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Sean Hannity and Michael Reagan’s Tasteless, Racially Insensitive Smear Of Coretta Scott King’s Funeral

Reported by Ellen - February 8, 2006

Is there anything more tasteless than smearing a funeral? Last night (2/7/06) on Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity and Michael Reagan did it twice – first with Coretta Scott King and then Paul Wellstone.

Hannity and Reagan’s so-called justification was the fact that the King mourners dared to voice their disapproval of Bush Administration policies in front of President Bush. If the fact that we live in a democracy that is supposed to welcome that kind of speech isn’t enough to dissuade the conservative big-mouths, then respect for the dead should. Instead, Hannity and Reagan showed the very same lack of character, consideration and class that they accused the mourners of.

The discussion opened with a clip of two of the King eulogists. The first was a Rev. Joseph Lowery saying, “We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there but Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.” He received a standing ovation while he spoke.

Next, we saw Jimmy Carter saying that the Kings’ efforts to change society were not appreciated by the government, that their civil liberties were violated as they became the victims of secret government wiretapping. Carter got a big round of applause.

Alan Colmes started the discussion by saying that many Republicans thought the event was “too overtly partisan.” Colmes told Reagan that the funeral didn’t seem so overtly partisan to him, that maybe the Republicans “are feeling a little sensitive, a little vulnerable now that things are not going well for the president.” He added that what was said “certainly makes sense in the context of Martin Luther King’s life. And it certainly relates to what’s gong on today, so what’s the big deal?”

Reagan, with his usual sneer, insisted that Bush’s wiretapping of Al Qaeda bore no similarity to the wiretapping of King. (Comment: How does he know? Nobody knows whom Bush has wiretapped.) Demonstrating that he was more interested in partisanship than in honoring Mrs. King, Reagan said, “If you don’t see a problem in what happened today, this is why your party is out the White House, the Senate and the House.” Reagan lost his smirk when Colmes interrupted to voice his disapproval that Reagan was attacking the Democratic Party, which had nothing to do with the funeral. So Reagan attacked Jimmy Carter instead, complaining that he played the race card by talking about “the faces of Katrina.”

Hello! They were at a funeral of a civil rights icon! Were the eulogists supposed to submit their speeches to the RNC to make sure they passed muster with Reagan and Hannity? “You don’t do what he did at a funeral,” Reagan insisted. “What about people in the Gulfport? What about people in Biloxi? There were a lot of white people that were put out, too.” Comment: What about the King family and friends? Aren’t they the ones the funeral was for?

When it was Hannity’s turn, he immediately showed a lack of respect for the King family and the mourners by denigrating their political beliefs. Speaking to the other guest, Democratic strategist Michael Brown, Hannity declared with his usual dramatic flourishes, “Let me remind you, Michael, that no president has ever put more African-Americans in more prominent positions of power. This president! No other president has come close!” In other words, even if the King mourners don't agree with Bush's policies, they should support him because he appoints more Blacks.

Hannity used that as a launch pad to go after other African-Americans. “The attacks by the NAACP, with the James Byrd ad were some of the most despicable race ads in our future (sic)… This is a woman who – we’re supposed to celebrate her life. Can you not see attacking a president… is inappropriate? Can you not see the lack of decency in that?” Apparently, Hannity could not see the lack of decency in attacking an institution highly esteemed by the civil rights community on an occasion honoring a great civil rights leader. Nor did he see a lack of decency in criticizing what mourners choose to say at a funeral. How would he feel if some Air America talk show host complained about was said at a funeral of one of his family members?

Brown, whom I have criticized in the past, put in a pretty good showing last night. He answered Hannity, “What I saw were people who loved this woman and loved what her and her husband stood for and have been fighting for their whole lives.”

Reagan jumped in, “You are truly blinded by your hatred.”

Brown answered, “I don’t have any hatred. I have an understanding.”

Reagan, who wasn’t at the funeral (Brown was), claimed to know that the applause was not for Coretta Scott King but the statements by Carter and Reverend Lowry. Hannity self-righteously agreed. Comment: So what? Who was the funeral for? Not the absent Hannity and Reagan.

A short while later, Hannity, in another tasteless display of racial insensitivity, renewed his attacks on the NAACP, this time by browbeating Brown. “Was the NAACP ad racist, Michael? Was the NAACP ad that played the race card? Julian Bond last week compared Republicans to wanting a Swastika flag. Was that racist? Was that? That’s last week. You don’t have the courage to correct anybody in the NAACP. Is that right? Julian Bond doesn’t deserve your criticism?” Hannity’s voice was raised, his finger jabbed and his face wore his customary bully-boy squint.

As they went into a break, Brown said that Republicans are being oversensitive about the perceived criticism at the funeral.

“And probably for good reason,” Colmes added dryly.

After the break, it was time for Hannity to smear Senator Paul Wellstone’s funeral, too. “Now remember, it’s not the first time Democrats have turned a memorial service into an opportunity to attack Republicans.” He played some clips from the Wellstone memorial.

Brown, who was never flustered by Hannity, said that both funerals were full of emotional people and “there’s nothing wrong with that.”

As the segment ended, Michael Reagan took one more jab at the mourners. “Today they tried to turn it into a political event…”

Hannity interrupted, “That’s sad.”

“…The president of the United States had class. He stood, he applauded and he was there to honor Coretta Scott King. It’s interesting that he was there because of the character of Coretta Scott King and the people who spoke lacked the character that Martin Luther King spoke of.”

But Brown got in the last word. “They’re standing up for that character and for that legacy. We should applaud them for that.”

Comment: Can there be any doubt that if Martin Luther King were alive and practicing civil disobedience against the Bush Administration today, he would be trashed by Hannity and Reagan just as hard (or harder) as Mrs. King’s mourners?

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