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One-Sided Attack On Professor Norman Finkelstein

Reported by Ellen - May 11, 2007 -

Is there any field in which college drop-out Sean Hannity is not a self-appointed expert? On the 5/10/07 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity launched an effort to meddle in the tenure application of Professor Norman Finkelstein at DePaul University. The unbalanced guest roster was made up of discredited terrorism “expert” Steve Emerson who relentlessly attacked Finkelstein. Fortunately for him (and for truth-lovers), Alan Colmes easily debunked the attacks and put them in their proper perspective. With video.

I’ve noticed that whenever things are going badly for Hannity’s side, he becomes more of a bully than ever. So last night’s show was about attacking Al Sharpton, immigrants, Michael Moore, and I’m probably forgetting someone. But there was no discussion of Alberto Gonzales’ appearance before Congress that day, nor the previous day’s visit from Congressional Republicans to the White House warning President Bush that the Iraq war spells disaster for the Party, nor Paul Wolfowitz’ continuing problems at the World Bank, nor any other Republican scandal percolating with Jack Abramoff in the background.

As The New York Times and Colmes later noted, the attacks on Finkelstein stem from a feud between himself and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. Last week, Dershowitz attacked Finkelstein’s scholarship and called him an anti-Semite in an article published by The Wall Street Journal. Hannity, who has long since forgiven and forgotten the anti-Semitism displayed by Mel Gibson, was suddenly re-sensitized. “How can people like this be teaching our children in the classroom? Hannity asked, apparently forgetting that college students are hardly children.

Without bothering to mention that Finkelstein’s scholarship has been praised by such respected scholars as Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg and Israeli/Arab-conflict expert Avi Shlaim, Hannity and Emerson did their best to whip up ill-will toward Finkelstein. Clips were played of Finkelstein making supportive statements toward Hezbollah and denouncing Israel. A banner during a teaser for the discussion at the beginning of the show read, “Tenure for hate.”


“How is it possible he is even being considered for tenure,” Hannity asked.

“You know, he sounds like Ahmadinejad,” Emerson said. “And would we give Ahmadinejad a professorship in the United States?” Emerson also falsely claimed that Finkelstein is a Holocaust denier. As FAIR has reported, Emerson’s “priority is not so much news as it is an unrelenting attack against Arabs and Muslims." As Media Matters has revealed, he has a history of peddling misinformation. But last night, as is usual on Hannity & Colmes, Emerson was presented as an undisputed expert.

In synch with Hannity and Emerson, a chyron said, “CONTROVERSIAL PROF CAUGHT ON TAPE MAKING ANTI-SEMITIC REMARKS.”

It wasn’t until Colmes came into the discussion that the other side of the story was presented. “You’re absolutely wrong about this,” Colmes said. He pointed out Hilberg’s and Shlaim’s support of Finkelstein and noted that he is not a Holocaust denier but “is someone who believes that many people are using (charges of) anti-Semitism to silence critical discussion in this country and that’s his point.”

Emerson accused Colmes of “cherry-picking” but then backed away from his initial claim that Finkelstein is a denier to say that he “hangs out with Holocaust deniers.”

“He never denied the Holocaust,” Colmes said.

An obviously frustratred Emerson repeated his claim that Finkelstein associates with deniers.

“Why does Hilberg praise him?” Colmes asked.

Obviously, it was a question Emerson couldn’t answer. (But we can, via a link to Amy Goodman’s excellent recent interview with Hilberg and Shlaim on Democracy Now. In short, Hilberg said he had published some of the same conclusions in his own work in 2003 and was never criticized by anyone.) “You can cherry-pick all you want,” Emerson blustered but did not rebut. Then, the pot Emerson said, “He’s an absolute liar.” However, Emerson was clearly flustered. He repeatedly mispronounced Finkelstein’s name once Colmes began his debate.

As Colmes rightly argued that the story arose out of Dershowitz’ personal vendetta, Hannity broke in to end the discussion.

Hannity pointed his finger, waved his magic-wand pen and said, “I’m gonna tell you right now. We’re gonna follow this story and we’re gonna see what DePaul University does here and we’re gonna make sure that they’re aware of his comments.” As if Hannity would know more than they would!