Sean Hannity on Thursday said he’d welcome a defamation lawsuit from Hillary Clinton after the former secretary of state blasted Fox News for its obsessive—and often incorrect—coverage of her.

Earlier in the day, Clinton claimed that the network’s presentation of the findings in the Durham report bordered on being unconstitutional.

“It’s funny [how] the more trouble [Donald] Trump gets into, the wilder the charges and conspiracy theories about me seem to get,” Clinton told a gathering of New York Democrats. “Fox leads the charge with accusations against me, counting on their audience to fall for it again. And as an aside, they’re getting awfully close to actual malice in their attacks.”

The Durham report alleges that former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann obtained White House data through a tech executive who had legal access to that data. Although Durham didn’t accuse anyone of “spying” or “hacking,” many on the right have blown the report way out of proportion, beginning with a misleading article on FoxNews.com. The headline, “Clinton campaign paid to ‘infiltrate’ Trump Tower, White House servers to link Trump to Russia, Durham finds,” attributes the claim to special counsel John Durham, when in fact it was Trump ally Kash Patel. Also, the White House data was obtained during Barack Obama’s administration, according to lawyers for a Georgia Institute of Technology data scientist involved with the data analysis.

In the days since, several Fox News hosts and guests have taken tremendous liberties with the story, at times making outright false claims. One common talking point that emerged was that the report is more consequential than Watergate. A graphic on Jesse Watters’ 7 p.m. ET show on Monday went so far as to proclaim that “HILLARY IS THE REAL INSURRECTIONIST.”

It was in this context that Clinton voiced her judgment about Fox News approaching legally actionable territory. A few hours later, Hannity was naturally chomping at the bit to use the former Democratic presidential candidate to lead off his show.

“It’s called discovery and it’s called depositions. Bring it on. Malice, really? It’s called news,” Hannity puffed. “It’s from a legal filing. We quoted exactly from the filing that was put in federal court.”

A representative for Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For public figures to prevail in defamation lawsuits, they must show that the statement in question was made with “actual malice,” meaning “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” This standard, established by the Supreme Court in 1964, was the subject of a recent unsuccessful lawsuit by Sarah Palin against The New York Times.

Notably, attorneys for Fox News successfully defended Hannity’s colleague Tucker Carlson in a slander lawsuit by essentially arguing that the primetime host should not be taken seriously.



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