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Sean Hannity Uses Randi Rhodes’ Accident To Smear Her, Air America, Media Matters And More

Reported by Ellen - October 18, 2007 -

It takes a special man to smear a woman who just had a serious accident but that’s exactly what Sean Hannity did to Air America Radio host Randi Rhodes last night (10/17/07) on Hannity & Colmes. Supposedly liberal guest Susan Estrich repeatedly complained (and rightly so, in my view) about the need to lower the temperature of political debate but she never confronted Hannity with the slurs he was throwing around right then and there. With video.

Hannity couldn’t even wait for the discussion before he started with the insults. In his introduction he said, “Last weekend, Airhead America talk show host Randi Rhodes was reportedly mugged and beaten in NYC. Another liberal host, Jon Elliott, immediately blamed the supposedly brutal beating on a possible right-wing hate machine. Other left-wing media outlets followed suit. As it turns out, Rhodes wasn’t beaten at all. It’s believed that she fell while taking her dog for a walk. So will liberal groups like Media Matters go after irresponsible media outlets that repeated this unfounded story?”

Uh, no, because Media Matters is “dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.” Besides, as Alan Colmes later pointed out, Elliott issued a retraction and an apology. But with Hannity, apologies only seem to count when they come from conservatives like Mel Gibson or Trent Lott.

After introducing guests Neal Boortz and Estrich, Hannity said, “Immediately, without knowing the facts, (Elliott) goes on the air and said, ‘Is this an attempt by the right-wing hate machine to silence one of our own?’ he asked on the air. ‘Are we threatening them?’”

In fact, I happened to hear Elliott on the radio that night and he did not immediately promote that theory, as Hannity made it sound. Elliott announced that Rhodes had been attacked, that she was going to be OK and he had very little further information. A bit later, a caller speculated that Rhodes was targeted for her political beliefs and Elliott said something to the effect of, “I didn’t want to say it, but I couldn’t help thinking about that.” It was after that, as I recall, that he asked the questions Hannity quoted above.

“First of all,” Hannity continued unkindly, “I’d bet any amount of money, especially based on ratings, nobody knows who this woman is.” Then, in an obvious afterthought, he added hastily, “and I hope she’s well, and I hope she, you know, everything’s OK.”

“I’m with you," Boortz agreed. He said graciously, "I hope that Randi Rhodes is back on the air soon. Sean, I think you agree with me. We need liberal, left-wing talk radio out there. Now, not everyone can do it as well as Alan does, but we need it and I want her back on the air as soon as possible.”

Hannity agreed perfunctorily before hastening to continue with his smears. “Listen, I’m with you. Let them have their stations. They already have the rest of the media. But there’s a more sinister point here. Neal, there is – Hillary Clinton has bragged that she founded this group Media Matters.”

“Right,” Boortz agreed.

“She bragged that she founded the group that John Podesta runs, The Center For American Progress,” Hannity said.

Fact Check: Clinton did not say she founded either Media Matters or Center for American Progress. She said at the YearlyKos conference last summer, "I helped to start and support Mediamatters and Center for American Progress." As was reported in the Buffalo News recently, she seems to have lent some support at the founding of Media Matters but was by no means its founder.

Hannity continued with his smears and distortions: “They came out with this report, The Structural Imbalance of (Political) Talk Radio. They have different solutions that would intimidate station groups and station owners, if they don’t put, quote, the left-wing programming on here.” Fact check: The report advocates for breaking up concentrated ownership and addressing ineffective local needs. Far from trying to "intimidate" stations into putting on left-wing programming, the report explicitly states: If we break up concentrated ownership, and encourage greater local accountability over radio licensing, and still end up with lots of conservative talk, then so be it.

Hannity then griped about Media Matters, “And the more sinister – they monitor every word, every phrase, every sentence and every paragraph that Neal Boortz, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity say every day. Not a peep, not a word here.”

Funny, I did a search on the Media Research Council's site for “Steve Emerson,” a regular “terrorism expert” appearing on FOX, who, in 1995, falsely claimed that the Oklahoma City bombing bore “a Middle Eastern trait.” But I couldn’t find any MRC report on that analogous gaffe. And as far as I know, unlike Elliott, Emerson never apologized.

Boortz claimed, “I love it when they mention me but they’re not gonna say anything about this because exposing this doesn’t help Hillary Clinton. They have a filter. The filter, if we expose this story, if we talk about this talk show host, doesn’t help Hillary Clinton. In this case, no, not at all, so it’s not on their radar screen.”

In reality, Media Matters has posted many, many stories that are not related to Clinton nor “directly help her," such as this one critical of Colmes' defense of Don Imus and this one pointing out Hannity's hypocritical attack on Barack Obama for not wearing a flag pin.

“These groups are ready to pounce,” Hannity complained, oblivious that he does exactly that every night... once again proving that tough guy Hannity can dish it out but cries foul when he’s on the receiving end.

When it was Colmes’ turn, he noted Elliott’s written apology. “You’ve got to give someone a break,” Colmes said. “We all sometimes say things on the radio that if, given a second thought, we wish we might not have said.”

“Look, we hope she’s well,” Colmes continued. “I think the key thing here is, let’s hope that Randi, whether you agree with her or not agree with her, whether you like Air America or not, let’s hope that she is healed and better and back at work as soon as possible.”

Boortz nodded with what looked to me like sincere good wishes. But he added, “And she needs a smaller dog.” (Comment: What the heck did he mean by that?)

Estrich, said, “It is so ugly out there right now that all of us are a little bit worried when we open our email or when we answer the phone that it’s a crazy on the other side. And we’ve gotta take down the temperature here and learn to disagree without being so damned disagreeable.” Great, Susan. I hope we can count on you to confront Hannity the next time he accuses Democrats of emboldening the enemy and undermining the troops.

“I absolutely agree, Susan,” Boortz said, apparently forgetting that less than a year ago he had called teachers unions more dangerous than Al Qaeda and accused Democrats of sabotaging the Iraq war.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Hannity said to close the discussion.