SOURCE: August Pollak
Part pundit, part schoolyard bully, Sean Hannity stands as the heir apparent to Rush Limbaugh’s extreme right wing media throne.
After dropping out of New York University, Hannity got his big break after buying an ad in the trade journal Radio & Records humbly advertising himself as "the most talked about college radio host in America." He eventually rose to the top of the radio ratings charts. But Hannity is now more well-known as one half of the Fox News program Hannity & Colmes. If you’re not entirely familiar with the show, Hannity is the one doing the talking. Colmes, there allegedly to provide some liberal balance to Hannity’s right wing ranting, generally fades into the set.
Sean Hannity is a vigorous debater who relies on tactics like offering out of context quotations, stifling alternate viewpoints, attacking the messenger of opposing views, dismissing facts, and presenting straight-up factual errors as truth. Perhaps that is why he was such a fan of another paragon of journalistic excellence, Jeff Gannon, a.k.a. James Guckert, the phony reporter and Internet porn impresario. Prior to Gannon’s outing as a partisan non-journalist Bush cheerleader, Hannity, on his radio show, exclaimed that Gannon was "a terrific Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent for Talon News."
Hannity’s success lies in his uncanny ability to discover that "the left" is to blame for practically everything wrong in the world. In fact, his two books are rather explicit about this: Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism, which equates liberals with opposition to freedom, and Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty Against Liberalism, which… has a slightly different cover.
For example, as the Abu Ghraib prison story broke, instead of taking the accusations of shameful mistreatment seriously, he questioned the veracity of the evidence, asking "Was that a DNC plot too?"
According to Hannity, the Left is also out to destroy religion. In addition to his repeated claims that liberals want to remove Jesus from Christmas, Hannity, a proclaimed devout Irish Catholic, has blamed liberals for actions taken by some shopping malls to refer to the Easter Bunny as "Peter Rabbit" or the "Garden Bunny." We share Sean’s concern — – when you take a grown man in a bunny suit away from Easter, what other religious significance can the holiday possibly have?
One of the Hannity’s most persistent themes is his depiction of the left as "elites." However, the common-man character Hannity plays on TV is far from the refined tastes of the real life Sean Hannity, whose simple necessities include charging college students $20,000 for private jets to allow them the honor of his presence on campus.
Yet Hannity’s pitch-perfect impression of a good, American working stiff is likely the root of his success. It allows him to chastise everyone who disagrees with him as hateful of America or freedom- and his fans eat it up, as shown in the film This Divided State, where Hannity approvingly watches his audience berate a student who challenges his views during a campus speaking event. (And yes, Hannity was flown to this event in a private jet paid for by the school.) Through this act, Hannity gets away with multitudes of distortions on subjects ranging from weapons of mass destruction to the recession to White House vandalism to James Madison. When challenged on any of his factually inaccurate and inflammatory statements, he just wraps them up with an ideological bow of "loving freedom," and then questions his opponent’s patriotism.
Lately, for Hannity being a "Great American" (an oft-repeated term on Hannity’s show, essentially his equivalent of Limbaugh’s "megadittoes") has apparently meant blindly following the Bush Administration’s path to war in Iraq. On his show, Hannity routinely slams anyone critical of the war, particularly protestors. After Tom Daschle raised questions about the effectiveness of our nation’s war on terror, he came under intense conservative media fire – all attempting to stifle any true discussion with accusations that he was helping our enemies. Hannity fanned the flames on his show, saying that by raising questions about the War on Terror, Daschle "is communicating to our enemies that our nation is divided, that we lack resolve and that we have forgotten September 11th."
In stark contrast, in 1999, Hannity bemoaned the effort by the United States and its allies to halt Serbian aggression in Kosovo. The difference – duh! – a Democrat (Bill Clinton) was in the White House. Hannity suggested that the potential loss of American lives wasn’t worth it and that war shouldn’t be waged without an exit strategy. As he put it, "Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life." Of course, the Kosovo war found U.S. allies united for the common purpose of stopping the ongoing slaughter of an ethnic minority, and it brought no U.S. combat casualties. The challenge in winning the peace was also much less daunting — for starters because the territory was far smaller. But for Hannity, the Kosovo war could be criticized, while criticizing the Iraq war weakens America. It seems dissent and "disloyalty" are only okay when it isn’t one of his guys in the White House. Talk about a double standard!
