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FOX News Continues McCarthy-esque Scapegoating Of Academia As Terrorism Threat

Reported by Ellen - March 7, 2006

Instead of investigating some of the larger issues around national security – the failing grade on terrorism preparedness from the 9/11 Commission, the latest developments in the UAE port deal, the nuclear deal with India, the Katrina video and the questions it raises about our preparedness to deal with another natural or manmade disaster – Hannity & Colmes spent three segments last night (3/6/06) focusing on the “threats” from schools and universities. Add to that a segment in which Sean Hannity pushed Colonel David Hunt into saying that Democratic dissent is hurting the war on terror and one can only conclude that it’s a deliberate attempt to steer attention away from the Bush Administration’s failings and scapegoat those people Hannity and the FOX News execs don’t like – academics and Democrats.

Even by FOX News standards, last night’s top story was trivial and uninteresting except for the fact that it proved just how far the network is willing to go in its efforts to tar universities as bastions of terrorism. The “issue” was whether or not an Iranian graduate of the University of North Carolina had committed an act of terrorism when he tried to run over a group of students on campus, claiming that he was avenging the US treatment of Muslims.

FOX News’ own website called the incident “an alleged hit and run” but the big poser for Sean Hannity, clearly trying to imply that the university was risking national security, was whether the incident should have been labeled a terrorist act.

The two guests chosen to discuss this burning question both had the same opinion. One, student Kris Wampler (not identified as a member of College Republicans) led a protest at the school over its refusal to call the incident an act of terrorism. Implying that the university was putting PC ahead of security, Wampler claimed that if the same thing happened anywhere else in the world, it would be considered such an act but “for some reason, on our campus, it’s not being called that.”

The other guest was “terrorism expert” Steven Emerson who, as Media Matters reports, has been discredited by FAIR. "Emerson's 'priority is not so much news as it is an unrelenting attack against Arabs and Muslims,' and he has a history of peddling misinformation."

Not surprisingly, Emerson thought we should be hung up on what UNC called the incident. “The fact that they don’t use the “T” word… is a cop out.”

Hannity, who never wants to explore any Bush Administration failures in national security, showed a strong interest in this case. “I want to dig a little deeper here,” Hannity said. Of course, what he really meant was, I want to blame liberals and academia a little more. “What if this was an attack on a gay and lesbian student union? …What would the media coverage in this country be? …Wouldn’t the left be describing it as a hate crime? … Wouldn’t there be more prominent coverage, etc.?”

Emerson made the dubious claim that CAIR and other groups “that are really fronts for militant Islam,” have had “major media press coverage. Here, everyone’s afraid to use the “T” word because they don’t want to offend Muslim sensitivities.”

Later, Emerson admitted that the incident was “probably not” connected to a terrorist group “but I don’t think that the absence of a terrorist connection worldwide makes it any less dangerous.”

Next, we had the fifth discussion in as many shows about Ramatullah Hashemi, the former Taliban spokesman now studying at Yale. Other than to play a tape of Hashemi making some pro-Taliban statements, there seemed nothing really new that warranted a fifth discussion about this, other than the fact that it gave FOX News an excuse to demonize Yale one more time.

Funny how “Real Journalism, Fair and Balanced” FOX News never plays a tape of Condi Rice saying "Nobody could have imagined the 9/11 attacks" juxtaposed with the Presidential Daily Briefing of August, 2001, titled “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US." Nor can I remember seeing any reports on the US' former alliance with the Taliban, when Ronald Reagan was president and the Taliban was an enemy of the Soviet Union.

When it was Alan Colmes’ turn, I was gratified to note that he started to make my own point, that while Hashemi may have a dubious background with the Taliban, unlike the UAE which also has an unsettling history with them, he’s not poised to purchase the operations of our major ports. But, unfortunately, Colmes’ question was cast aside by the only guest, Hannity-sympatico John Fund, who demanded, “Are we here to talk about ports?”

