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(UPDATED) Choirgate: Hannity Offers $10,000 Reward in Possible Gay-Bashing Case

Reported by Marie Therese - January 14, 2007 -

(New information at the end of post.) On Thursday night, January 11th, and then again on Friday, January 12th, during Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity acted as though he did not know the names of the perpetrators of a New Year's Eve attack against the "Baker's Dozen", an a capella singing group from Yale University who were performing at a private home in San Francisco. Despite the fact that during Friday's show, Alan Colmes suggested that the incident involved "gay bashing", Hannity persisted in trying to portray the assault as just another case of anti-Americanism in the City by the Bay.

In the January 11th interview, when Hannity asked the victim, Sharyar Aziz, "Did you get any indication what it was about?," the young man's answer deliberately omitted any reference to the words "fag" and "homo", which local media here in the Bay Area have reported were the generative reason for the attack.

"Truth be told, I couldn't tell you what was going through their minds, what it was that made them feel, you know, that a call needed to be made," Aziz answered. " ... I couldn't tell you what was the trigger, the initial trigger, what it was ..."

Hannity jumped in to say "It seems related to the Anthem. Do you think it is?"

Here Aziz fudged again, saying, "In the sense that it really started to culminate after, after - you know, after midnight, um, you know, tempers began to flare on their side afterwards, so that could be - you know - I'm not sure how that - uh - how that affected them, how the National Anthem was related to them going overboard, if you will, but that, you know, that was ..."

When it became clear that Aziz was struggling, Hannity spoke up to compliment him. Then the FOX News pundit surprised everyone when he said "And you know, I want to get these people that did this to you, and I hope - working with your attorney and the detectives out there that we're able to find them. I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to offer a $10,000 reward for anybody that will come and testify that as a witness to this, to help get these people - you know, America is still a country where you can sing the national anthem and not be attacked viciously like this, and cruelly like this."

Later on in the interview Hannity reiterated his reward offer:

HANNITY: "And if we can find out who these people are, I'm going to write a check for $10,000, and we're going to offer a reward. We need to get the people that did this to you. This was a brutal, vicious, horrible, cruel attack. And it is OK to sing the anthem in this country and not be attacked, my friend."

Throughout this interview (and the subsequent one on Friday the 12th) Hannity gave the distinct impression he had no knowledge of who the perpetrators were.

Which I find somewhat odd.

According to SFist, a Bay Area blog, at least three of the perpetrators are already known and, contrary to the spin put on the story by FOX News, the incident involves homophobic behavior by a small group of wealthy hoodlums.

From SFist, January 9, 2007:

According to eyewitnesses, the 19-year-old son of the staggeringly wealthy local physician Eileen Aicardi spent it by gathering a mob of friends and then gaybashing an all-male singing group from Yale. When the assault was over, there were bruises, cuts, sprains, and facial reconstruction surgery requiring the wiring shut of the victim's jaw and the insertion of titanium plates. Oh, and also, the police are launching an investigation ... into why the SFPD didn't care.

The facts appear to be these: The Baker's Dozen, an all-male (but not exclusively gay) chorus from Yale was asked to perform at the house of Reno Rapagnani, a retired SFPD officer and department attorney. The host of the party, Leanna Dawydiak, told reporters that some boys started harassing the chorus after midnight. Specifically, Richard Aicardi is said to have made comments like "you're not welcome here," then called some friends and said, "I'm 20 deep, my boys are coming."

Dick Aicardi also apparently called the singers "fags," which can be a term of affection when one gay man uses it to refer to another. No definite word yet on whether Dick's is a friend of Dorothy, but we have our theories. Honestly, who says "my boys are coming"? That's totally gay! Also, it's weird that a resident of SF would say "you're not welcome here" to gentle, artistic young men. But then, the 7x7 crowd always has lived in a fantasy version of San Francisco.

7x7 is a trendy online magazine geared to those with money and a lot of time on their hands.

In a January 12th post, SFist had this to say in an article entitled "Sean Hannity Is on the Case":

We actually watched this whole thing go down as we caught it while flipping through the channels. The whole thing was surreal. There was Hannity, one of the kids beaten up, his mother, one of those interchangeable Fox blondes, and Whitney Leigh (!) discussing the incident. But here’s the thing-- no matter what anybody would say, Hannity would harp on the fact that the group sang the National Anthem as to him, the reason why the kids were assaulted was because it's San Francisco and we hate America. We guess he must think the term "fag" means "freedom loving patriot." We know we often get that confused too.

When we watched a later run of the show, we couldn't but help notice that the story was promoted throughout the show, usually with the tag "Yale Choir Beaten Up for Singing the National Anthem." One tag even mentioned it happened in Nancy Pelosi's city. We're just wondering, but would anybody care [about] this story if the Bakers Dozen sang "Auld Lang Syne" instead of the National Anthem? Or then would the story be we hate old traditional songs?

The other completely surreal thing about the whole interview was Sean wishing "the attorneys" good luck. Those attorneys, of course, would be Whitney and Whitney's law partner, Matt Gonzalez* and, my, what strange bedfellows.

