America, Sean Hannity has HAD ENOUGH of the dishonest media's unfair treatment of him. So he hired a lawyer, the famous Gawker-destroying Charles Harder, to send a nastygram warning the New York Times it had better retract three opinion pieces that supposedly defamed Hannity by opining that he had downplayed the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. And if they didn't retract? Consequences would never be the same. The 12-page letter accused columnists Ginia Bellafante, Ben Smith, and Kara Swisher of all sorts of horrible libelslanders, saying the columns were part of an "ongoing campaign to personally attack Mr. Hannity by mischaracterizing and making false statements with respect to his coverage of the coronavirus pandemic."

For good measure, Harder also complained the paper had disregarded statements by "Democratic Party politicians and Democratic Party-friendly media outlets" which he said had also minimized the pandemic. WHAR BILL DE BLASIO? WHAR NANCY PELOSI DANCING ALL OVER CHINATOWN? WHAR ANDERSON COPPER? [sic] And in a real blaze of seriousness, Harder even wondered why the Times hadn't jumped all over Dr. Anthony Fauci when he supposedly "minimized" the threat in interviews in January and February, by saying the virus was not a widespread threat at that moment. (Fauci carefully pointed out that was subject to change if the virus spread.)

The Times, to its credit, replied it had no intention of retracting the columns or apologizing, in a letter that might not reach the rhetorical heights of Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's "Nuts!" note or the Cleveland Browns' "Some asshole is signing your name to stupid letters." But 'tis enough, 'twill serve.

And because the dumbth these days is seldom a solo act, the Daily Beast reported yesterday that Hannity had a good friend commiserating with him about how unfair the press is, and encouraging him to sue those rat bastards is what he oughta do, sue 'em! That would of course be the "president" of the United States, who is himself in a perpetual lather about how media rats are always making him look bad by quoting him verbatim.

According to two people familiar with the matter, Trump had privately gossiped with Hannity—a prominent informal adviser to this president and one of Trump's preferred late-night phone buddies—about the Fox host's desire to make an example of the Times. Though President Trump thought it was a good idea for Hannity to explore legal action against the news outlet, one of the two sources stressed that it "wasn't the president's idea" for Hannity and his attorney to shoot off a threatening letter to the Times. Trump did not order or direct Hannity to do so, this source said.

So don't you go saying Trump told Hannity to sue the Times; he just thought it was a good idea, like looking into whether lung-bleaching has medical benefits. One must be precise about these things. The story also notes that Trump has, like a common Trump, been musing plenty about suing various media outlets, and wouldn't it be great if everyone sued the Lügenpresse too?

A third person with knowledge of the situation said that for the past month the president had repeatedly complained to advisers that he and other Trumpworld figures should consider lawsuits for all the "lies" news outlets have supposedly told about them during the coronavirus crisis. This source said they were aware of an instance when Trump directly conveyed the sentiment to Hannity and at least one other conservative media personality.

Hannity, as you might expect, is astonished and shocked that the Daily Beast would make such groundless claims, so when he was asked for comment and clarification, Hannity wrote back denying completely different things:

Hannity, in a statement to The Daily Beast, insisted that he had not spoken to Trump specifically about Harder or Monday's letter. (The Daily Beast wasn't planning on reporting that, and the cable-news host did not respond to additional inquiries asking him to weigh in on our actual reporting.)

Hannity also added, unprompted, that he was never represented by Michael Cohen, even though The Daily Beast did not ask him any questions about Trump's former fixer on Tuesday.

"Fake news," Hannity said. "I never spoke with the president nor consulted with him about my attorney's letter to The New York Times or who I should hire. And as previously stated, Michael Cohen was never my attorney."

Truly a classic of the nondenial denial genre.

As for the actual accusations in Harder's very stern letter, they seem pretty stupid to me, though damn it, Jim, I'm a doktor (of rhetoric), not a lawyer. But Wonkette's Liz Dye sure is, and she wrote a fine piece making fun of it all at Above the Law, so go read it!

Hell, Hannity's own website was confused about what was up, as Liz points out. The Hannity site's headline originally proclaimed "HANNITY SAYS ENOUGH: Sean Sues the New York Times..." which wasn't the case; that's now been downgraded to "Sean Demands Retraction and Apology." But the story, after five days, still includes this misspelled and ungrammatical lede:

Something that has been long overdo, Sean Hannity has finally demanded a retraction and apology from the New York Times for their irresponsible and shameful misreporting…

The biggest gripe seems to be that an April 18 column by Ginia Bellafante implied that Hannity's dismissals of the virus's seriousness may have influenced a regular viewer who took a cruise and died from COVID-19. But wait, says Harder, the cruise embarked on March 1, while Hannity's Fox News segment calling coverage of the pandemic a "hoax" didn't air until eight days later, so that's LIBELS. At least as long as you ignore all the other times, listed by Washington Post media columnist Erik Wemple, where Hannity also downplayed the outbreak.

Opinion | Sean Hannity wants to rewrite history on Fox's coronavirus coverage. He can't.

Then again, Hannity called the guy "Erik Pimple," so we guess Hannity wins, the end.

[Daily Beast / Above the Law / NYT]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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