In context: Sean Hannity’s conflicting remarks on jailing political opponents
Fresh off word from a Politico report that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told party leaders she’d like to see President Donald Trump in prison, Fox News host Sean Hannity gave a fiery monologue that’s had many people calling him a hypocrite.
"Speaker Pelosi now apparently telling senior Democrats she’d like to see Trump behind bars," Hannity said during the June 6, 2019, episode of "Hannity," his TV program. "Based on no actual crimes, she wants a political opponent locked up in prison? That happens in banana republics."
Hannity said such calls are "beyond despicable" and that jailing Trump would turn the United States into a country people would no longer recognize.
But his comments had social media users saying he himself had become unrecognizable.
That’s because Hannity has often said former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should go to prison for using a private email server during her stint as secretary of state.
Through a spokesperson, Hannity described a difference between his comments on Clinton and Pelosi’s more recent remarks about Trump.
"Donald Trump committed no crime," he said in a statement to PolitiFact. "The evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible that Hillary Clinton committed multiple felonies by putting ‘classified’ and ‘Top Secret’ information on a private server."
"Crowds that chanted ‘Lock her up’ were clearly referring to that," he said. "Nancy Pelosi cannot identify a ‘crime’ committed by President Trump. She just wants a political opponent put in jail."
But Hannity is wrong that Pelosi’s comments were completely baseless. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report specifically said, "While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
Meanwhile, former FBI director James Comey testified under oath that Clinton’s handling of her emails was "extremely reckless" but not criminal, as PolitiFact has noted before.
Besides that, we decided to check out how many times Hannity has aired clips of Trump calling for Clinton to be locked up and welcomed guests on his show who said the same. (Spoiler: He’s done so a lot.)
We found that he’s also made similar statements of his own on Twitter, the radio and TV.
A 2016 episode of Hannity’s radio show was titled, "Clinton should be in jail," for example, and in a now-deleted tweet from 2017, Hannity asked, "When will Hillary Clinton be indicted?" During a 2018 appearance on Fox News, he said, "I think Hillary should be in jail. Lock her up."
Then there’s his Fox News show, where Clinton-related scandals are a favorite topic of discussion.
In a review of "Hannity" using the Internet Archive, PolitiFact identified at least three dozen times dating back to 2015 where Hannity suggested Clinton should be behind bars. Here are just a few examples of Hannity’s comments, with links to additional context:
- Aug. 13, 2015: "Based on what you know, do you think Hillary Clinton should go to jail over the server scandal? … Let us know what you think."
- Sept. 8, 2015: "Can Hillary go to jail? We’ll examine that next."
- July 13, 2016: "Hillary should be happy she’s not in jail or not being prosecuted, in my opinion."
- Oct. 10, 2016: "I’m watching these other channels: ‘Never before in the history of this country has anyone said that the opponent should be in jail.’ I’m like, ‘Never before in the history of the country did anyone break the law like she did.’"
- Nov. 1, 2016: "Hillary Clinton — follow my words, the media won’t say it — she should be in jail, not on the campaign trail. It’s about time somebody said it."
- Nov. 3, 2016: "Hillary Clinton is campaigning to be the next president. She should be the one in jail."
- May 9, 2017: "If you or I, anybody in this audience, did anything close to what Hillary Clinton did, you would be put in jail."
- May 12, 2017: "That was the president during the second presidential debate saying what a lot of Americans, including myself, think: Hillary Clinton needs to be prosecuted or at least investigated."
- June 14, 2017: "Why isn’t Hillary in jail, Jay?"
- Aug. 3, 2017: "If they’re going to investigate these things, they’ve got to investigate Hillary … When are they going to be put in jail?"
- Oct. 26, 2017: "Beyond serious stuff. This is go-to-jail type of things."
- Oct. 30, 2017: "If you or I, if anybody in this room with me now or watching TV with you, if we ever did anything close to what the Clintons, the DNC and others did, we would be rotting in a jail cell tonight … why hasn’t she been charged?"
- Nov. 6, 2017: "Comey, the Obama Justice Department, were protecting Hillary Clinton for laws she broke that we’d be put in jail for."
- Jan. 2, 2018: "There are very, very nervous — rightly so — people like Hillary Clinton. They should be nervous. People will be going to jail, I promise you."
- March 9, 2018: "(An FBI informant) has damaging information on the Clintons that potentially could send them to jail."
- May 3, 2018: "Equal justice would mean Hillary goes to jail."
- June 14, 2018: "We know people that committed the very same misdeeds as Clinton; well, they were investigated and many put in jail."
- July 6, 2018: "There have been other people that have gone to jail for far less than what Hillary Clinton did."
- March 7, 2019: "By the way, when is Hillary going to be charged?"
- April 23, 2019: "Rush (Limbaugh) was great earlier tonight, wasn’t he, when he said, ‘Oh, Hillary needs to be in jail and indicted. If you did what she did, you would be in jail.’"