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Ask Al Sharpton To Reconsider Sean Hannity's Participation In Martin Luther King Commemoration

Reported by Ellen - March 16, 2008 -

Sean Hannity is scheduled to participate in the National Action Network’s (Rev. Al Sharpton is the president) convention honoring the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, on April 4th. As we have repeatedly demonstrated, Hannity has a dubious, at best, record on issues relating to civil rights. In fact, for the last three years, he has "commemorated" the federal holiday recognizing Martin Luther King by attacking an African American and accusing him of racism. Now Hannity is doing his best to undermine the candidacy of the first African American to run for president not by debating him on the issues about which most Americans care but by smearing Barack Obama as an anti-American racist, based on the beliefs of his pastor. For those reasons and others outlined after the jump, I believe that Hannity has no place in any commemoration of Dr. King. UPDATED: Hannity's appearance canceled.

On his radio show, Hannity has welcomed the calls of white supremacist Hal Turner and even bonded with him off the air.

I've been blogging about Hannity for almost 3 years and rarely miss a Hannity & Colmes program. In that period, Hannity has spent little to no time showing concern for civil rights of African Americans. Instead, he has repeatedly obsessed over what he feels are instances of black racism against whites. Some examples are below:

* Hannity used a discussion about the NYC police shooting of unarmed African American bridegroom Sean Bell not to air out the underlying issues of race, crime and law enforcement but to fan the flames of divisiveness by launching an attack on civil rights advocates Charles Barron and Sharpton.

* For Hannity, even the Jena 6 case was an issue of reverse racism.

* Hannity spent three nights harping on a year-old story of some unknown bookstore owner who had advocated the extermination of whites. A Hannity & Colmes producer even ambushed the man for a special "H&C Investigates" segment about this non-news event.

Hannity's sensitivity about black-against-white racism does not apply when it's a white person doing the offending. For example, Hannity repeatedly defended Imus and, as I have come to expect used one of the discussions as a springboard from which to attack an African American. Hannity also leapt to the defense of Bill "You could abort every black baby and the crime rate would go down" Bennett (once again using an attack on an African American as part of the "defense."). Hannity has taken special care to help rehabilitate the image of Duane "Dog" Chapman.

As disturbing as all of the above is, nothing seems like an undermining of the principles for which Dr. King stood more than Hannity's enthusiastic participation in the high-tech lynching of Obama on FOX News. Even before Hannity & Colmes devoted its entire show to trying to smear Obama as a militant African American radical, Hannity has long been working to equate the color of Obama's skin with the content of his character.

As a white person, Dr. King’s legacy is important to me, too. I benefited from going to integrated schools, from learning about the African American experience that he brought into the common consciousness, and from observing his successes with nonviolent social change. It’s hard to say if Obama would have gotten this far in the campaign were it not for Dr. King’s work. As an enthusiastic Obama supporter, I’m prepared to accept his loss if it’s because of his position on the issues or even if people feel that he is not experienced enough for the job. But I feel it would be a tragedy for this country if he were to lose because some right-wing pundits made political hay out of the “black liberation theology” preached by his pastor. Isn’t that how Dr. King would likely feel, too?

That is why I’m asking everyone to contact Rev. Sharpton and ask him to reconsider having Hannity participate in the King commemoration. I applaud Sharpton’s efforts to have a debate about the future of race relations and I support his efforts to have that debate with Hannity. But please, not under King's mantle.

You can reach the National Action Network via email at crisis@nationalactionnetwork.net or via phone at 212-690-3070 or 877-626-4651.

UPDATE: We received word that Hannity's debate with Sharpton was, in fact, canceled. Hannity claims that he pulled out due to a family emergency. I have not received confirmation from Sharpton's organization as to the reason.