The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

20 August 2007

Sean Hannity Support For Rudy Giuliani, Dan Rather


Media Raises Questions About Sean Hannity's Rudy Backing

For ethical purposes, is a talk show host compelled to remain neutral during hotly- contested presidential primaries, just as we would expect from a television news anchor?

That's the assertion being made in today's New York Daily News, as FOX News commentator Sean Hannity's support for Rudy Giuliani is compared to Dan Rather's past political transgressions. Is that reasonable?

In the story, Hannity's presence at a recent Rudy fundraiser is seen as an in-kind contribution by FOX News toward the former New York City mayor:

It's no secret that Sean Hannity, the conservative Fox News commentator, has helped to raise Rudy Giuliani's profile - but now he's helped the former mayor raise money, too.

In a little noticed event this month, Hannity - co-host of Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" and host of a popular WABC radio show - introduced the Republican front-runner at a closed-door, $250-per-head fund-raiser Aug. 9 in Cincinnati, campaign officials acknowledge.

In so doing, some believe that Hannity - while clearly a commentator paid to express his opinions - crossed the line from punditry into financial rainmaking for a presidential candidate whose bottom line is now better for it.

"Fox's in-kind contribution to Republican politicians in the form of softball coverage is one thing," said Steve Rendall, senior analyst at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a left-leaning media watchdog group. "But this is the first time they have crossed this line into fund-raising."

More independent observers said Hannity's appearance underscored the blurring lines between news and advocacy and could be interpreted as a kind of endorsement.

"It signals within that brand of conservatism that they ought to vote for the guy," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communications.

Hannity declined to comment, but his bosses at Fox News Channel and WABC, flagship station for his national radio show, defended their marquee star by arguing that he's not a journalist and shouldn't be judged as one.

"Sean is not a journalist - Sean is a conservative commentator," said Bill Shine, Fox's senior vice president of programming. "Sean doesn't hide, and never has hidden, his beliefs from anyone."

Hannity isn't the first news figure to cross the line into fund-raising. James Carville, a Democratic consultant and CNN personality, has stumped for Democratic candidates in recent years.

And then-CBS anchor Dan Rather caused howls of protest when he attended a Democratic Party fund-raiser in Texas in 2001 organized by his daughter.

Rather - whose transgression was in many ways worse, since news anchors are expected to betray no bias in covering the news - immediately apologized.

But the dustup led to a public debate during which one Fox News colleague of Hannity's, commentator Bill O'Reilly, made it clear that he saw an ethical problem in attending political fund-raisers.

"Now Rather gave a speech at a fund-raiser, so money changed hands. I mean, I wouldn't do that," O'Reilly said on his own Fox show, "The O'Reilly Factor."

Hannity's leanings for Giuliani have been well-documented. The Hotline, a political journal, has noted that through July 15, Giuliani had enjoyed 115 minutes of free face time on Fox - more than half of that on "Hannity & Colmes." His airtime on Fox was 25% higher than any other Republican candidate, data show.

Can we count the number of ways this story is off the mark? First, Rather was a news anchor, while Hannity is paid to give opinions. While the piece admits that fact toward the bottom, why isn't this seen as a major distinction to the "experts" who were interviewed?

Second, Hannity's support for Rudy on his own time no more represents an official stance by FOX than Rather's appearances did for CBS. As a result, it's foolish to suggest that networks are providing an in-kind contribution.

Next, conservatives know how to think for themselves and aren't waiting for a "signal" from Sean before they decide which one to support. It's not like Oprah's book club.

On a practical level, however, there's a good reason why most hosts remain neutral: it can alienate listeners and viewers, who may already have strong feelings about other candidates. That's a good reason to stay out of the nomination fray and wait for the general election.

By choosing to support Rudy, Sean is risking potential anger from segments of his audience, but that's his call to make. He certainly hasn't crossed any ethical boundaries, however.

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  • Brain forgets the BIG point HERE,
    Rather never went on TV, with a "stop Bush express" and actually campaigned on the TV for Kerry......

    Hannity, for 2 soldi hours of his program dedicates it to "stop Hillary: all the while sucking up to the murderous thug, who killed 200 firemen on 9.11 by is ineptness Rudy.

