Fox News host Sean Hannity hasn't exactly tried to hide his support of President Trump over any number of opponents. But on Thursday, the cable news personality had to walk back his criticism of a bombshell New York Times report that Trump had tried to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. In the opening of his show, Hannity denied that Trump ordered Mueller fired before confirming just that minutes later, then quickly dismissing it.
"They have a story that Trump wanted Mueller fired sometime last June. And our sources, and I've checked in with many of them, they're not confirming that," says Hannity in his "Opening Monologue" segment. But later, toward the end of his show, an aggravated and defensive Hannity admitted, "So we have sources tonight confirming to Ed Henry that, yeah, maybe Donald Trump wanted to fire the special counsel for a conflict."
Hannity stuck to his Trump defense, asking, "Does he not have the right to raise those questions?" Then the host avoided any more uncomfortable moments by deferring the confirmed story. "You know, we'll deal with this tomorrow night," he said, before cutting to a car crash.
Like Trump, Hannity is a regular critic of the New York Times, and he took to Twitter Thursday evening to defend decision to discredit the outlet's news coverage.
Hannity wrote, "Also liberal sheep think I should run wild with
@nytimes anonymous sources and not confirm myself. Sure, I trust @nytimes that put this picture on the cover of their magazine (I added the green)". The tweet features a picture of Hannity in mid-yell; Hannity once said that he played a role in selecting that photo for a Times piece about his coverage of the president.
Hannity's programming content during the month of June, which happens to be when Trump reportedly ordered Mueller to be fired, has been scrutinized, too.
Media Matters analyzed Hannity's show during that month and found he had repeatedly advocated for Mueller's ousting throughout June. Between Hannity and his regular guest legal analyst, Gregg Jarrett, Hanity's show proposed Mueller either resign, recuse himself, or get the pink slip from Trump himself no less than 39 times. Combined with his guests, Hannity's show suggested Mueller had a "conflict of interest" a whopping 102 times in the span of June alone.
That aligns with what the Times reported as Trump's self-supplied reason for firing Mueller. Trump claimed there were three distinct conflicts of interest that justified his dismissal of Mueller.
The first concerned an old dispute around membership fees that caused Mueller to cancel his membership at Trump National Golf Club. The second, according to Trump, was the fact that Mueller had worked for a law firm that once represented the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. And finally, Trump argued that Mueller's interview to be FBI director the day prior to his appointment as special counsel presented a conflict of interest.
Online, many people have mocked Hannity's abrupt U-turn on the Times' report on Trump and Mueller. Maggie Haberman, one of the two the Times reporters who broke the story, retweeted Hannity's green-faced photo, and wrote, "How did this become about Hannity?"
When asked about the Times report in Davos, Switzerland, where he's attending the World Economic Forum, Trump responded, “Fake news, folks. Fake news. A typical New York Times fake story.”
Last August, Trump's lawyer John Dowd and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway also dismissed questions about Trump's intention to fire Mueller.