Fox News host Sean Hannity opened his program on the night of October 17 by promising “explosive new evidence on what is becoming the biggest scandal -- or at least one of them -- in American history.” Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between President Donald Trump’s associates and Russia has captured the attention of the mainstream press. But Hannity, a fervent fan and sometime adviser to the president, focused his audience on what he termed a “big bombshell” from The Hill on the “real Russia collusion story.” Hillary Clinton, Hannity claimed, had “sold out America to the Russians” by approving the Russian nuclear energy agency’s 2010 acquisition of Uranium One, a company with licenses to extract U.S. uranium. According to the Fox host, Clinton had benefited from Russian government bribes and then the Obama administration had covered it all up. The story was so damning, Hannity said, that Mueller and Congress should shut down their Trump probes immediately and instead focus on the allegations against Clinton.
Hannity’s segment was the first in what became a network obsession. Over the past three weeks, Fox has spent nearly 12 hours discussing Uranium One. Trump himself seized on the story, at first directly responding to the network’s coverage. And Hannity’s demand that Congress “do its job” was answered within days when House Republicans launched an investigation into the deal.
The problem, of course, is that the Uranium One story is a bogus conspiracy theory, a sloppy mishmash of shoddy reporting, fabrications, and motivated reasoning whose central premise -- that Clinton played a role in the deal -- has been debunked. The president and his allies in Congress and in the conservative press -- particularly at Fox News -- have created a phony scandal to divert attention away from Trump’s Russia ties, focus criticism instead on their longtime foe Clinton, and justify calls to remove Mueller from his post