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Hannity Ignores His Own Experts' Comments In Order To Paint AG Candidate As Terrorism Supporter

Reported by Ellen - January 15, 2009 -

On the eve of Attorney General designee Eric Holder's confirmation hearing , Sean Hannity did a Special Investigation last night (1/14/09) into Holder's role as attorney for Chiquita Brands International when it pleaded guilty to doing business with terrorists in Colombia. It's an interesting case that could raise legitimate questions about Holder's commitment to human rights. But Hannity (both the show and the man) ignored those issues in favor of bogus, sensationalized accusations that Holder somehow supports terrorism. In doing so, Hannity ignored comments from his own experts that contradicted his assertions. With video.

It's true that the Chiquita case is unsavory. Chiquita Brands (the fruit company) pleaded guilty to funneling money and guns to a terrorist group in Colombia and now faces civil damages from some of the terrorists' victims. Holder defended Chiquita. But our American system of justice relies on the principle that all parties to a legal dispute are entitled to vigorous legal representation. Holder's role as their attorney makes him no more complicit in the crime than any other defense lawyer. But that didn't stop Hannity from doing his best... or, rather, worst.

Hannity didn't just try to connect Holder to the crime, he tried to portray Holder as a kind of terrorist consigliere. In the “conspiracy theory” voice viewers will recognize from his Hannity's America investigations, Hannity introduced the segment by ominously touting Holder's “connection to a company with ties to a known terrorist organization... The trail that leads from these groups to the man who may be our next Attorney General.”

The report correctly noted that Holder got his clients a good deal, one that allowed the company's officers and directors to escape any liability. Holder's role may be worthy of scrutiny but it's quite a disingenuous stretch to say that it indicated any sympathy with terrorists or terrorists. But that didn't stop Hannity, Media Matters' 2008 Misinformer of the Year.

Hannity first suggested that because Holder successfully avoided criminal charges against his client's officers and directors, he was going against his own legal principals. The show excerpted from a memo Holder wrote while previously at the Justice Department: “Charging a corporation, however, does not mean that individual directors, officers, employees or share holders should not also be charged. Prosecution of a corporation is not a substitute for the prosecution of criminally culpable individuals within or without the corporation.” The graphic on the screen was rife with spelling and punctuation errors that did not occur in the original.

There's a world of difference, of course, between the decision of a prosecutor about whom to prosecute and the strategy of a defense attorney whose job it is to defend his client. One of Hannity's own experts, Victoria Toensing (hardly a liberal) explained, “There is no conflict whatsoever... It wasn't Eric Holder who decided (who got prosecuted at Chiquita). It was the Justice Department.”

Nevertheless, Hannity intimated that Holder had done something wrong: “So was (Holder) changing his tune after getting paid by Chiquita?” Hannity ominously asked. In other words, Hannity was “asking” whether Holder was in cahoots with Chiquita, the same people in cahoots with terrorists.

In his best conspiracy-theory voice, Hannity added, “But what is raising the most eyebrows is the argument that Holder made as lead attorney in the ongoing civil case against Chiquita. According to court documents, Holder wanted the case dismissed because, quote, 'There is no clearly defined rule of international law prohibiting material support of terrorism. Indeed, there is not even consensus on the definition of terrorism.' What?”

The next guest drove home the point Hannity was obviously trying to make. Jay Sekulow, of the American Center for Law And Justice (despite its lofty name, the group was founded by Pat Robertson as the legal arm of the Christian Coalition of America) told the camera, “It's very troubling that the presumptive Attorney General of the United States, the nominee, doesn't know or doesn't believe that there's a legal definition, internationally for terrorism or a terrorist. First of all, he's the person charged with prosecuting terrorists and, of course, since 9/11, the Attorney General's role also is to prevent acts of terror. So to say that there's no definition of terrorist or terrorism, I think is very, very dangerous.”

But that's not what Holder said. He said there is no international legal consensus of the definition. It was a point underscored by the next expert, Andy McCarthy, a contributor to the National Review and identified as a Holder critic. “(Holder's) not saying that terrorism doesn't exist or that there's not a definition under American law of terrorism. He's saying that there is not a universally recognized material support to terrorism claim that can be brought under that civil statute.”

But Hannity again completely overlooked what his own expert had just said. With sinister overtones, he asked “Even though some may argue that this is a fair legal argument, do we really want the next Attorney General to be a man who cannot define what terrorism is?”