Sean Hannity may have reached new lows in race baiting last night as first he used Rev. Al Sharpton’s call for peace and calm over a verdict in the George Zimmerman trial as an opportunity to racially smear Sharpton and then used the U.S. Department of Justice’s peace-making efforts to suggest that they were just stirring up racial trouble. This, as Hannity once again relied on Mark Fuhrman as an analyst in the case.
In a teaser, Hannity reported that Sharpton had gone on TV to urge protesters to remain peaceful. Hannity sneered, “There’s Reverend Al Sharpton going on TV, calling for calm? This Al Sharpton?”
Hannity then played clips of Sharpton acting every inch the angry black man.
Yes, this Hannity – the one who palled around with a white supremacist, who hosts the go-to TV show for race baiting against African Americans, who goes to bat for segregation and has a long list of bigoted buddies, including a guy who thanks God for slavery and likens slave ships to flying in a crowded coach compartment ("It’s a tough ride. But you’re happy when you get to your desitination") – is now accusing Sharpton of racial misdeeds, just when he is doing the right thing.
Long time readers may recall that I am no fan of Sharpton, mostly because he has given Hannity and Fox News a pass on their blatant bigotry. But only a guy looking for reasons to race bait would take Sharpton’s call for calm and use it to vilify him. Especially when you KNOW Hannity would be one of the loudest and most belligerent critics of Sharpton if he didn’t.
In the actual segment, Hannity again race baited against Sharpton. The segment began with Hannity saying, “Last night, Al Sharpton used his television program to call for peace regardless of what the outcome (of the trial) is. Now that’s pretty interesting considering Reverend Al was in Florida last year stirring up trouble.”
Hannity then played another clip of Sharpton as angry black man, this time calling out, “No justice, no peace!” with regard to the case, and surrounded by angry black faces and raised, angry black fists.
Local Fox reporter Valerie Boey told Hannity that the police chief in Sanford, Florida (where the trial is) does not expect any trouble and that he’s been “going around, door to door, promoting peace.” She said that if there is trouble, people expect it will be from outsiders.
So Hannity used that opportunity to race bait against his two favorite targets: President Obama and Eric Holder. “Well, there were people, remember, bused in… and we learned this week that the Department of Justice had something to do with it.”
Well, not quite. As David Weigel reported in Slate, what really happened is that the Department of Justice sent some peacemakers in to do some community mediation during the inflamed period after the Sanford police turned over the case to the state but before Zimmerman was charged. Peace reigned and now the right wing is suggesting that the DOJ improperly advocated for an improper charge. And guess who's back to help out the "Trayvongate" cause? J. Christian Adams, the same right-wing finger pointer who helped Fox exploit the phony New Black Panther “voter intimidation” case.
Regardless of the Zimmerman verdict, you can best believe that Hannity and Fox News will continue to exploit the racial issues in the most inflammatory and divisive way possible - all the while painting themselves as the victims.
We can hope that Sharpton will finally step up to the plate and take on Hannity with even a fraction of the energy with which he took on Don Imus.
But don't hold your breath.
These guys are champing at the bit to see some kind of a riot break out. Rush Limbaugh distinguished himself today by cheering one on, saying “We haven’t had a good riot, a decent riot, in a long time”. They clearly want to see Zimmerman somehow walk away from this killing and they want to rub that in other people’s noses.
As I’ve said before, I don’t foresee that kind of thing, even if Zimmerman gets away with this – it’s more likely that we’ll see a couple of angry press conferences and some unhappy op-eds, but that’ll be it. But it’s just as likely that we’ll see Zimmerman convicted of manslaughter, after which you’ll see the parade of right wing pundits in a rage over the “injustice” of a man being found guilty after shooting a 17 year old to death.
The jurors will need to sift through a lot of distraction tactics by the defense – most of which having to do with the sidestreet of whose voice was heard calling out for help.
The defense has never been able to explain how this situation could have happened had George Zimmerman not profiled, followed, stalked and confronted an unarmed teenager who wasn’t breaking any laws. The defense has never been able to explain why Zimmerman disobeyed a police dispatcher to continue his behavior, or why Zimmerman did not identify himself to Martin as a Neighborhood Watch person. The defense has never been able to explain George Zimmerman’s many inconsistencies in his stories – such as how Martin could have jumped out of non-existent bushes, or how he was instantly attacked when the neighbors heard both guys arguing first, or how Martin could have been slamming his head into the ground repeatedly and holding his hand over Zimmerman’s bleeding nose and mouth when there were no marks or blood on Martin’s hands. The defense has never been able to explain how Martin could have grabbed Zimmerman’s gun when only Zimmerman’s DNA was on it – and when Martin couldn’t have seen the gun in the dark behind ZImmerman’s back.
In short, the defense has played a game of trying to paint Zimmerman as a victim, even without any proof of this, and they’ve tried to distract everyone in the room from the basic issue at hand – that George Zimmerman profiled, stalked and killed an unarmed 17 year old who was doing nothing more than coming home from the store with some snacks.
Much has been made about the charging done by the prosecution, which is really strange for the right wing. Normally, they’d be for throwing the book at a criminal defendant. This time, they’re very protective of Zimmerman – since they clearly agree with his killing of Martin. But it’s standard procedure for a prosecutor to go for the greatest penalty they can get. That serves two purposes – it gives them a fall-back position later on, and it shows the defendant that they’re serious. The usual result is that the defendant, seeing that they’re facing a real problem, will plead out to a lesser charge. In this case, someone’s been bankrolling Zimmerman’s defense – enough that he felt empowered to go to court, where the charges go up exponentially. I believe the prosecution always knew they could get him for manslaughter but went for 2nd Degree Murder based on his statements to the dispatcher. Had they just gone for manslaughter, Zimmerman could have tried to plea negligent homicide or something even flimsier.
I think it’s possible that the jury could acquit Zimmerman, but it’s equally possible that they’ll see past all the courtroom games and find Zimmerman guilty of manslaughter – which would mean that he could face 30 years in prison due to his having killed a minor and having used a handgun to do so.
It’s strange that the right wing media wants to ignore the fact that Trayvon Martin was shot to death when he had committed no crime but was profiled and stalked as if he had. The right wing meme the whole time has been that he deserved to die. If anything, this entire affair has been a truly sad day for the right wing – they’ve contradicted their own stated principles, they’ve taken openly racist positions, and they’ve gleefully enthused about riots in the aftermath of their behavior. This is the kind of thing one would expect from a bully in a schoolyard, not from people who want to be taken seriously as pundits and opinion-shapers. But maybe it reveals a bit more about who they are than they intended.