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Hannity’s In No Position To Be Lecturing ABC About Journalistic Integrity

Reported by Ellen - June 18, 2009 -

Sean Hannity was in a bullyboy lather again last night (6/17/09), this time over ABC’s upcoming special on health care, to be broadcast from the White House. The show has not aired yet but Hannity and his Fox News colleagues have already decided it’s going to be an “infomercial” and that the White House will “take over” the prime time broadcast. It seems to me that in itself lacks a certain amount of journalistic integrity. But it’s laughable for Hannity to be lecturing anyone else about balance or independent, ethical reporting given that his own record is full of distortions and softball interviews from which he shut out his liberal then-co-host. As icing on Hannity’s hypocritical cake, as soon as he moved on from ABC, he immediately misrepresented the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis about one draft bill in the Senate. With video.

In the opening headline for his show, Hannity announced, “ABC News throws journalistic integrity out the window,” and then later referred to the special as “next week’s Mickey-Mouse-sponsored infomercial.”

“Journalism in America is dead,” Hannity declared, one of his favorite lines since the 2008 presidential campaign. A banner on the screen screamed “JOURNALISM IS DEAD” in large letters, just in case viewers didn’t get the message the first time.

Hannity went on to bemoan, “We were also reminded today that the White House director of Communications for Health Care Spin is none other than former ABC correspondent Linda Douglas. Now, that can not be a coincidence.”

Kind of like the situation of having, say, an informal advisor to Presidential Candidate John McCain serve as a supposedly neutral news analyst? Because that’s exactly how Fox News used George W. Bush’s former advisor Karl Rove during much of the 2008 election cycle - and without revealing the tie. Rove was and is on the air shaping the news. Douglas is no longer working for ABC. She’s shaping the Obama message. There's a big difference.

And speaking of Karl Rove, he was the sole guest for this segment. “Journalistic Integrity” Hannity introduced Rove as merely, “Fox News Contributor.”

“It seems rather unprecedented,” Hannity said. “Did this ever happen while George W. Bush was president?” Funny he should ask, because yes it did, and with Fox News. As Media Matters has pointed out, the Bush administration repeatedly gave exclusive access to Fox News, which often used such opportunities to ask softball questions and run specials about the administration.

Tellingly, Rove never provided any details about how the Bush administration operated with the media. He just made the unconvincing claim that, as Hannity suggested, ABC had gotten “unprecedented access” and that it was making “unprecedented use” of the White House. “I can’t remember a time when a network came in and was gonna devote a significant block of time to covering an issue that was on the president’s agenda.”

Well, let’s refresh Rove’s memory for him. As Media Matters reported, on February 2 and February 3, 2008, Fox News aired a documentary titled "George W. Bush: Fighting to the Finish," after, as Fox itself described, "FOX News' Bret Baier was granted unprecedented access by George W. Bush as the president begins the final year of his extraordinarily consequential tenure." Let's not forget Sean Hannity, himself, going to Iraq with Donald Rumsfeld in December 2006. In the three-part interview, WMD’s, looting, insurgency, Abu Ghraib, and infrastructure never seemed to enter Hannity’s mind, much less come out of his mouth.

Hannity also conducted a series of lapdog interviews with John McCain and Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign from which his then liberal co-host, Alan Colmes, was shut out of participating. Predictably, that record did not stop Hannity, quite possible the world’s wealthiest perpetual victim, from complaining about a lack of Republicans in the ABC show. “Why won’t they at least allow a Republican that is well versed on the issue to be there to counter some of the arguments that are being made?” Hannity whined.

Then, after Rove finished attacking ABC and accusing Obama of using the White House as “a PR backdrop for a Town Hall meeting for the president to push one of his agenda points,” (I guess there’s a world of difference between that and, say, landing on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit and declaring, about the Iraq war, “Mission Accomplished” nearly six years ago), Hannity changed the subject to Obama’s health care plan and almost immediately distorted the findings of the Congressional Budget Office.

“When we look at the actual numbers,” Hannity began. “36 million Americans will still remain uninsured.” But, as Media Matters points out, the CBO report did not address several provisions that are expected to be added later and which could have a major impact on the CBO's projections. Or, as a staffer to Senator Edward M. Kennedy said, it’s "an incomplete statement of an incomplete bill."

Don’t hold your breath waiting for clarification from Hannity, though. He's too busy attacking other media outlets to make sure his own measure up.