By Steven R. Maher
Fox News is the cable channel liberals love to hate. While portraying itself as “fair and balanced” in its reporting, flamboyant commentators like Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity organize Fox’s ideological base of Republicans and conservatives with their attacks on various villains, especially Hillary Clinton. So, it was with some glee that the left greeted with delight news that Fox founder Bill Ailes was forced to resign under a cloud of controversy due to allegations of sexual harassment.
Now it turns out that two Fox network stars, Bret Baier and Hannity, ended up retracting false statements about Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign.
“Continue to an indictment”
In a special report, Baier on November 2, 2016, broadcast the following, per a transcript on the “Real Clear Politics website:
“Here’s the deal,” said Baier. “We talked to two separate sources with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations. • “One: The Clinton Foundation investigation is far more expansive than anybody has reported so far. Several offices separately have been doing their own investigations.
• “Two: The immunity deal that Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, two top aides to Hillary Clinton, got from the Justice Department in which it was believed that the laptops they had, after a narrow review for classified materials, were going to be destroyed. We have been told that those have not been destroyed — they are at the FBI field office here on Washington and are being exploited.
• “Three: The Clinton Foundation investigation is so expansive, they have interviewed and re-interviewed many people. They described the evidence they have as ‘a lot of it’ and said there is an ‘avalanche coming in every day.’ WikiLeaks and the new emails. They are “actively and aggressively pursuing this case.” Remember the Foundation case is about accusations of pay-for-play… They are taking the new information and some of them are going back to interview people for the third time. As opposed to what has been written about the Clinton Foundation investigation, it is expansive.
• “The classified e-mail investigation is being run by the National Security division of the FBI. They are currently combing through Anthony Weiner’s laptop. They are having some success — finding what they believe to be new emails, not duplicates, that have been transported through Hillary Clinton’s server.
“Finally, we learned there is a confidence from these sources that her server had been hacked. And that it was a 99% accuracy that it had been hacked by at least five foreign intelligence agencies, and that things had been taken from that…
• “There has been some angst about Attorney General Loretta Lynch — what she has done or not done,” continued Baier. “She obviously did not impanel, or go to a grand jury at the beginning. They also have a problem, these sources do, with what President Obama said today and back in October of 2015. I pressed again and again on this very issue… The investigations will continue, there is a lot of evidence. And barring some obstruction in some way, they believe they will continue to likely an indictment.”
A meal of his own words
Baier soon found himself having to eat a huge meal consisting of his own words. On Friday November 4, 2016, Baier during a Fox news alert admitted many of the “facts” quoted above were completely and totally false.
“Baier said he relied on a single anonymous source within the FBI for his report about an alleged hack of the server,” the Washington Post reported on November 4, 2016. “’I was quoting from one source about his certainty that the server had been hacked by five foreign intelligence agencies. As of today, there still are no digital fingerprints of a breach, no matter what the working assumption is within the bureau.”
“I explained the phrasing of one my answers to Brit Hume on Wednesday night, saying it was inartful the way I answered the last question about whether the investigations would continue after the election,” the Post further quoted Baier. “And I answered that yes, our sources said it would, they would continue to, likely, an indictment.
“That just wasn’t inartful. It was a mistake and for that I’m sorry. I should have said they will continue to build their case. ‘Indictment,’ obviously, is a very loaded word, Jon, especially in this atmosphere, and no one knows if there would or would not be an indictment, no matter how strong investigators feel their evidence is. It’s obviously a prosecutor who has to agree to take the case and make that case to the grand jury.”
Baier’s false allegations quickly made their way to the Internet and conservative columnists. Pat Buchanan devoted a whole column to what Baier said, stating that the Justice Department should make known before the election if Baier’s story was true, so the American people wouldn’t elect Clinton.
Sean Hannity apologizes
One person who was slow to take down from his website Baier’s retracted falsehoods was Fox commentator Sean Hannity. A few days earlier Hannity apologized after he made false remarks on his radio show that President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren had deleted tweets favoring Hillary Clinton.
“Fact is they didn’t,” Hannity later tweeted. “I humbly apologize. Live radio.”