Fox News has a Jan. 6 problem: Sean Hannity's text messages make clear his complicity

Why has Hannity never reported any of this?

By Heather Digby Parton


Published January 5, 2022 9:00AM (EST)

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 20: Fox News Channel and radio talk show host Sean Hannity (L) interviews U.S. President Donald Trump before a campaign rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center on September 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 20: Fox News Channel and radio talk show host Sean Hannity (L) interviews U.S. President Donald Trump before a campaign rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center on September 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the Capitol insurrection and attempted coup of the U.S. government by former president Donald Trump. There was a time not long ago when everything about that sentence would have made us laugh at the sheer absurdity of it. Nobody's laughing now.

Trump was apparently persuaded by his advisers to cancel his scheduled press conference for Jan. 6 after seeing that he would not get live coverage on all the networks to spread the Big Lie and excuse the violent mob that stormed the capitol a year ago vowing to hang Vice President Mike Pence. He promised to deliver that message to his loyal followers at a rally next weekend instead, drawing a huge sigh of relief from most Republican officials in Washington who just want to keep a low profile and put the unpleasantness behind them.

Unfortunately for them, however, it's not going away.

Trump will be talking about this for the rest of his life and the January 6th committee is revving up for several months of public hearings. Even some MAGA Republicans on Capitol Hill are determined to try to muddy the waters by dusting off their Benghazi playbook and holding their own "investigation" into why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was derelict in her duties by allowing hundreds of rabid Trump-voting fanatics to breach the Capitol that day.

RELATED: Networks, do not air Trump's Big Lie event

On Tuesday, committee chairs, Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Liz Cheney R-Wy., released a letter they sent to Fox News host Sean Hannity in which they revealed that they had many text messages from him to high-level members of the White House staff in the run-up to January 6th. They ostensibly want Hannity to cooperate with the committee, but I doubt that there is any expectation that he will. This seemed more likely to be a notice to anyone who ever texted people in the White House during this period that the committee probably has them and intends to make them public. And it will almost certainly cause more dissension in Trumpworld. Meadows is already on thin ice. Now Hannity's backchannel "concerns", as Thompson and Cheney put it, about what Trump and his cronies were up to before and after January 6th leave him at odds with the president, who very likely had no idea that Hannity was pressing his staff to stop him from doing what he did.

Hannity's lawyer issued a statement saying they were examining the letter and had First Amendment concerns. However, his texts indicate that he was acting as an adviser to the president and comparing what he said privately to what he was saying on the air at the time, it's quite clear that he wasn't acting as any kind of journalist. It will be interesting to see if his bosses at Fox News have a problem with one of their stars brazenly lying to their audience. (Yeah, never mind. They won't.)

The committee homed in on just the period between December 31 and January 20th when Trump finally left office. They mention a text to Meadows in which Hannity said:

"We can't lose the entire WH counsels office. I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told. After the 6 th. He should announce will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity. Go to Fl and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen."

It's impossible to know for sure what he meant by "January 6th happening the way he is being told" but according to a number of accounts this was when Trump's henchmen were hatching their plot to have Republicans in Congress object to the electoral count and have Pence throw the election to the House of Representatives where Trump would win despite losing through legitimate means. In other words, the coup was being planned. And apparently, the White House counsel's office knew it was illegal and was threatening to quit en masse over it, or at least that's the suspicion based upon what Hannity was texting.

Hannity was obviously very much in the loop inside the upper echelons of the White House and knew all about the discussions to put the heat on Pence. On January 5th he wrote to Meadows "Pence pressure, WH counsel will leave." On the night before the insurrection he wrote, "I'm very worried about the next 48 hours" which prompted the committee to ask, "why?" — which is a very good question. Surely he couldn't have foreseen the violent insurrection. But was Hannity worried that the entire administration would resign? Massive protests? It would be very interesting to know, although I doubt we ever will.

The letter suggests there are other texts which indicate that Hannity spoke with Trump personally that night as well as others. I have a sneaking suspicion that he didn't express his "concerns" quite as openly with Trump. Nobody does that. No, this was Hannity wringing his hands with the chief of staff and others in the White House while he put on a happy face with Trump and his MAGA-crazed audience.

After Trump's egregious performance on that day, which will live in infamy, and in the days after, Hannity once more proved that he was anything but a member of the press when he texted Meadows and Trump sycophant Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, worried about what Trump might do before the inauguration:

"Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. He can't mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I'm not sure what is left to do or say, and I don't like not knowing if it's truly understood. Ideas?"

Trump responded to that on Thursday night, telling Kaitlin Collins of CNN, "I disagree with Sean on that statement and the facts are proving me right." Actually, they are not.

As I said, I don't think Hannity will cooperate and there's no doubt that there will be much shrieking and caterwauling about the freedom of the press and Hannity's sources being revealed. But Meadows is the one who turned over the texts and Hannity never reported any of this. In fact, this was what he was sharing with his audience which he was clutching his pearls behind the scenes:

Every day we hear new evidence about the attempted coup and insurrection of January 6th and there's every reason to believe that the next few months will offer even more. It is simply astonishing that this happened in America in 2021. But even more astonishing than that is the fact that after all that (and everything that came before) Donald Trump is still the most popular and influential Republican in the country and is overwhelmingly favored to win the nomination for president in 2024. The man plotted a coup and incited a violent insurrection and he didn't lose any voters. No wonder he just keeps spewing the Big Lie. It works. And I have no doubt that Sean Hannity will be at his side helping him do it.

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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