Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters
CNN reported this week that two Soviet-born con men arrested while attempting to flee the country earlier this month claimed they were on their way to Vienna to facilitate an interview between Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin. Hannity has been at the forefront of promoting the false claim that former Vice President Joe Biden acted corruptly by withholding U.S. aid to force the resignation of a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating his son.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested October 10 at Dulles National Airport on conspiracy- and campaign finance-related charges as the two were attempting to leave the country. Parnas and Fruman reportedly worked closely with Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, to dig up dirt in Ukraine against Biden.
It had been previously reported that the two were arrested on their way to Vienna, where they would later be joined by Giuliani, but questions remained as to the purpose of their trip. According to CNN, “they told others they were headed to Vienna to help with a planned interview the next day: Shokin, they said, was scheduled to do an interview from the Austrian capital with Sean Hannity.” A spokesperson for Hannity would neither confirm nor deny that he had intentions of interviewing Shokin prior to Parnas and Fruman being arrested, according to CNN.
This development shines a new light on Hannity’s role in aiding and abetting a disinformation campaign led by Giuliani that sought to advance a conspiracy theory about the 2016 election and to launch a smear campaign against Biden, a Democratic front-runner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election. Parnas and Fruman allegedly worked with Giuliani, as well as right-wing attorneys and frequent Fox guests Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova, to concoct the disinformation campaign and get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine fired. Giuliani reportedly planned an intricate media strategy, which included feeding the disinformation to conservative writer John Solomon who would then appear on Fox to discuss his “reporting.” Giuliani and Hannity discussed this strategy in January, and Solomon became a staple on Hannity’s prime-time programming.
From March 20 — when Solomon published his first story on the Ukraine conspiracy theory — through October 2, Solomon appeared on Fox News or Fox Business at least 72 times. Fifty-one of those appearances were on Hannity.
On October 5, Fox News announced that Solomon had joined the network as a contributor.