Back in August 2016, Trump diehards had a field day with a video of Hillary Clinton mockingly acting like a bobblehead doll while being bombarded with questions. It was part of a larger smear campaign that summer about Hillary’s health. But Sean Hannity may have uncorked one of the lowest blows of all. He suggested that Hillary may have been having a seizure in real-time.
When veteran journalist Kurt Eichenwald, then of Newsweek, saw this, he hit the ceiling. Eichenwald, who has epilepsy himself, called this out for the cheap shot that it was. For Eichenwald, it was personal, as he has epilepsy himself.
Your willingness to deceive your viewers—to degrade those of us with epilepsy, to suggest something is a seizure when it looks nothing like one, to leave people dumber about this condition—is unforgivable.
Fast forward to Friday, when longtime Donald Trump confidant and right-wing provocateur Roger Stone was indicted on charges that he and several Trump campaign officials collaborated with WikiLeaks to obtain stolen Democratic National Committee emails in hopes of hobbling Trump’s foes.
Buried in the indictment is evidence that suggests Hannity’s baseless claim about Hillary having a seizure may have been far worse than we may have thought. How do you get worse than a politically motivated cheap shot? Quite easily, as it turns out. If emails obtained by Mueller are to be believed, the handwringing over Hillary’s health may have been part of a disinformation campaign–one of many disinformation campaigns waged by the Kremlin in 2016.
Soon after the news broke, Eichenwald’s interest was piqued by a passage that mentioned an email exchange Stone had with an intermediary who was in contact with WikiLeaks–known as “Organization 1” in the indictment. That intermediary–reportedly believed to be another right-wing provocateur, Jerome Corsi–suggested that WikiLeaks was planning to release a tranche of documents suggesting Hillary wasn’t in the best of health.
Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke, neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus.
According to the indictment, Stone repeatedly boasted that he had obtained damaging information about Hillary from WikiLeaks impresario Julian Assange. As we now know, the Russian hacking cabal used WikiLeaks to release their stolen documents to the world. But long before the intelligence community formally concluded this, there were a lot of blaring alarms about Assange’s ties to Russia. For instance, former counterintelligence analyst John Schindler noted that Assange has made no secret of his pro-Kremlin sympathies, and even had agents from Russia’s notorious Federal Security Service as part of his detail at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Now what does this have to do with Hannity? Well, in a Friday tweetstorm, Eichenwald noted that Hannity’s ridiculous claim about Hillary having a seizure came just days after that email exchange. To Eichenwald’s mind, the timing of this smear campaign smelled.
Later, Eichenwald made an even more explosive claim–Hannity acted in direct response to directives from those emails.
It’s way, way, way too early to accuse Hannity of being part and parcel of any Russian campaign to smear Hillary. But at the very least, Hannity failed to take the most basic steps to prevent his viewers from being misled.
That’s a pretty serious breach, especially considering that Hannity’s report came barely a year after longtime Fox News terrorism analyst Wayne Simmons was busted for falsely passing himself off as a former CIA officer for more than a decade. It turned out that Fox News missed numerous red flags about Simmons since his first appearance in 2002–but no one thought to check them out once he became a hot ticket.
Ultimately, Simmons was forced to acknowledge there were no records that he was ever a CIA officer–though he still maintains, in the face of all available evidence, that he was CIA. He also pleaded guilty to lying about his criminal history, possessing a firearm even though he was a convicted felon, and bilking his girlfriend out of $125,000 to invest in a bogus real estate venture. In 2016, he was sentenced to 33 months in prison.
After Simmons was exposed in 2015, Hannity’s colleague, Neil Cavuto, issued an unreserved apology to his viewers for not checking Simmons further. Watch it here.
Cavuto minced no words, saying that the failure to catch Simmons’ deceit was “on me and only me,” and he had a responsibility to “check out who comes on this show.”
In the face of the evidence that the smears about Hillary were part of a Kremlin influence campaign, will Hannity show the same integrity? After all, when the best-case scenario is that he simply failed to look into concerns about Hillary’s health further–especially given the ramifications–Hannity doesn’t look very good.
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