“Let’s be honest,” CNN’s Brian Stelter said at the top of his media criticism show Reliable Sources on Sunday. “This week, Sean Hannity won and the rest of America lost.”
On Friday night, The Daily Beast reported that when Sean Hannity was not speaking directly to President Donald Trump on his Fox News show, he was quietly advising him behind-the-scenes to release the Devin Nunes memo against the advice of his own FBI director. A few hours later, Trump did just that.
“The pro-Trump media, led by Hannity, has circled the wagons around President Trump. They’ve distracted people about the truth involving Trump’s Russia ties and they’ve done everything possible to destroy faith in Robert Mueller’s probe,” Stelter said. “And look, Hannity won. It worked. You’ve got to give him credit where it’s due. Hannity gave a megaphone to the GOP congressman who said they had a smoking gun memo, proving a deep state conspiracy against Trump. Hannity hyped it night after night after night in January, like a human countdown clock.”
The host went on to argue that Hannity’s promises about the memo “were never going to live up to the hype,” adding, “the noise around the memo doesn’t make much sense anyway.” For instance, he explained, Nunes alleges surveillance abuses, but voted to give the FBI more surveillance powers. As has been widely reported, the memo also has some serious timeline problems.
“But come on, when you’re trying to confuse people, that doesn’t matter,” Stelter added. “All the questions, all the headlines, all the doubt, all the curiosity, all the concern, that was the point. To get it on the front page, to sow doubt and division, that was the point.”
Or, as PBS NewsHour correspondent Yamiche Alcindor put it earlier this morning on Meet The Press, “#ReleaseTheMemo was way more important than the actual memo.”
From there, Stelter presented a side-by-side comparison of Fox News vs. MSNBC on the night the memo was released. While Hannity said the memo represented “Watergate times a thousand,” Rachel Maddow responded by asking, “That’s it?”
“Look, this campaign of confusion is good for Hannity,” Stelter concluded. “His ratings are way up. It’s good for Trump, as well. But it’s bad for the country.”