CNN is unfazed by threats from FNC’s Sean Hannity, who is considering suing the network and Brian Stelter for the latter host’s claim that the Fox star wants Hillary Clinton dead.
Sources inside CNN say Hannity’s threats haven’t ruffled any feathers.
Hannity and Stelter have been trading barbs since early August when Stelter began getting all preachy about the importance of journalists not allowing Donald Trump and his supporters to push conspiracy theories and assumptions that the election will be rigged. In a TV sermon, he went after Hannity and his colleague Bill O’Reilly.
But the situation really peaked Wednesday night when Stelter went on PBS’s “Charlie Rose” show and began taking about Hannity, radio host Rush Limbaugh and some other mystery individuals who he did not name.
“These are people who bring up rumors and innuendo about Clinton’s health, and have been doing it for years,” Stelter told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, who was subbing for Rose.
“I’m not saying Hannity or [radio host Rush] Limbaugh fit into these necessarily, but they — some of these figures want her to be sick,” he said. “They want her to be dying. They want her to be on her death bed.”
Hannity, who has called Stelter a “little pipsqueak,” fought back on his radio show Thursday. “What does — how do I get an apology from CNN?” he asked. “I would love to sue them for slander when they say, ‘oh he wants Hillary on her deathbed and dead,’ when I said just the opposite.”
He exposed even sharper elbows with this: “I know it’s hard to sue when you’re a public figure pretty much people can call you anything, and I’ve been called pretty much everything. But I’m thinking of suing them. But I’m thinking of suing them. Maybe I’ll get [prominent lawyer] David Boies, my buddy, to do it.””
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter appears to approve.
“I love that Trump’s alpha-male aggression is catching on!” she told The Mirror. “Trump sets the standard in everything.”
Earlier in the summer, Hannity began questioning Clinton’s health on his program, and spoke about Clinton “violently jerking her head” in a gaggle with reporters. Stelter came to her defense, complete with dramatic, exasperated sighs.
“Let me be clear,” Stelter said. “That was reckless speculation by Sean Hannity. All of it. This whole Clinton secretly getting sick thing has been pushed by conservative sites for years. …But her doctors say she is now physically fit to be president and there is no doubt about that. But Hannity is not interested in the truth about Clinton’s health.”
He also critiqued Hannity’s interviewing chops.
“Hannity should have asked more questions,” Stelter said. “Interviewers, even the ones that support the person they’re interviewing, have an obligation to probe further and push back when a candidate says something dangerous. And this is dangerous. Suggesting an election is going to be stolen, this is Third World dictatorship stuff.”
A Twitter feud ensued with Hannity mocking Stelter, telling him he had “unreliable liberal sources” and shooting back, “Calling us unpatriotic?”
The Hill‘s media writer Joe Concha has been critical of Stelter as of late, pointedly accusing him of partisan reporting about Clinton’s health — this latest hullaballoo being no exception.
Concha said CNN should seriously consider suspending Stelter.
“If you’re a media reporter and you’re going to make this kind of accusation, you better have transcripts and evidence to back it up,” he told The Mirror. “Everything I see says it doesn’t exist. If Brian respects the spirit of what the job of media reporter stands for, he should acknowledge the mistake and apologize on air. And management should take a hard look at a suspension for this.”
In his report about Hannity potentially suing CNN, Concha reported that Limbaugh was incensed by Stelter’s remarks. “Stelter doesn’t really know what to say, he doesn’t really know how to categorize what I think or Hannity,” said Limbaugh on his radio program.
Concha blames Stelter for the media’s bad rap during the 2016 election.
“Trust in media has plummeted in the past year,” he wrote by email. “Honest, objective media reporters are needed to watch the Fourth Estate more than ever. But the problem is, reporters like Brian may be more compromised and reckless than the media he’s supposed to cover.”
When contacted by The Mirror, Stelter refused to address Hannity’s potential lawsuit. But he did provide this bullshit response to my question about whether he’d address Hannity on his Sunday show.
“I’m still working on the lineup for Sunday. It always changes right up until airtime. Tune in!” he wrote by email.
Hannity declined to comment.
Most reporters know you can’t report what someone is thinking. You can’t actually know what’s going on in another person’s brain unless they tell you.
And neither Hannity nor Limbaugh have said they want Clinton to die.