The media’s continuous and seemingly desperate quest for ratings just sunk to a new low.
CNN reporter Dylan Byers claimed sources told him that Fox News pundit Sean Hannity “pulled a gun” on fellow Fox co-host Juan Williams, which both of them have denied.
In Byers’ article, an embedded video includes commentary from CNN host and media critic Brian Selter, who claims that Hannity isn’t a real journalist.
“Last year, after ending one of his many spirited on-air arguments with liberal contributor Juan Williams, Hannity pulled out a gun and pointed it directly at Williams, according to three sources with knowledge of the incident,” the CNN report claims. “He even turned on the laser sight, causing a red dot to bob around on Williams’ body. (Hannity was just showing off, the sources said, but the unforeseen off-camera antic clearly disturbed Williams and others on set.)”
Williams, in a tweet, denied the claims.
He wrote: “This incident is being sensationalized—everything was under total control throughout and I never felt like I was put in harm’s way. It was clear that Sean put my safety and security above all else and we continue to be great friends.”
(1/2) This incident is being sensationalized – everything was under total control throughout and I never felt like I was put in harm’s way.
— Juan Williams (@TheJuanWilliams) March 17, 2017
Fake news hack. Of course u do. Lol. It’s not true. Unless u r calling me and Juan liars. Shocking from “White Lash” network. https://t.co/1ueCKtPirX
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) March 17, 2017
I stand by my reporting, Sean. https://t.co/7qX3tnAi2N
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) March 17, 2017
Doubling down, Byers tweeted he will “stand by” his reporting. “Every word. 110%,” he wrote.
Then, it was Hannity’s turn to respond. “Fake news hack. Of course u do. Lol. It’s not true. Unless u r calling me and Juan liars. Shocking from ‘White Lash’ network,” he tweeted at Byers. “I stand by my reporting, Sean,” Byers responded.
Judging by Hannity’s and Williams’ tweets—as well as a statement released by Fox to CNN—there was an incident involving a gun.
“Never pointed at anybody. Let’s be clear. Unloaded. Never pointed. I have been a gun safety advocate for years,” tweeted Hannity.
Never pointed at anybody. Let’s be clear. Unloaded. Never pointed. I have been a gun safety advocate for years. https://t.co/11ArBIyjLs
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) March 17, 2017
In the CNN article, which reads more like an opinion or hit-piece, Byers wrote about Hannity’s character, and using the word “jackass,” a term Hannity frequently uses during his show, about eight times. Byers then conflated Hannity’s love of martial arts (which usually teach discipline rather than mindless aggression) with his temperament.
“If it feels like Hannity is spoiling for a fight, perhaps that’s because he is. Off camera, he has become an avid student of Mixed Martial Arts. He has a brown belt in Karate. He even has a personal sensei (martial arts teacher) who travels with him. Last year, Hannity and his sensei paid a visit to UFC champion Chuck Liddell to learn some new techniques. The visit was featured as a segment on Hannity’s show, which provides some insight into his passion for the hobby,” Byers wrote.
The actual facts of the altercation probably won’t ever be fully disclosed, but it appears CNN is gunning for ratings. Fox News, Hannity, and Williams issued several statements that flatly denied Byers’ reporting. CNN can get away with it because it cited several unnamed sources for the report—to the further detriment of its reputation.
Meanwhile, the report may have been written merely to buoy’s Selter’s claims Hannity isn’t a real journalist.
And it’s no secret that Fox News’s ratings have soared. The channel was the most-watched cable network among total viewers for a 10th consecutive week, TheWrap reported on March 16.
CNN, “the most trusted name in news,” as its slogan goes, finished No. 11 in primetime and finished No. 8 in total day viewers.
Hannity, an ardent Trump supporter, has a huge following and generates big ratings on a popular channel. A bombshell lobbed at him will be sure to draw ratings—but as author Emily Dickinson put it, “fame is a fickle food upon a shifting plate.” As CNN fights off “fake news” accusations from Trump and his followers, the sensationalism card may not be the best play.
CNN should take a lesson from this week’s debacle involving MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow, who reported on the non-story of President Trump’s 2005 tax returns, which showed he paid a 25 percent tax rate, or $38 million dollars. Maddow’s overplayed lead-up and reporting was resoundingly condemned as clickbait.
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