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Hannity And Luntz Distort Obama’s Health Care Speech And Attack Him For What He Did Not Say

Reported by Ellen - September 10, 2009 -

Sean Hannity seems to have a listening comprehension problem to match his reading comprehension problem. On his Fox News show about President Obama’s health care speech last night (9/9/09), Hannity and his guest, Frank Luntz, misinterpreted what Obama said about the number of Americans without health insurance and mischaracterized his statements about health insurance executives. After attacking Obama’s handling of the economic crisis with distortions and falsehoods, and following up with an accusation of socialism, Hannity complained that Obama’s speech was too harshly partisan. Hannity repeated this attack throughout his show yet he repeatedly ignored the partisan heckling by Republicans.

Hannity began the interview with Luntz by accusing the president of appropriating Republican “words that work” as his own during his health care address last night.

Luntz added, “I got one more for you, Sean. ‘There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage.’ Up until tonight, it was always 47 million.”

“Good point,” Hannity agreed.

“But what they realized,” Luntz continued, "is that they were defending health care coverage… going to illegal immigrants, that they realized they had to take them out of the pool. And so tonight, their number’s no longer 47. It’s now 30.”

Well, not exactly. It’s true Obama has talked about 47 million uninsured Americans but that’s a bit different from what the president said last night when he referred to “30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage.” Uninsured is not the same thing as not being able to get coverage, as the GOP’s own Republican Policy Committee chart shows. Going by their numbers, there are 6 million Americans “eligible for employer-sponsored insurance but not enrolled,” 10 million “eligible for government program but not enrolled.” Subtracting those 16 million who can get coverage from the 47 million of total uninsured comes pretty darned close to the number of Americans Obama says cannot get coverage.

Next, Hannity complained about Obama’s “tendency to go negative.” It’s laughable for Hannity, the guy who can’t seem to do a single show without someone calling Obama a radical socialist or likening Democrats to terrorists or Hitler, to be complaining about anyone else going negative. But when it’s not a conservative doing the insulting, Hannity’s feewings turn vewy tender. “When (Obama) said tonight that insurance executives are bad people. It took me aback because it was so harsh and, I think, unfair.”

Hannity was not only being a hypocrite, he was wrong. Hannity went on to play a clip of Obama saying specifically he did not think insurance executives are bad people. In the clip, Obama said, “Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly -- by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest, by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage, and by jacking up rates. Insurance executives don't do this because they're bad people (my emphasis); they do it because it's profitable.”

“What do you think?” Hannity asked Luntz.

Luntz finessed his answer by saying he thought Obama “was trying to demonize a segment of American society” and added that the strategy might be successful.

"Sensitive" Hannity went on to complain that the president’s speech was too partisan, a theme Hannity returned to repeatedly on his show. Hannity's concern about partisanship was completely one-sided. He never even mentioned the heckling and disrespect from the Republicans during the speech. “Did you think that (Obama) was too harsh… in his rhetoric, too much in almost political attack mode?”

Luntz finessed this answer, too, by saying that Obama had been inconsistent in his “conciliatory approach.”

For some reason the Fox News video of this segment, below, has Griff Jenkins promoting covering the Tea Party Express at the beginning. Luntz starts about a third of the way through.