In a third commentary written on January 11th by someone on Craig's List, the author seems to believe that it was a turf war between two rival Catholic prep schools!

As for the people who hosted the party, Reno Rapagnani said he understands why the cops were slow to deal with this as it happened on New Year's Eve and they were probably overwhelmed that night with everything else going on in the city. He did say, however, that he thinks they need to step it up. Whitney Leigh, of the Gonzalez and Leigh law firm who is representing the families of the choral group, however, thinks the cops are doing what they need to do at this time.

One interesting new detail has come out, this from Reno Rapagnani. Reno says that he thinks this thing stems from a rivalry between two SF Catholic schools, St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart [Cathedral]. Reno's daughter, who had the party, is from St. Igantius and most of the attackers were from Sacred Heart. If this is true and the choral group got caught in the middle of some lame-ass high school rivalry that's now descended into some sort of West Side Story gang-war, well, that just has to be the most retarded thing we've heard in a long time. We think the correct phrase to describe them here would be, as a commenter said, a bunch of "punk ass posers."

ABC7 News, which first hopped on the story, has even more details of the fight, including pictures of the Santa Hat wearing Richard Aicardi. According to them, Richard and his buddies tried to start a fight at the party (so cool) but it went nowhere real fast. That's when Richard called his buddies to help out.

Dr. Eileen Aicardi is a pediatrician who lives in the hills of Mill Valley (a jog up the road from a good friend of mine), practices both in Marin and San Francisco and has five sons. According to most reports, three of her sons were involved in the assault. The father of one of the injured Yale singers is reported as saying that the Aicardi boys have a history of violence.

Local TV station KGO-Channel 7 did a report that included the following identification of the boys detained and questioned by the police on the night of the incident.

Police arrived and the dispatch sheet obtained by the I-Team shows they detained Sacred Heart graduates Brian Dwyer, Marino Peradotto, James Aicardi and Michael Aicardi. They apparently did not detain their brother, Rich Aicardi. Police let all the suspects go.

The San Francisco Police Department finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand they are being bad-mouthed by conservatives who believe the singers were beaten because they were singing the National Anthem while the gays are pushing for faster action because they believe that the attack was motivated by hatred of homosexuals. Both sides believe the SFPD engaged in shoddy police work.

If I can ferret out a ton of information in an hour of Google searches, surely the crackerjack team of researchers at FOX News were able to find it as well?

Which means that Hannity had to have known all (or most) of this before he made his $10,000 offer, including the fact that there is a real possibility of a gay angle to the story. Why would he pretend otherwise?

Something doesn't pass the smell test here!

It will be interesting to see how the holier-than-thou Irish Catholic Sean Hannity handles this story next week, especially if it turns out that a bunch of Catholic preppies beat up on the singers not because of some anti-conservative impulse, but because they hate gays and wanted to teach the "fags" a lesson. It would be even more interesting if the guy from Craig's List is right and the Yale singers got caught in the middle of a nasty bit of Catholic prep school rivalry that got massively out of hand.

Sean Hannity may come to regret offering that big reward.

To view the video of Hannity's January 11th interview with Aziz including the reward offer click the link below. Scroll down to the heading "Shows". Click on video entitled "Beaten Up!"

FOX News Video.

* Updated based on new information, thanks to News Hound fan Claudo, who informed us of a column that ran in this morning's San Francisco Chronicle (1-14-07).

As I read the Chronicle column, it dawned on me that the reason Sean Hannity and FOX News have gotten involved in this case is that Gavin Newsom is running for re-election next fall.

Conservative America would like nothing better than to see the man who authorized gay marriage go down to defeat.

It is no coicidence that FOX News' footprints are all over this story.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, Newsom's ex-wife, works as a host for FOX News' weekend edition of Big Story and is also a FOX News legal analyst.

Jim Hammer appeared with Leigh Whitney on the Hannity & Colmes program last week, discussing how bad the SFPD is. Hammer is a FOX News legal analyst who frequently appears on the Greta van Susteren show. Leigh Whitney is the law partner of Matt Gonzalez, the Green Party candidate who was defeated by Newsom in a hotly contested election in 2003.

Is Hannity's "$10,000 reward" a cover for a fishing expedition, a way for FOX News to pay for dirt that will result in the defeat of Gavin Newsom?

Currently, Newsom is the only declared candidate. According to Wikipedia:

Despite Newsom's high approval ratings, there are many potential challengers.

Tony Hall is a former conservative member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He resigned in 2004 to become "Mayor of Treasure Island" (Director of the Treasure Island Development Authority), a position that oversees the island linking San Francisco with Oakland. Hall was fired from the job in 2005 at the behest of the mayor [4]. He has been a vocal critic of Newsom ever since.

Other possible candidates include Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Aaron Peskin, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, former State Senate President John Burton, former Mayors Willie Brown and Art Agnos, and District Attorney Kamala Harris. Both Willie Brown and Art Agnos are eligible to run again because term limits only applies to consecutive terms.

The plot thickens ...