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While News Corp Adopts Capitol Hill "Charm Offensive" For Minorities, FOX News Disses Them On The Air

Reported by Ellen - August 9, 2005

On the same day that The Wall Street Journal reported that FOX News' parent company, News Corporation, had begun a "charm offensive" against TV ratings company Nielsen Media Research, for not properly counting minority viewers, prime time co-host Sean Hannity demonstrated just how much African-Americans really count to FOX News. Ignoring the substance of Saturday's Voting Rights march in Atlanta, he tried to paint it as an exercise in hate-filled extremism. In fact, if it weren't for Alan Colmes, viewers would never have known that the true purpose of the event, which included thousands of people, was to commemorate the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, signed into law August 6, 1965, and to rally for its extension.

Hannity introduced the segment by focusing on some one-on-one comments Harry Belafonte made to conservative reporter Mike Morano, as if that were the most salient feature of the event. Hannity said, "There's still racial divisions a little closer to home tonight. Take a look at what singer Harry Belafonte said over the weekend during a civil rights march in Atlanta."

Here's the full text of Belafonte's remarks which were not made from a podium but in response to Morano's question, whether high-level positions by blacks in George W. Bush's administration isn't proof that he cares about civil rights?

Hitler had a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of the Third Reich. Color does not necessarily denote quality, content or value. If a black man is a tyrant, he's first and foremost a tyrant. Then he incidentally is black. Bush is a tyrant. And if he gathers around him black tyrants, then they all have to be treated as they are being treated.

Comment: Even if you think what Belafonte said was disgraceful (and I find it completely unobjectionable), the fact that Hannity focused on this behind-the-scenes statement while ignoring the mainstream concerns of the approximately 20,000 African-Americans who partook of the march is a blatant display of insensitivity by the host of a major news show.

To discuss Belafonte's comments, reporter Morano appeared along with "Civil rights activist" Dick Gregory.

Hannity opened the discussion by going on the attack against Gregory as well. Gregory didn't let Hannity intimidate him (and there's nothing I like better than watching someone out-talk Hannity) but by answering Hannity's "gotcha" questions, Gregory gave up the opportunity to reframe the discussion.

Hannity: "Did you say that black conservatives have a right to exist but why would I want to walk around with a Swastika on my shirt after the way Hitler done messed up the Swastika symbol?"

Gregory: Here's what I said... I said the Swastika was created in Africa 4,000 years before there was a German on the planet. It was a religious symbol.

Hannity: Did you say I want to call myself a conservative? The white racist thugs have used the word to hide behind. They call themselves Republicans.

Gregory: Yes

Hannity: And did you trash the United States as the most dishonest, ungodly, unspiritual nation that ever existed in the history of the planet?

Gregory: That's right.

Hannity: And that George Bush didn't WIN (his emphasis)?

Gregory: That's right. That's what I said.

Then Morano jumped in to pile on the attack. "And at the same rally, Judge Mathis, from the TV show, the Greg Mathis show, said the Bush Administration was criminal, thieves..."

When it was Alan Colmes' turn, he finally focused on the real meaning of the march. He asked Morano whether this wasn't really about the voting rights act and whether or not Section 5 should be renewed. Section 5 is the section which makes states with a history of discrimination go through the Justice Department to get approval if they want to change any aspect of voting. "That is what is being debated here. And that is why Mr. Gregory and Belafonte - we might not agree with everything they all say - but that's why there was a rally, to protect the right to vote in this country, right?"

Morano disagreed, saying that his news organization, CNSnews.com, did a survey of "a significant number of the major groups participating in this and there are major financial organizational problems behind a lot of these groups. And many critics are alleging that this march was about fundraising because the Voting Rights Act is two years away."

Comment: I see nothing wrong with fundraising but The Atlanta Journal Constitution said nothing about any fundraising in its report on the march.

Morano, continuing his attack, said, "This was about telling the black voters in America that the election in 2000 and 2004 was stolen, that George Bush is an illegal criminal who should be locked up."

That was also not mentioned in the AJC article. What the article did discuss, but neither Hannity nor Morano did, was the importance of the Voting Rights Act to the many attendees who were there to celebrate it.

Colmes interrupted him (thank God), saying "That's a lot of rhetoric. Dick, this is really about the Voting Rights Act."

Gregory said it WAS about the Voting Rights Act and that it was one of the few rallies where nobody collected any money.

Hannity jumped in to end the segment but he couldn't resist attacking Gregory and the event again. "To pass the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act, Lyndon Johnson counted on Republicans. REPUBLICANS, Dick. I can't believe you sat there while all those things were being said and you don't condemn them. That's amazing, Dick. That's sad."

Morano jumped in, too, though he was cut off. "Yeah, and Nancy Pelosi shared the same podium with all this rhetoric and Nancy Pelosi gave me an interview where she talked about the racial oppression of votes in Ohio. The Democratic Party..."

While there is room for debate on extending the Voting Rights Act - for example, should Section 5 only apply to some states? - Hannity and Morano clearly didn't give a hoot about the issues and only wanted a platform from which to vilify and discredit the march participants. We News Hounds feel this shows just how concerned FOX News really is about issues of interest to African Americans. We plan to pass on this information to Nielsen's representatives. I'll be calling Congresswoman Maxine Waters' office tomorrow to let her know as well.

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