Is Sean Hannity Too Close to the Tea Parties?


That seems to be the complaint of the Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik, anyway.  Today he writes that the Fox News superstar is crossing the line by broadcasting from a Tax Day Tea Party in Cincinnati:

Even if you buy the argument promoted by Fox management that Hannity’s show is opinion, not news, and everyone on the planet knows that, it is still wrong to use your broadcast in such an overtly poilitical manner.

Providing a forum for voices of dissent is one thing. Indeed, I have argued it is a good thing, and praised Fox News for doing it when so much of the rest of the media seemed to be on bended knee before Obama in the first few months after his inauguration. The administration seemed to lack any plan to help the millions of Americans who were losing jobs left and right, and it seemed as if the most the press could do was celebrate Obama with a cult of personality chorus of hosannas. Fox was one of the few media outlets delivering on its watchdog responsibilities.

But for Fox News to let Hannity take his show on the road and use it as a political tool to help mount dissent and fan the flames of protest is another thing altogether. The ratings might be nice, but Hannity and Fox News are playing a dangerous political game by putting the program in league with such Tea Party roadshows, and for once, I agree that they deserve all the criticism they are getting from the left.

I’ve read over his objection a couple times now, and I still don’t get his beef.  I think the correct response is pretty much encapsulated in his own post: “Hannity’s show is opinion, not news, and everyone on the planet knows that.”  What’s there to “buy”?  That’s the simple fact of the matter—Hannity is a conservative commentator, and was originally hired by Fox for the express purpose of being the right-wing half of “Hannity & Colmes.”  He’s always used his show as a platform for advancing his politics.

If the problem is a potential conflict of interest between Fox and the Tea Party movement, I don’t get that, either. Is the movement going to get too close to the channel, leading to biased content in other shows?  I don’t think we have much to worry about on that front; Fox has always had more of a left-wing presence than acknowledged by the press (see here, here, here, here, and here).

Speaking of Hannity and Tea Parties, a couple weeks ago an especially-ugly attack on the two slipped under the radar, and it deserves to be challenged.  On April 1, the Examiner’s Tucker Phelps was shocked that, speaking to a group of “Republican and Teabagger fans” (stay classy!), the following exchange occurred:

HANNITY: When you think about the vast majorities that they have in Congress and they had to bribe, backroom deals, corruption, that’s all because the tea party movement, the people — all these Tim McVeigh wannabes here.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Phelps’ reaction is too preposterous not to quote in full:

What in the holy hell? You would think he was being sarcastic, but at no point do they discuss anything remotely having to do with Conservative threats of violence or anything similar. It is completely out of the blue. He simply calls his audience “Tim McVeigh wannabe’s”, they cheer and cut to commercial.

Disgusting, inappropriate, untimely and extremely ignorant. It is bad enough of a thing for Hannity to say, but the fact that it is cheered is doubly upsetting. Given the recent arrest of the “Hutaree 8,” an apocalyptic Christian militia organization planning to attack federal officials with improvised explosives, the surge in vandalism against Democratic offices, and the upcoming Second Amendment March – scheduled for the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing this April 19th. That act of terrorism was in turn performed on the anniversary of the final assault on the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas.

So what the hell was this? A joke? Sarcasm? Simple stupidity on a level not even Glenn Beck could manage?

If it wasn’t a joke, but a sincere compliment given to American citizens, that is something far worse. Timothy McVeigh was a lone-wolf terrorist driven by resentment of the federal government, extreme libertarian political views and a fascination with organized Militia movements. He killed 168 people, including 19 children.

This is not a person to cheer. This is not a person to idolize. This is not a person to emulate.

Phelps subsequently updated his post with context confirming that the reference was sarcastic (if still “extremely stupid”), but for him to have ever seriously entertained the possibility this could have been anything else—even genuine praise for McVeigh—is a strikingly-odious blend of stupidity and dishonesty.

As anyone who reads and watches the news with anything even somewhat approaching regularity should know, there has been a daily barrage of attempts to associate grassroot conservative activists and dissenters from Barack Obama’s policies as violent, irrational, and extreme since at least the first healthcare town hall meetings last summer, and it shouldn’t take a rocket scientists to figure out that said conservatives and dissenters would be very aware of said attacks, and not take kindly to them.  That this is a mystery to Phelps would seem to raise questions about his “skeptical nature.”

Considering that tea partiers get put through crap like this on a daily basis, no wonder they’re inclined to be a little angry.

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Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also blogs at the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.