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Hannity Shuts Out Civil Rights Perspective On Affirmative Action Case

Reported by Ellen - April 5, 2009 -

Sean Hannity, ever on the lookout for discrimination against white folks, featured a “special investigation” on Friday's (4/3/09) show into an affirmative action case involving New Haven firefighters that will soon go to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was bad enough that “correspondent” Ainsley Earhardt dropped into the report her opinion that the white firefighters were on the side of right. It was even worse that “fair and balanced” FOX News completely shut out the civil rights perspective from its reporting. With video.

The facts of the case do not seem to be in dispute. A group of 19 Caucasian firemen and one Hispanic fireman were not promoted after placing as top scorers after an exam. Supposedly, the New Haven City administrators feared that they would be sued for discriminating against black firefighters. The 20 firefighters sued for reverse discrimination and, after losing in court twice, the case will now go before the Supreme Court.

It's an interesting case and, frankly, I think both sides have an interesting argument. As the New Haven Independent reported, the NAACP, the ACLU and the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters have come out in favor of the city, citing concerns that the case threatens to eviscerate laws — particularly Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — that afford opportunities for African-Americans to advance. The vast majority of New Haven firefighters are white. The black firefighters union wants the city to “re-examine the promotional process and the results of the test” under the guidelines of Title VII. They point to an earlier federal ruling which noted that firefighting ability, not the ability to pass a test, is the most important factor in evaluating a firefighter's job performance. “The Boston Red Sox can bring in the guys who know the most about statistics. They don’t necessarily know best how to bat or pitch,” the union's attorney said.

But Earhardt's one-sided “investigation” (which, sadly, is the kind of reporting we have come to expect from her) offered none of that information to the “We report, you decide” network's viewers. Earhardt was thoughtful enough, however, to point out just about every argument on behalf of the 20 plaintiffs, including that they thought their civil rights had been violated, that they were “denied promotions that they had earned because they were white,” and “after all their hard work (my emphasis), all 20 scored in the highest brackets.” Earhardt also provided footage of her “visit” with four of the plaintiffs. She included sympathetic clips where they made statements such as, “We feel that we're fighting for our rights, our civil rights, to be treated equally,” and, from the Hispanic plaintiff, “Everybody had the same amount of time to study, everybody had the same books, and it all boiled down to... who was going to put in the time and had the ability to pass and do well on the exam.” After one plaintiff said he's no longer confident that hard work gets rewarded, Earhardt asked a question irrelevant to the case but designed to tug on viewers' heartstrings: “How do you explain that to your kids?”

Moving on to discuss the Obama administration's legal brief supporting the City of New Haven, Earhardt provided the conservative viewpoint that it would “help usher in a new era of politically correct discrimination” before she even gave her skimpy synapsis of the Justice Department's position. Then it was time for the plaintiff firefighters' attorney to rebut what was never really presented in the first place.

Predictably, (this was the show of former-chum-to-a-white-supremacist Hannity, after all), Earhardt threw in a slap at African Americans, outsourced to the plaintiffs' attorney who suggested that the other side wanted “a system of special preferences,” not a set of laws “applicable to all citizens.”

So when did Earhardt interview anyone from that other side? Never. There were no interviews with the minority firefighters, no interviews with the civil rights activists involved in the case, no interviews with anyone from the City of New Haven. Not even a statement from any of those parties was provided.

After her “investigation,” Earhardt sat down with Hannity and gushed about how hard the plaintiff firefighters worked to study for the “very, very difficult” test, even gratuitously adding that most of them had taken time away from their families and small children. Her implication was clear: they had studied and the minorities had not. Even though she never bothered to actually investigate that assumption in her "special investigation."

“For five years now, they've had to fight for this,” Hannity added. Not that we'd ever doubt which side he'd take.

The ever-chirpy Earhardt agreed with Hannity that the City's position (the one she didn't seem to know much about) “doesn't make sense, I know.” Then she noted the irony of the City having worried about being sued by minorities (if they granted the promotions) and then getting sued by the 20 firefighters who were denied the promotions. Throwing all pretense of objectivity out the window, Earhardt added, “So why not do what's right?” She left no doubt what she meant by that.

“Ainsley, great report,” Hannity said