in a video promotion for the Trump campaign. He paid for a vice presidential candidate to be flown to an interview in Indiana. And he provided advice in his numerous phone chats with the president and his people.

So, it’s possible that this Cohen news is moot from an ethical perspective: Hannity is way too compromised to compromise himself further. With each revelation, though, it’s clear that Hannity’s programming is driven more by personal ties and loyalties than by whatever principles he may retain at this point.

Which is very Trump-like, and what Comey wrote a book to say is the wrong way to go.

“If he only defends Trump as a matter of opinion, that’s what editorial writers do,” says Stephen Gillers, a professor of legal ethics at NYU School of Law and author of the forthcoming “The Press under Fire: Protecting the Future of Investigative Reporting.” “If his opinion can be or seem to be influenced by an allegiance to Trump or Cohen, then he’s crossing a line.” Having long ago obliterated that line, though, Hannity can no longer see it.

Or he doesn’t care about it and never did.

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