- A report from The Guardian found public records that linked Fox News host Sean Hannity to shell companies that spent $US90 million on more than 870 homes.
- The US Department of Housing and Urban Development apparently granted Hannity loans to buy at least two of the buildings.
- Hannity reportedly bought dozens of foreclosed properties at a discount while criticising the US foreclosure rate under former President Barack Obama.
- Hannity responded to the story Monday, calling the report “ironic.”
Fox News host Sean Hannity responded Monday to a Guardian report on his real-estate investments, which the publication researched after the cable-news star was named as President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen’s mysterious third client from the past year.
“It is ironic that I am being attacked for investing my personal money in communities that badly need such investment and in which, I am sure, those attacking me have not invested their money,” Hannity said in a statement provided to Business Insider. “The fact is, these are investments that I do not individually select, control, or know the details about; except that obviously I believe in putting my money to work in communities that otherwise struggle to receive such support.”
Hannity maintained what The Guardian described as a “property empire” the host has spent more than $US90 million on through a series of shell companies.
Thousands of pages of public records reviewed by The Guardian helped show Hannity’s real-estate-investment strategy. The cable-news titan is linked through the records to a number of shell, limited liability companies that spent at least $US90 million on more than 870 properties spread over seven states during the past decade.
The Guardian’s Sunday report came days after Hannity was named as Cohen’s third client whom the lawyer provided legal services to within the past year. Hannity insisted that the legal advice he received from Cohen was connected to real estate and did not involve any dispute with a third party.
Cohen is being investigated on suspicion of bank fraud, wire fraud, and election-law violations. Investigators with the FBI and Southern District of New York seized documents and records in raids of Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room on April 9.
Hannity also reportedly purchased discounted properties that had been involved in bank foreclosures, which on television and Twitter he blamed former President Barack Obama’s policies for making increasingly common.
The Fox News host was able to build some of the portfolio with assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD reportedly granted Hannity loans to help fund mortgages worth $US17.9 million to help purchase two Georgia apartment buildings. The department, under HUD Secretary Ben Carson, recently increased the value of those loans by $US5 million, The Guardian reported.
Hannity did not disclose that fact while interviewing and praising HUD Secretary Ben Carson on his prime-time program last year.
“I have never discussed with anybody at HUD the original loans that were obtained in the Obama years, nor the subsequent refinance of such loans, as they are a private matter,” Hannity said. “I had no role in, or responsibility for, any HUD involvement in any of these investments. I can say that every rigorous process and strict standard of improvement requirements were followed; all were met, fulfilled and inspected. The LLC’s are REAL companies that spend real investment money on real properties.”
While Hannity was listed as the hidden owner behind some of the shell companies, his attorney, Christopher Reeves, did not dispute to The Guardian that Hannity owned all of them.
Reeves told the publication in an email that he struggled “to find any relevance” regarding the holdings.
“I doubt you would find it very surprising that most people prefer to keep their legal and personal financial issues private,” he said. “Mr Hannity is no different.”
The 20 shell companies tied to Hannity were formed in Georgia and have been used to purchase properties in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Vermont.
‘I really think that you should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen’
Hannity’s real-estate investments became a subject of scrutiny after the Cohen revelation in Manhattan federal court last week. At the request of US District Judge Kimba Wood last Monday, Cohen’s attorneys disclosed in court that Hannity was the third client of Cohen’s from the past year.
The attorneys previously said in a filing that Cohen had represented three clients in the past year, including Trump and Elliott Broidy, a Republican fundraiser. They argued that the third client should remain anonymous and said the client did not allow them to disclose that they had used Cohen’s services.
Cohen arranged a $US130,000 payment to the adult-film star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election to ensure her silence about an alleged affair she says she had with Trump in 2006. Cohen also facilitated a $US1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model who said Broidy got her pregnant, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.
Hannity was widely criticised for not disclosing the relationship with Cohen on his program, where he blasted the investigation.
On Hannity’s Fox News show last Monday, Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, told Hannity he should have come clean about getting advice from Cohen.
“I really think that you should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen when you talked about him on this show,” Dershowitz said. “You could have said just that you asked him for advice or whatever, but I think it would have been much, much better had you disclosed that.”
Hannity replied that his relationship with Cohen was “minimal.”
Fox News on Tuesday said it was “surprised” to find out about Hannity’s relationship with Cohen, but added that it conducted a review and stood by its prime-time star.
“While Fox News was unaware of Sean Hannity’s informal relationship with Michael Cohen and was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday, we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support,”the network said in a statement.
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