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“Real Journalism” FOX News Does Not Retract Misinformation About Colorado Teacher Protest. Hannity Tries To Add To Hysteria By Conflating With Ward Churchill

Reported by Ellen - March 6, 2006

Friday night (3/3/06), Hannity & Colmes held its focus on the Colorado teacher who was suspended for criticizing President Bush in class while it ignored the India nukes deal, the re-authorization of the Patriot Act and the Katrina video. In fact, the teacher episode was deemed so important that it continued over two segments. But nowhere in any of that time did “real journalism” FOX News issue a retraction for its previous mischaracterization of the student walkout related to the incident. Instead, Sean Hannity tried to add to the misunderstanding by repeatedly conflating the teacher with Professor Ward Churchill.

Thursday night (3/2/06), FOX News held its first discussion on the topic. That night, the bottom of the screen read, "STUDENTS WALK OUT OF SCHOOL AFTER TEACHER'S RANT," giving the impression that the walkout was the result of the teacher's rant. In fact, the walkout was in protest of the teacher's suspension.

The guest for Friday's double-length discussion was David Lane, attorney for Jay Bennish, the Colorado teacher and, apparently, Ward Churchill, another academic on the FOX News hit list. Lane was the kind of guest there should be more of. He quickly took Hannity’s measure and was able to thrust aside his bullying at every turn. Lane is our latest top dog.

Sean Hannity was clearly itching for a fight when he started his portion of the interview by accusing Lane of having attacked the student who taped Bennish and sent the tape to a conservative talk radio show. Lane had made no such attack but Hannity asked in the kind of pushy, fake-questioning tone I haven’t heard since my last encounter with Allison Beattis in junior high school, “Why are you attacking a 16-year-old kid? …You feel good about yourself attacking a 16-year-old?”

Unfortunately for Hannity, Lane made it clear he was not one bit intimidated nor impressed with Hannity’s style. So Hannity ratcheted up the abuse and, as he always does when an argument threatens not to go his way, he changed the subject. He added in that same schoolyard bully tone, “A Ward Churchill defender here? You love to attack those little Eichmann’s yourself, don’t you, in your spare moments?”

I wish Lane had pointed out Hannity’s cheap trick of trying to change the subject instead of picking up his bully-boy bait, but Lane did an excellent job of defending himself on the subject nonetheless. I suspect that was why Hannity quickly resumed talking about Bennish. But before long (probably because he couldn’t score points against Lane with Bennish, either), Hannity went right back to Churchill with renewed venom.

“I bet you’re proud of your profession and what you stand for, aren’t you?”

Lane was never once ruffled by Hannity which clearly peeved him. “Extremely so,” Lane answered pleasantly. As Hannity tried, but failed, to talk over Lane (using the words “knee jerk” and “platitude liberal”), Lane added with a smile, “I’m very proud of defending your Constitutional rights.” He even laughed at the term “platitude liberal.” Way to go, Mr.Lane! Laughing in Hannity’s face is the best response and one that is not used often enough.

Unable to rattle Lane, Hannity tried harder with his one-trick pony. Pointing his finger with greater emphasis, and his eyes even squintier than usual, Hannity sounded more and more like Joseph McCarthy as he kept accusing Lane about Churchill. “Are you proud of that? Are you proud of Ward Churchill? When you look in the mirror, do you say he’s a great American?”

“I’m proud of the Constitution. I’m proud of representing the Constitution of the United States of America. I don’t give a damn whether he’s a good American.”

Hannity was almost hyperventilating now. Unable or unwilling to debate on the issues, he changed the subject with a new gotcha question. “You don’t give a damn about the families that lost those ‘little Eichmans?’”

“Sean, clear your earpiece. Clear your earpiece. Did I say I don’t care about the families? I didn’t say that. I said I don’t care if Ward Churchill’s a good American, bad American. I care about the government sticking a gag in any American’s mouth to shut them up because the government doesn’t like the message they’re giving.”

Hannity’s time was up. In a bully-boy pout, he muttered something about “exposes left-wing extremists like you and him to the rest of the country.” Still pouting while Bob Beckel (subbing for Alan Colmes) conducted his portion of the interview, Hannity kept interjecting sarcastic comments throughout. As the segment ended, Hannity tried one more bully-boy trick. “Only in the world of extremists like you and Ward Churchill is calling the president a Nazi a new geography course.”

Lane smiled as he asked, “Did you hear me call anybody a Nazi?” He repeated that he defends the right of anyone to voice their opinions, even Hannity’s.

As the music started, the petulant Hannity proved he'll go to any lengths to smear those he disagrees with. “Just like you’ll defend Ward Churchill’s right to assault the families of 9/11 victims.”

“No, I did not assault anyone,” Lane said with smiling condescension, as though talking to a child throwing a temper tantrum.

Comment: It’s not just the government we have to worry about sticking a gag in Americans’ mouths. People like Hannity are trying to do it, too.

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