Fund complained that there are other students who should have gotten Hashemi’s place at Yale. “There are thousands of parents watching here tonight, Alan… whose kids would love to go to Yale. This fellow went ahead of the line.” (Hmm, wonder if Fund ever said that about George W. Bush’s admission).

Before moving on to the last school-bashing discussion, H&C made a brief detour to the war in Iraq. Hannity completely avoided discussing the purported topic, how well things are or are not going, in order to blame Democrats for everything going wrong. Hannity asked guest Colonel David Hunt, “How damaging is it – I know the Democrats, they’re broken records – they’ve been screeching and screaming and shrill and mean and hateful and they’ve undermined the President… What impact does this have on the military, on the troops that are in harm’s way?”

Like every other military expert that Hannity has asked this question of, Hunt said it does not affect the troops. But that wasn’t good enough for Hannity so he pressed until Hunt finally gave the answer Hannity was looking for. “You’ve got to admit this is damaging… Look at what bin Laden is aware of – the political debate in this country and he uses that as a wedge. You’ve got to admit this is hurting the effort, is it not?”

Hunt, who is paid to be a FOX News analyst, agreed with his co-worker that dissent is hurting the war on terror.

Then it was time for the third discussion about the “Bush-bashing” teacher in Colorado, Jay Bennish. Once again we were “treated” to a visit from Sean Allen, the snitch student who, rather than take his complaints about his teacher to the school administration, made a tape of the class and delivered it to conservative talk radio. This strikes me as someone more interested in grandstanding than addressing a problem but I have yet to hear anyone ask Mr. Allen why he didn’t just go to the principal with his concerns.

Last night, Allen’s mother appeared with him to complain that her poor, defenseless son had been the victim of media attacks by the teacher’s lawyer. She cited a clip from last Friday’s Hannity & Colmes, in which Hannity belligerently accused the lawyer, David Lane of attacking Allen. As I noted in my post about it, Lane made no such attack. But the mother said, “Here’s David Lane, big attorney, basically attacking my son.”

Hannity, in his soft-Hanctimonious voice, added a new expertise to his remarkable list of abilities (knowing which judges should be impeached, who the State Department should deport, who should be admitted to Yale): reading voices. “I’ve been doing talk radio since 1987 – is when I started, and you learn to read voices pretty well. And I hear a man that is agenda-driven, a guy that was passionately trying to indoctrinate his students.”

Hannity then read a number of controversial statements that Bennish supposedly made: “The most violent nation on earth is the United States,” “The American flag is no different than the Nazi or confederate flag, to some people,” “making excuses for Al Qaeda.” With a zeal Hannity has never showed over the questions about 9/11, the port issue, or the Katrina victims, Hannity gestured emphatically with his hands as he asked, “Was that common? Is this just the tip of the iceberg? What else can you tell us about this teacher?”

Alan Colmes questioned the student’s actions but never directly asked why the family didn’t just go to the administration or even the school board if they had a problem. Instead, he asked the mother if she supported the idea of having students tape teachers and going to the conservative media with them. He also noted (unlike whoever is in charge of the H&C chyron which continues to give the impression that the walkout was in protest of Bennish's statements) that 150 students walked out in support of the teacher.

The mother made the dubious claim that the principal said that “two-thirds or better” joined the protest just to get out of class. Funny, they didn’t say that on the TV screen. Nor does that explain the yelling that supposedly went on before all the students peacefully went back to school after the protest.

Sean Allen, who seems to have abandoned his original claim (made last week on H&C) that he only taped the class in order to improve his comprehension, made a few more dubious statements: that the geography class was not "human geography," that Bennish's legal complaint is "completely false" and that, despite what the teacher is heard saying on the tape, that he does not ask his students to agree with him. Sounding suspiciously like a ditto head, Allen told Colmes that nearly all the sites Bennish refers students to for more information are “radically left-wing.”

Hannity was obviously pleased with his latest foot soldier in conservative culture wars. He closed the discussion by telling Allen, “You should be very proud of yourself. You literally have put these people on notice that what they’ve gotten away with the past, they will no longer get away with.”

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