Sean Hannity admitted to listeners on Monday that he was a client of controversial lawyer Michael Cohen, but his failure to reveal the relationship until this point appears to many to be a major breach of journalistic ethics.
Cohen was the subject of an FBI raid last week, and the lawyer subsequently claimed that many of the documents seized were subject to attorney-client privilege. A judge ordered Cohen to give a list of his clients, and on Monday Cohen revealed that one of them is Fox News host Sean Hannity. That has put Hannity in some hot water and led to allegations that he violated the journalistic code of ethics for his past reporting on Cohen.
For weeks, Michael Cohen has been a topic of conversation for Hannity. As Newsweek noted, Hannity has defended Cohen a number of times while also attacking special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Cohen’s most famous client, Donald Trump.
But by failing to reveal that he was actually Cohen’s client as well, Sean Hannity appears to have violated one of the core tenets of journalism. The Society of Professional Journalists has published a Code of Ethics for journalists widely seen as the industry’s standard and explicitly warns to “disclose unavoidable conflicts” of interest, something Hannity had not done before his admission on Monday that he was Cohen’s client.
There is now growing pressure on Fox News to respond to the claims that Sean Hannity, with many calling on the network to address the matter.
So @seanhannity is a client of Michael Cohen, yet Sean hasn’t stated this in all his “reporting” on the Trump/Cohen scandals. This seems like a major breech of ethics @FoxNews. Then again, your network doesn’t care about ethics, does it? https://t.co/CIguYzx068
— Special Council (@RKJ65) April 16, 2018
It seems a little unethical of Hannity to have been covering the Michael Cohen raids without disclosing that he’s a client.
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) April 16, 2018
I'd say something about the ethics of Fox allowing Sean Hannity to rant about the Cohen raid and Trump ethics stuff now that it's been revealed that he's a Cohen client, but it's Fox, which is a propaganda operation, not a legitimate journalism outlet.
— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) April 16, 2018
So, moving on…. Fox News has no comment so far about Sean Hannity’s violation of journalistic ethics in failing to disclose his business relationship with Michael Cohen…. https://t.co/PpfPJq79UW
— Derek Cressman (@DerekCressman) April 16, 2018
Hannity had recently been in the news for some controversy related to his show. The Fox News host got into an extended Twitter war with comedian Jimmy Kimmel after Kimmel mocked Melania Trump’s accent on his show. Hannity said that a president’s family members should be off limits and demanded that Kimmel apologize — which he ultimately did — but many pointed out that Hannity for years attacked Michelle Obama and even her children.
So far, Sean Hannity has not responded to claims that he violated journalistic ethics by failing to disclose his relationship with Michael Cohen. Fox News has not commented on the matter, either.