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Racial Insensitivity On Hannity & Colmes

Reported by Ellen - August 31, 2005

In the middle of Hannity & Colmes' hour-long coverage of Hurricane Katrina, whose damage was described by The Washington Post as "staggering," Sean Hannity suddenly fixed on the "big, big problem" of looting in New Orleans.

The Washington Post summed up Katrina's devastation this way:

As a human tragedy, Katrina's magnitude is still difficult to comprehend, but spare statistics hint at it: tens of thousands of homes destroyed; 2.5 million people without power; a death toll running into dozens and possibly scores.

The rescue and relief effort over the coming weeks and months will have to address not only physical damage that may reach into the tens of billions of dollars, but also the peril to public health. In a major American city whose neighborhoods and streets are now submerged under water befouled by garbage, gas and debris, and whose hospitals -- if they have not been evacuated -- are overflowing, the authorities could have their hands full maintaining a decent level of public health.

In such a dire situation, one might think that looting paled by comparison. But not to Hannity.

Hannity introduced an interview with Charles Foti, Louisiana Attorney General, and a former New Orleans sheriff, by saying, "This morning, cameras caught people ransacking a grocery store, trying to gather as much food as possible." Nearly everyone in the video was African American. The video was show repeatedly throughout the hour.

After extending "our thoughts" to Foti, Hannity continued, "These images of looting have literally shocked the nation. How bad is it?"

Comment: I have not come across anyone shocked by the looting, but maybe that's just me.

Foti answered, "When you think about that you have no electricity, you have no food, you have limited water and the grocery stores are closed, that may not be looting. That might be self-preservation, OK? That food will go bad anyhow."

Hannity: "I think you can make that case for food. But I see people taking clothes and other items - and to a large extent televisions."

There were no people taking televisions in the video shown, although some did appear to have clothes and flowers. But mostly we saw people taking food.

Foti said his major priorities right now are to make sure the hospitals are running, to rescue people trapped on roofs, and to bring in food and water.

Hannity then accused Foti of "minimizing it."

Foti responded that he's not trying to minimize it. "The process that we have is that people are losing lives... The devastation in these areas is complete."

Alan Colmes pointedly asked if the officials didn't have many other priorities that had to take precedence over looting.

Of course they did. "They're in lifesaving mode now. It is more important to save life and THEN you go to the (unintelligible) of personal property."

It might have been enlightening to have seen some interviews with African Americans (New Orleans has a large African American population) or some kind of overview of what it must be like to be trapped in a flooded city without prospects of food and water. Did the storm affect poor people and African Americans harder than others? What is it like to be camped out in the Super Dome with thousands of other people without electricity, plumbing or air conditioning? It sounds terrifying to me. But none of that was deemed interesting enough to consider, much less to answer, on the air.

Also, if Hannity is so concerned about lawlessness and chaos, perhaps he should consider how much better the official response might have been if 40% of the National Guard hadn't been sent abroad.

NOTE: This is one of many instances where I have noted racial insensitivity toward African Americans by FOX News. Frankly, I don't understand why that community hasn't come out in force against FNC, especially in light of News Corp's recent "charm offensive" against Nielsen for its new electronic meters. Under the old paper diaries, FOX had higher minority viewership. Faced with lost ratings, News Corp has suddenly decided to champion minority rights by making the claim that the new Nielsen system undercounts them.

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