With decades of experience in broadcast news, Ted Koppel is no stranger to televised confrontation. But on Sunday, Fox News' Sean Hannity found himself on the other end of the former ABC Nightline anchor's zingers.
In an interview that aired on CBS Sunday Morning, Koppel spoke with the right-wing pundit about the information divide between conservative and liberal America. The two discussed the contrast between Fox News' right-leaning opinion programming and its news shows. At one point, Hannity asked Koppel: "Do you think we're bad for America? You think I'm bad for America?"
"Yeah," Koppel, 77, replied without missing a beat. After Hannity cut off Koppel's response — telling the veteran journalist, "That's sad, Ted" — Koppel expounded on his rationale.
"You have attracted people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts," Koppel said.
After the exchange blew up on social media, Hannity spoke his piece on Twitter. The outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump said the exchange was "fake edited news" because he didn't realize the exchange would actually air.
According to Hannity, he told Koppel, "You need to keep this in."
The exchange comes at a notable time for Fox News and Republicans. At the beginning of 2017, Fox News hosts Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren left the conservative network for new gigs with NBC. To replace Kelly, Fox News elevated Tucker Carlson, a longtime conservative commentator, to the 9 p.m. time slot.
Fox News recently came under fire for repeatedly giving a platform to former judge Andrew Napolitano, a conservative opinion writer who claimed to have sources saying British intelligence surveilled Trump, adding fuel to Trump's claims of wiretapping by former President Barack Obama's administration. White House press secretary Sean Spicer cited that claim in a briefing, and the president later referred to it during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Napolitano's baseless claim — and the influence it proved to have over the White House — compelled Fox News to admit it could not corroborate the judge's allegation. Napolitano was pulled from the airwaves following the controversy, and the White House apologized to the British intelligence agency.
"We have to give some credit to the American people that they are somewhat intelligent and that they know the difference between an opinion show and a news show," Hannity told Koppel during the sit-down. "You're cynical."
But whether it's the American people, or those occupying the Oval Office, it would seem cynicism has a place in today's political landscape.