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Sean Hannity Misrepresents Arizona Immigration Law While Wrongly Accusing Obama Of Misrepresenting The Law

Reported by Ellen - April 29, 2010 -

There seems to be no end to Sean Hannity’s hypocritical, misinformed and misinforming attacks on liberals. But he may have reached a new low last night as he misrepresented Arizona’s new immigration law at the same time that he attacked President Obama for misrepresenting the law – even though Obama got it right. Will this be one of the “on-screen errors” that Fox News has “zero tolerance” for (a policy declared after a previous distortion on Hannity?) Don’t count on it. With video.

Hannity began by saying - unintentionally hilariously - "Whenever there is an opportunity to score some cheap political points, the Obama administration is never far behind… Like other opponents of the bill, the president is doing his part to spread outrageous claims about the legislation. Now take a look at the irresponsible comments he made at a town hall in Iowa."

Scoring cheap political points to spread outrageous claims about the legislation? That's exactly what Hannity was about to do.

Hannity played a clip of Obama saying, “One of the things that the (Arizona) law says is local officials are allowed to ask somebody who they have a suspicion might be a illegal immigrant for their papers. Now, suddenly, if you don’t have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you’re gonna be harassed. That’s something that could potentially happen.“

Hannity continued, "Now, clearly, the president has not read the bill because the only way that person at the ice cream shop could be asked for their papers is if they were arrested while robbing the ice cream shop. Now the law explicitly states authorities must have “legal contact before proof of citizenship is requested. But of course the anointed one, well, he didn’t bother telling the audience about that."

Unfortunately for Hannity, the one who either clearly has not read or has not understood the bill was himself. As PolitiFact notes, "In discussing these questions with legal experts, we found that everyone agreed that there's some gray area that will need to be sorted out in future court decisions. That said, the general consensus was that police could indeed stop someone even in the absence of suspicion that a crime was being committed." They rated a statement similar to Hannity's interpretation as False.

In fuller context, Obama said, "I mean, you can -- this law that just passed in Arizona -- which I think is a poorly conceived law -- (applause) -- you can try to make it really tough on people who look like they, 'might be illegal immigrants.' One of the things that the law says is local officials are allowed to ask somebody who they have a suspicion might be an illegal immigrant for their papers. But you can imagine, if you are a Hispanic American in Arizona -- your great-grandparents may have been there before Arizona was even a state. But now, suddenly, if you don’t have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you’re going to be harassed. That’s something that could potentially happen. That’s not the right way to go."

Clearly, Obama was not saying that any Hispanic going out for ice cream was likely to be harassed. He was saying that the police could decide they had reason to demand documentation when you least expect it and even when you are completely innocent. PolitiFact ruled on a similar statement, "that any police officer can stop anyone who appears to them to be reasonably suspicious of being an undocumented person" as Mostly True. The consensus among their political experts was that "the protections against racial profiling will have some effect, but that it is unlikely to be a foolproof barrier."

Uncharacteristically, the show decided to have two viewpoints represented, though, as usual, that was no guarantee of a truly fair and balanced discussion. The guests were Michelle Malkin and Francisco Hernandez.

I expected “I love racial profiling” Malkin to be on Cloud 9 over the passage of the Arizona law. But no, she was as much of a sanctimonious sourpuss as ever. “We’re unable to sift through who’s here ‘merely’ to do harm or ‘merely’ to do the work, so-called, that other Americans won’t do, which in itself is a big myth,” she sneered. Malkin did make a point of thanking and applauding the Arizona State Legislature and Governor Jan Brewer, albeit while scowling. But she had barely taken a breath before she added, superciliously, "I’m very sick, not only of the demagoguery on the left (as though Malkin engages in anything else) and by the country of Mexico and the government there, but also by a lot of Johnny-come-lately’s, including John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are finally understanding the gravity of the situation down there and now paying lip service to (she spat out the next words) save their own jobs."

Hannity once again misrepresented the bill while accusing Obama of misrepresenting the bill. "Now, if you actually read the bill, it’s impossible because – and clearly, the president hasn’t – because the bill very specifically states, as I pointed out here, that there must be prior legal contact, meaning there had to be some other law that were broken before one’s immigration status could even be questioned by the police department."

Either it was Hannity who had not read the bill or else he had misunderstood it. Neither reflects well on a news network supposedly dedicated to on-screen truth.

Unfortunately, Hernandez nodded in agreement with Hannity's distortion and also agreed that Obama was inaccurate. But perhaps Hernandez misunderstood Hannity. Because Hernandez' next statement seemed to mostly agree with Obama. “What (Obama) should have said... when local authorities try to enforce federal immigration laws, is they end up doing what’s called a MOAD arrest… Mexicans out after dark.”

Unfortunately, Hernandez did not seem prepared for the kind of bullying, browbeating and gotcha questions he got clobbered with nearly every time he tried to speak. So when Hannity “asked,” “If people do not respect our laws or sovereignty, do you have a problem arresting them?” Hernandez made the mistake of saying, “Oh, well, look, if somebody’s willing to walk across the desert for ten days so they can go clean our tables and change our linens so they can feed their family in Mexico, you can’t blame a human being for that.” Hernandez also answered “yes,” when Hannity asked if he’d have a problem arresting that person.

In other words, Hernandez was just another in what seems like an endless line of well-intentioned, liberal guests who seem to think – despite an endless supply of evidence to the contrary – that they're there to engage in some kind of exchange of ideas. And not understand the script of Fox News' political theater - where the host will almost always do his or her utmost to feed a liberal to the lions.

Michelle Malkin knew her part. She sighed theatrically as Hernandez spoke. And when Hannity predictably distorted Hernandez’ words to say, “What Francisco is saying, is that laws that were passed by Congress and signed by presidents – we should ignore them,” she was ready with another stream of preachy, condescending, contempt. Ms. I Hate Demagoguery refused to allow Hernandez to respond without interrupting him with even more condescending contempt.

Hannity never insisted Hernandez be allowed to finish his thought.

You can contact Fox News and let them know there's a new on-screen error they need to correct at hannity@foxnews.com.

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