When not challenging the patriotism of his liberal guests, Hannity frequently relies on reminding his audience that he is a devout Christian as a way to steamroll opponents and deflect criticism. But on a recent episode of his television program, Hannity proved that in his moral universe, ill-advised but consensual sex between two (Democratic) adults is less moral than torturing another human being till near death. When Bob Beckel went on his show to talk about Attorney General candidate Alberto Gonzales’ torture connections, Hannity lamented the treatment Gonzales was receiving in the media. When Beckel contended that Bill Clinton endured far worse attacks for far longer, Hannity cut him off, shouting angrily, "But he had sex with an intern!"
Sean Hannity describes himself as "the hottest commodity in talk radio." We think he is that kid who gave smaller kids wedgies and hung them over their locker for fun – now fully grown, but no more mature and no less nasty. Hannity is one of the most arrogant and overpaid bullies on America’s media stage. Don’t be cowed – come to his next speaking event prepared to call him on his misstatements and absurd tactics.
Hannity has been keeping busy. Fox News has given him a new show, “Hannity’s America.” (The show premiered on December 7) Apparently unconcerned by the widespread perception that it has a conservative bias, Fox decided against bringing Hannity’s weeknight liberal co-host, Alan Colmes, to the new hour-long “news” show. (Although the mild Colmes is scarcely present even when he’s technically on-air.)
Hannity also recently made news when his dating web site for conservatives, Hannidate, experienced a substantial up-tick in traffic after it began to allow same-sex match-ups.
But returning to his new show, what does Hannity’s America offer viewers?
Besides a slanted attempt at straight talk on the “Hannity Hot Seat,” “Hannity’s America” opened with offering a weekly “Enemy of the State Award.” (Actor Sean Penn took home the first acrimonious accolade for his outspoken opposition to the Iraq War.)
But fear not, Hannity’s gimmicks are all in the pursuit of truth finding. Here’s his explanation for giving Penn the award.
Besides calling little old me [Hannity] a “whore” at a recent speech, Penn has called for the impeachment of just about everybody in the Bush administration and [has] called them “bastards”…
But the real question is, ‘Who does this guy speak for, who does he represent? Other than other bad actors.
So Sean Penn, you are this week’s enemy of the state.
It’s good to see that Hannity is keeping America safe from its enemies, abroad and in Hollywood.
But the ridiculousness of the award forced Hannity to back off a little. Eric Kleefeld reported on TPM Café,
In the wake of the negative public reaction that greeted the segment’s Orwellian title, Hannity has now backed off and given the feature a new name: "Enemy Of The Week." We’re not sure what Hannity means by "Enemy Of The Week." Is it (a) that Hannity is planning to spotlight people who he sees as literally being threats to the seven-day week and the Space-Time Continuum, or is it (b) that he’s caved to public pressure and changed the name to something he imagines is a bit more palatable?
Hmm, probably the latter.
A few choice quotes from Sean Hannity:
"[Liberals] teach our children multiculturalism rather than American culture, revisionist history rather than American history, the thinly disguised religion of secular humanism and extreme environmentalism rather than capitalism. They train our young to criticize America, not celebrate it. They welcome condoms into the classroom but ban God and the Ten Commandments. They encourage tolerance for the teachings of the Koran but not for the teachings of Jesus Christ. They oppose the Pledge of Allegiance, tell us that ‘God is dead,’ that ‘Christianity is for losers,’ and that evangelical and Catholic conservatives are more dangerous than radical Islamic militants. They tell us that fuel-burning SUVs are bad for America, but flag-burning SOBs aren’t. But they are wrong. And it is time to ask: Why, particularly in time of war, should we entrust the education of our children to people who loathe and ravage so many of out core values and traditions?" (Let Freedom Ring, pgs. 8-9)
"It doesn’t say anywhere in the Constitution this idea of the separation of church and state." (8/25/03)
"[T]hey can have the Gay Scouts if they want, if they don’t like the values of the Boy Scouts." (Hannity & Colmes, 3/16/05)
"Iraqis are not going to be bombed by the United States. The United States will use pinpoint accuracy, like we always do." (January 2003)
"[W]hy wouldn’t anyone want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, unless they detested their own country or were ignorant of its greatness?" (6/12/03)
Illustration: August J. Pollak