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African Americans Again Shut Out Of Hannity’s Discussion Of Affirmative Action Case

Reported by Ellen - June 30, 2009 -

White rights champion Sean Hannity completely shut out African Americans from both segments on Hannity last night (6/29/09) discussing the Supreme Court’s decision in the New Haven firefighters affirmative action case. The “fair and balanced” Hannity show first discussed the case with three of the plaintiff firefighters and their attorney (all caucasian except for one Hispanic firefighter) and then an all white panel of pundits. This was similar to Hannity's April “investigation” into the case that similarly excluded the civil rights perspective but did incorporate reporter Ainsley Earhardt’s freely shared opinions in favor of the firefighters. She also openly opined against the City of New Haven’s decision to throw out the results of a firefighters exam after no black test takers had passed. Predictably, Hannity not only used the Supreme Court decision to attack SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s legal judgment (she had signed the opinion overturned by the Supreme Court), he also used the opportunity to paint her as antagonistic to white rights, all the while invoking Martin Luther King. That’s the same Martin Luther King whose birthday Hannity repeatedly ignored, except to use the occasion to attack other African Americans. For Hannity, white is obviously the new black. With video.

Hannity crowed at the beginning of his show, “Justice today for firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut!”

Hannity repeatedly prodded the firefighters to portray themselves as victims of racial discrimination. “Do you think this is a case of reverse discrimination?” he asked enthusiastically.

Firefighter Matthew Marcarelli answered, “I think we view discrimination as discrimination... We were discriminated based upon our race just like African Americans were in the past... so it’s just plain old discrimination.”

That wasn’t enough for Hannity. He asked another firefighter, Ben Vargas, for his opinion on that question.

Vargas said he agreed with Marcarelli “completely.”

Later, Hannity announced to the crew, “You were denied promotions because of your race and ethnicity.” Which is stretching the truth, to say the least. As Media Matters points out in its post quoting the lower court’s decision, the dispute was over test results thrown out by the City of New Haven because of a racial disparity in the results.

From there, Hannity tried to prod his guests into attacking President Barack Obama and his Supreme Court nominee whose appellate court ruling on the case had just been overturned. But Hannity didn’t just use the case to attack Sotomayor’s legal abilities, he used it to race bait against her. First, Hannity announced that despite the fact that the decision was 5-4 (with a scathing dissent from Justice Ginsburg which Hannity forgot to mention), he said, “in essence, when you look at it, really, it’s almost 9-0 because even those in the minority found that the Second Circuit with Judge Sotomayor had really botched this case.”

Hannity continued, “You really were denied equal justice under the law. So that raises a question about... President Obama’s Supreme Court choice.” Speaking to firefighter Frank Ricci, Hannity said, “You’ve gotta have thoughts on her.”

Ricci demurred, calling it “a question for another day.” And despite Hannity’s repeated efforts, nobody else wanted to get into attacking Sotomayor, other than to criticize the Second Circuit decision.

So Hannity went at her on his own. “I think this is really an important moment for this reason. If we really believe in Martin Luther King (Hannity then turned to Vargas, the only Hispanic on the panel)... and we believe in this concept that we judge by the content of their character... and more importantly, you know, it’s a very dangerous job being a firefighter. Don’t the people of New Haven deserve the best, most qualified people and do you think that they would otherwise would have been denied that?”

Admittedly, Hannity has a valid point, but it’s also a valid point that the people of New Haven, which is approximately 40% African American, are entitled to have a firefighting force that looks like they do. Hannity’s remark assumes that just because the plaintiffs passed the test, they are the most qualified. Wouldn’t the best possible result be a diverse force that’s also highly qualified?

Hannity continued, “This is a very important decision in terms of fairness and equal rights and equal justice under the law.”

Hannity resumed suggesting that Sotomayor is antagonistic to whites during his “Great American Panel” segment, with a panel of three white people. “No equal justice under the law by Justice Sotomayor... We all agree... discrimination’s wrong. But haven’t we gotten away from the idea, Martin Luther King, judge people by the content of their character? ...If she had her way, these guys would be denied their opportunity, their American dream... They would be shut out, that door would be slammed closed because SHE thought, ‘Well, New Haven might be sued.’"

Panelist Bob Beckel correctly pointed out that that was not the case, that “(Sotomayor) ruled on a very narrow aspect of the affirmative action law.” Panelist Judith Miller agreed.

Hannity would have had a lot more credibility had he mustered up enough fairness to allow an African American or even an official from the City of New Haven the opportunity to air their views. Or if he ever mustered up enough concern for equal rights and equal justice for non-whites. When was the last time Hannity took up the cause of an African American being treated unfairly by the system? I can’t recall a single incident. I’ll bet the last one was during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.