Fox News host Sean Hannity has repeatedly tried to downplay what the arrest of FBI informant Alexander Smirnov means for the Republican Party’s impeachment case against President Joe Biden. But Hannity’s current minimization effort belies the central role he assigned Smirnov’s story as he sought to build an impeachment case around the president’s son in 2023.
After the government alleged Smirnov had lied to the bureau in claiming that Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden had each received a $5 million foreign bribe, recorded in a 2020 FBI FD-1023 form, Hannity first responded on his Fox show by calling the informant’s story “a very, very small part of what is the large body of evidence in the Biden impeachment inquiry.” In subsequent broadcasts, he criticized the notion that “this one piece of the puzzle negate[s]” the rest of the GOP’s narrative, and described Smirnov’s tale as “only one tiny piece of the case against what I call the Biden family and the Biden family syndicate.”
But Hannity kept Smirnov’s claims front-and-center from May 3, 2023 — when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. James Comer (R-KY) launched the story by publicly demanding the FBI produce an FD-1023 “alleging a criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Joe Biden and a foreign national” by an unnamed “whistleblower,” since revealed as Smirnov — through the end of the year, Media Matters data show. During that period, 33 percent of all Hannity segments about Hunter Biden and 50 percent of Hannity’s monologues about the president’s son mentioned Smirnov’s bribe allegation.
On his Fox show the night Grassley and Comer issued their press release, Hannity declared that this “brand-new, legally protected, highly credible whistleblower disclosure might end up being the biggest story of the year.” He touted the “bombshell disclosure” as describing “the very definition of a high crime, also a serious felony, that if proven true could result in impeachment [and] possible imprisonment of Joe Biden, your president.” He went on to describe the form as “smoking-gun evidence.”
Hannity was similarly enthralled when Grassley released a version of the FD-1023 on July 20, 2023.
“There are now real and growing concerns that your president, the president of our country, is compromised,” Hannity said on his Fox show that night, arguing that through the form, Joe Biden had been “very credibly accused of public corruption on a scale this country has never seen before.” Hannity's crony, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett, went on to accuse Joe Biden of a variety of crimes, including “bribery and treason,” which he stressed “are impeachable offenses in addition to being felonies. So, you know, this is a blockbuster scandal that could doom Biden's presidency.”
The following week, Hannity aired a one-hour special detailing the case against Joe Biden. Here’s how it began:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): And welcome to the special edition of Hannity this Friday night, “Biden’s bribery allegations.”
Now, tonight, the president of the United States, Joe Biden, has been accused by a credible FBI source of taking foreign cash in exchange for policy decisions. In other words, you call that bribery.
Hannity was so obsessed with Smirnov’s claims because they appeared to support the conspiracy theory he’s been pursuing for the last five years — that Joe Biden, as vice president, forced the Ukrainian government to fire the country’s top prosecutor for personal pecuniary reasons, in this case because of a supposed bribe extended by one of his son’s employers.
The Fox host helped make that bogus narrative — debunked during then-President Donald Trump’s own impeachment — into the heart of the House GOP’s impeachment case. As that case now collapses, they all look like credulous morons at best, and willing partners in a Russian intelligence operation at worst.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.