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Hannity Decides, Then Reports, On Weekly Standard Reporter's Fall

Reported by Alex - January 14, 2010 -

Last night (1/13), echoing accusations ricocheting around the rightwing blogosphere, Sean Hannity stated that Weekly Standard reporter John McCormack was “shoved to the ground by a Democratic operative” when he tried to ask Democratic Senate contender Martha Coakley a question, and that Coakley stood by “watching the situation unfold and doing nothing.” Unfortunately for Hannity, the testimony of John McCormack himself on Hannity places a question mark over exactly what did happen. With video.

Hannity opened the segment with a clip of McCormack asking Coakley if she stood by her “statement” that there are “no terrorists” in Afghanistan. She rightly refused to answer the loaded question, which was based on a cropped video circulating in rightwing-world and shown recently on Fox “News”. (Priscilla unspins that story here.)

Next, Hannity displayed this photo -


- based on which he, in lockstep with the entire rightwing echo-chamber, concluded that Coakley saw the entire incident and stood there impassively watching an act of violence being committed by her staffer, Michael Meehan, and did nothing.

Later Hannity showed the edited videotape of the incident (first video, 00:02:01). In this clip the chyron partially blocks the view of the moments leading up to McCormack’s fall, making it impossible to determine exactly what happened. This is the same clip that featured on countless right-wing websites last night – hours before Hannity aired - and from which all of them - independently, of course! drew the conclusion that McCormack was deliberately pushed to the ground.

When Hannity asked McCormack for his version of events, McCormack was less sure than his host and it stands to his credit that he refused to say that he had been deliberately pushed to the ground by Michael Meehan (read his description of the incident in his Weekly Standard article here). When asked by Hannity about Meehan’s statement that he “clearly did not mean to cause John McCormack to trip and fall over that low fence” – Hannity’s exact words were, “Did you trip, or were you pushed?” – McCormack replied, “He knocked into me, which sent me into the fence, which sent me to the ground…so whether he intended to knock me into an area without a fence, that may be true…but the fact is, he knocked into me and I ended up on the ground because of it.” He continued, “…before I knew it, I got knocked into on my right side…I think it might have been a head-check, I’m not exactly sure how he hit me…and then he actually helped me up…in my view he was feigning concern… he continues to push up against me aggressively.”

Returning to the photo (above), Hannity claimed that Martha Coakley’s statement that she is not privy to the facts surrounding the incident is “disingenuous” because “we have that picture of her looking right at you on the ground.” McCormack replied that Coakley had been walking a little ahead of him and that she probably hadn’t been aware of the incident until she heard the clanging of the metal barrier falling to the ground and turned around – by which time McCormack would have been on the ground and, as can be seen in the photo, Meehan was reaching down to help him up.

In order to try to determine exactly what happened I located a copy of the entire, unedited and unobstructed video (second video, below). After viewing the relevant section close to two dozen times both full-speed and frame-by-frame, it appears that Meehan did knock into McCormack, but whether he intended to knock the Weekly Standard reporter to the ground is unclear. He may have shoved him out of the way in order to reach Coakley himself; he may have shoved him sideways in order to get him away from the candidate; or he may indeed have shoved him sideways knowing that McCormack’s momentum would cause him to fall over the fence, which, it goes without saying, would have been a completely unacceptable act.

It is clear from the videos that Meehan was physically aggressive with McCormack in his attempt to keep him away from Coakley, but it also appears that McCormack was pursuing the candidate aggressively too. This isn’t the first time McCormack has been in such a scuffle: the Dede Scozzafava campaign called the cops on him last October during the infamous battle (featuring the eventual loser, teabag candidate Doug Hoffman) for the NY-23 congressional seat.

What the whole truth is, is unclear despite repeated viewing of both videos. But one thing is very clear: Hannity had his mind made up – or made up for him by the rightwing meme machine - long before he began the interview. Hannity don’t need no stinkin’ facts. He decides, then reports.

Now you decide: View the two videos (the transcript for the Hannity vid is here) and share your thoughts on what really happened on the comment thread. Comments on other aspects of the Hannity/McCormack interview are most welcome – and there are some rich pickings, believe me.

Video from Hannity ,1/13/10

Uncut video - double click center icon at lower right for full screen view