Fox News host Sean Hannity is speaking out following a report that he purchased discounted and foreclosed properties as investment tools through shell companies, all the while receiving support from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The “Hannity” talk show host, in a statement Monday, defended his choice to not publicly disclose what he described as his “personal” investments.
His real estate portfolio was disclosed by The Guardian on Sunday, following an investigation into President Donald Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, whom Hannity had undisclosed ties to before his name surfaced in court last week. Hannity had said last week that he was not a client of Cohen’s but had sought his advice on real estate. Among the documents the FBI seized from Cohen were details on the real estate investments.
In his statement, Hannity said that he did not “individually select, control or know the details about” the real estate investments that he made but that they were going to communities that he said “badly need such investment.”
Properties linked to Hannity, which were disclosed by The Guardian, include more than 870 homes that were purchased in seven states over the last decade. Their value totals at least $90 million.
Hannity, whose salary from Fox News is estimated by Forbes to be $36 million annually, acknowledged in his statement that he received loans from HUD to invest in properties during President Barack Obama’s administration.
Those mortgage loans, which, according to the Guardian, were acquired through HUD’s National Housing Act, offered investors protection against loan defaults when purchasing rental properties. There were larger loan guarantees given to buyers who offered housing to low-income tenants. Two of the most expensive properties reportedly purchased by Hannity in Georgia used $17.9 million that he acquired through HUD’s program.
After Ben Carson took over as secretary of HUD under Trump, Hannity’s loan portfolio increased by $5 million, The Guardian reported.
Hannity argued that he never discussed his original loans obtained during Obama’s administration with anyone at HUD. But he also didn’t disclose them to his viewers, including while interviewing Carson on his program last year and praising Carson’s work. Hannity also did not disclose his connection to Cohen, despite defending him on his program.
Journalists, as part of a code of ethics, are expected to recuse themselves from reporting on a subject that involves a personal connection or, at the least, disclose those connections. Hannity has argued that he is not a journalist, despite the fact that he covers national news and interviews high-profile guests on “Hannity.” Last week he identified himself as “an opinion journalist or advocacy journalist” instead.
In a twist, while he was reportedly buying up discounted homes, Hannity criticized Obama and blamed him for Americans’ struggles to own their own homes amid the nation’s housing crisis. On his program in 2016, he said Obama has failed to turn talk into action when it came to helping “every American get ahead.”
“The rate of those who own a home has now dropped several percentage points. Now we also saw record numbers of foreclosures during his presidency. 2011 was the worst year on record for home sales,” he told his viewers on that program.