April 23, 2018

It's not often that we get to hear Sean Hannity called a welfare queen, but NYT columnist Bret Stephens did it this morning.

The topic? The Guardian's extensive story about Sean Hannity's real estate empire, linking him to a chain of shell companies that spent $90 million on more than 470 homes (ranging from mansions to low-income housing) in seven states over the last decade. The companies focused on buying up foreclosed or other under-valued homes.and was helped by HUD by way of the National Housing Act loan initiative.

"First, I want to apologize to Sean. I once called him Fox News's dumbest anchor. He's clearly the shrewdest real estate developer," Stephens said.

"I think it's funny Sean Hannity turns out to be a welfare queen for HUD, having taken advantage of guarantees that were put forward by none other than the Obama administration. Look, you know, Hannity, he's said over and over again, I'm not -- that he is not a journalist. He proves it every single day. The question for Fox News is whether they want to consider themselves a journalistic institution and continue to employ as an anchor a guy who clearly is better at real estate than he is, at reporting."

Stephanie Ruhle pointed out that when banks have conflicts or "are up to no good," bank regulators get involved. "Is the issue here there's no regulatory body to get involved? We're sitting here going, well, what's Fox News going to do? It's a judgment call about making money and advertisers. In banking, doesn't matter if a trader is making a zillion dollars for the bank, if it's bad ethical practice, they've got to go."

"I mean, if there's no punishment, we just do whatever we do," Stephens said.

"What we find here, to echo your point, is norm erosion, right? Basic norms are just being tossed out the window," Eddie Glaude said.

"And the currency of our political moment is hypocrisy. It is the most valuable currency of our political moment, right. So I can trade on -- I can say anything. I can do anything. I can be in conflict, right, as long as I'm pursuing my own self-interest and being narcissistic and whatever. As long as I'm doing that, I don't have to worry about the consequences. So norms are being cast aside from the top all the way down to the bottom and people who claim to be the moral arbiters, right, of our politics, turn out to be the biggest violators."

Greed is good, right? What was supposed to be a cautionary tale ("Wall Street") was embraced and emulated instead.

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