On Tuesday during Sean Hannity's radio program, the right-wing commentator and fervent Donald Trump supporter shared a fake news story, telling his impressionable audience that President Barack Obama deleted endorsements of Hillary Clinton from his Twitter account. The story was quickly shown to be false.
The question here isn't whether the story was true. The question is whether Hannity cared if the story was true.
On Tuesday Hannity told his audience that President Obama, the first lady and Sen. Elizabeth Warren were deleting tweets that were supportive of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. This, according to conservatives, was the smoking gun that would show that Democratic leaders were abandoning their candidate.
During his radio program, Hannity brought up a Gateway Pundit post (based on a hoax) about the erasure of Clinton-related material on the first lady's Twitter account and asked his producer if it was true. After his producer incorrectly indicated that it was, Hannity savored the implications, imagining that somehow this would implicate Obama in some sort of criminal conspiracy.
"Wow," Hannity said. "That means they know it's huge. You know why? Because Obama's implicated! He's implicated here, and he's pissed. You know what his legacy might be? Jail."
CNN's Brian Stelter pinpointed the fake story's origins to a website YourNewsWire.com that had suggested that the first lady had wanted to distance herself from Clinton supposedly because of a purported FBI investigation.
After the show, Hannity chalked up the inexcusable error to "live radio," issuing a corrective tweet after the fact that acknowledged the story was fake.
Correction. Live on radio I read a gateway pundit report that @MichelleObama had deleted mentions of HRC. And a listener said BHO and...
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) Nov. 1, 2016
Elizabeth Warren did same. Fact is they didn't. I humbly apologize. Live radio — Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) Nov. 1, 2016
Hannity and the right-wing media have flirted with fake news stories for years, circulating any and all negative coverage about the Obama administration. And as a Hillary Clinton administration becomes more and more likely, Hannity's reliance on fake news stories has become more and more desperate.
Last week Hannity promoted a satirical news story about Obama saying he'd leave the country if Trump were elected president. The story was patently false — a joke conceived by Canada's version of The Onion.
That didn't stop Hannity from treating the joke like a credible rumor. Hannity cited the fact that White House press secretary Josh Earnest — whom Hannity called a "propagandist" — did not deny the "rumor," as proof that the story had legs. But once again this was just a joke that became ripe fodder because disillusioned Trump supporters and right-wing news sites hoped it was true.
After Tuesday's show, Hannity received emails from the press asking him to comment on his mistake, which was an affront to journalistic standards that Hannity conveniently sidestepped because he says he does not consider himself a journalist.
In an email to Brian Stelter, Hannity blamed the error on his producer and a listener who called in to verify the report. "Bottom line it was brought up in an insignificant way, I was dealing with more important issues like HRC crimes and lies and how CNN has been colluding with the Clinton campaign and CHEATING Bernie Sanders," Hannity wrote.