    Rather, never campaigned on air
    Hannity, campaigns on air, every single day.

    No comparison between Rather and Hackity, ohh excuse me hannity

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 20 August, 2007 13:41  

  • It's no secret that Sean Hannity, the conservative Fox News commentator

    That single word is all you need to know...

    Hannity et al. do not pass themselves off as serious journalists. Commentators, editorialists, entertainers, yes. Journalists, no. What they say they are - and what they REALLY are- are partisan commentators who take a side on pretty much all issues, and defend or espouse that position.

    Dan Rather's problem was claiming to be a serious, balanced journalist but letting his own personal biases get in the way. To the point of using blatantly fake documents to "create" news.

    When the journalist BECOMES the story rather than the reporter of the story, the journalist is no longer a journalist.

    ...public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility.

    - Taken from the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics.

    Fair. Comprehensive. Thoroughness. Honest.

    That's the difference. Rather was not fair, nor comprehensive, nor thorough, nor honest in his reporting of the fake TANG memos. Meaning he violated the basic tenets of the SPJ.

    By Blogger Shanghai Dan, at 20 August, 2007 17:10  

  • Not to mention that the last time a radio host got whapped for this, it got repealed by the Washington State Supreme Court.

    John Carlson got whapped for it, and it got overturned. Nothing is going to happen on the federal level to Sean Hannity.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 20 August, 2007 19:32  

  • "Nothing is going to happen on the federal level to Sean Hannity."

    Could anyone have done anything to Sean Hannity, at this point?

    Would anyone have DARED to?

    All one needs to see are the photos from Bush's satanic little "briefings" with the neocon talk show hosts in the White House to understand that conservative talk show hosts are immune now, and that conservative talk radio is government-sponsored state radio now.

    Only the evil liberal is subject to crucifixion...

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 20 August, 2007 21:49  

  • hashfanatic: All one needs to see are the photos from Bush's satanic little "briefings" with the neocon talk show hosts in the White House

    What Kool Aide have you been drinking? Step back, get a grip, take deep breath it is everything is going to be OK. The hallucination will pass.

    By Blogger mdjohngolf, at 21 August, 2007 02:30  

  • You deny the meetings, with groups of conservative talk show hosts?

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 21 August, 2007 02:55  

  • Can it, hash. Clinton rented out the damn Lincoln bedroom and had his "coffees" with contributors that were attended by members of his bloody cabinet.

    Compared to that, having that pernicious little Long Island yammering idiot host a fundraiser is nuthin.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 21 August, 2007 06:02  

  • You think so, dumbass?

    You believe that bringing in these agents of filth and feeding them a pack of lies to deceive and mislead the American people?

    Now I regret using the word "crucifixion" brings the perfidious ones out of the woodwork.

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 21 August, 2007 19:34  

  • It's hard to like Hannity Claus if he's supporting a RINO like Rudy.

    By Blogger Psycheout, at 21 August, 2007 22:28  

  • Hey, Hash, when are your meetings with the local Klaven of the Klan? Who don't you hate? You Hate Israel. You hate blacks. Who don't you hate, Hash?

    By Blogger PCD, at 22 August, 2007 15:26  

  • I hate no one, fudgie.

    I'm filled with love, compassion, and hope for all humankind.

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 22 August, 2007 17:43  

  • psycheout=realbobanthony=patriot world

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 22 August, 2007 17:47  

  • Hash, you've left a paper trail of hate. Look at all the posts you made here hating Israel.

    Now you libs, you are the definition of Hypocrites. In SoCal, when Bill Press was chair of the CA Democrat Party, he had a show for 3 hours a week that was a running telethon/propaganda fest for the Democrats with NO balance from the GOP side. The station was KFI 640AM.

    By Blogger PCD, at 23 August, 2007 09:36  

  • Fudgie, look at all of the posts you've made hating Arabs, and hating your own countrymen (who happen to be progressives)...

    Show me a law that says criticism of Israel is not permitted.

    Talk about hypocrisy.

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 23 August, 2007 23:05  

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