Media Matters president Angelo Carusone is speaking out, blasting the New York Times for running what he called a “puff piece” in their magazine about Fox News anchor Sean Hannity.
“I cannot believe the New York Times let themselves be used like this,” Carusone told TheWrap on Tuesday. “It’s a totally ridiculous puff piece.”
Carusone insisted that the story was part of a broader crisis control effort by Fox News in the wake of an advertiser boycott led by his liberal media watchdog organization against Hannity earlier this month.
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“This is part of [Fox News’] crisis communications plan,” said Carusone. “They’re trying to normalize him.”
Representative’s for both Fox News and The New York Times were not immediately available for comment.
According to Carusone, the piece’s most grievous fault lay in its treatment of Hannity and the contention that he rarely specifically endorsed the conspiracies often floated on his show (you can read the New York Times feature here).
“To watch Hannity regularly is to observe how distant the host is from a figure like the Infowars proprietor Alex Jones,” wrote New York Times reporter Matthew Shaer. “Jones endorses theories; Hannity almost never does, leaving that job to his guests. It is a dance that has the effect of nourishing the more wild-eyed beliefs of his fans while providing Hannity a degree of plausible deniability.”
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That distinction, Carusone said, is moot, as the host has regularly provided a platform for conspiracies cited by the same article, like the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich and questions about President Obama’s country of origin.
Indeed, while the Times’ Shaer has said Hannity is no Alex Jones, the InfoWars chief has said otherwise in the past. During an Aug. 21 broadcast of his radio show, Jones declared Hannity “The new Alex Jones,” Media Matters reported last month.
NYT profile: Sean Hannity is nothing like Alex Jones!
Alex Jones: Sean Hannity is just like me! pic.twitter.com/Wcslh3um7h
— John Whitehouse+ (@existentialfish) November 28, 2017
Hannity for his part rejects the “conspiracy theorist” label, telling the Times that it was a “typical left-wing attack,” and that he has only “pursued the truth” in his career.
Since declaring “war” on Fox News back in 2010, Media Matters for America has become most famous for the use of targeted advertiser boycotts against network firebrands. The group most recently targeted Sean Hannity over comments he made earlier this month casting doubt on women who come forward to report sexual misconduct. The effort led at least eleven advertisers to jump shit from the program.
Fox has consistently slammed the effort.
“This intimidation effort is nothing more than political opportunism based on deceit,” the network said in a statement. “Hannity hosts the number one program in cable news because millions of Americans make the decision to join him every night and the audience relationship is stronger than ever.”