Confronted with the truth, Hannity refused to back down from debunked mouse, LA-Vegas rail falsehoods
On Fox News, Sean Hannity repeated the false GOP talking points that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act directs that funds be spent to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse in San Francisco and on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas. In fact, as Rep. Joe Sestak noted in response to Hannity, the bill does not contain any language directing funds to the salt marsh harvest mouse or its San Francisco wetlands habitat, nor does the bill include a provision directing that funds be spent on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas.
During the February 24 broadcast of his Fox News program, host Sean Hannity repeated the false Republican talking points that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009  directs that funds be spent to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse in San Francisco and on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas. In response to Hannity's false claims, Hannity's guest, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) noted, "Sean, that -- those words are absolutely not in the bill, and you know it. You may be reading them off the Internet, but those words are not in the bill."
After Sestak challenged Hannity to "try to name" an earmark in the bill, Hannity responded: "The salt harvest marsh mouse that gets $30 million. The railway from Los Angeles to Las Vegas: that is a pork project." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted , the bill  does not contain any language directing funds to the salt marsh harvest mouse or its San Francisco wetlands habitat, a fact that the House Republican leadership aide who reportedly originated the claim has reportedly acknowledged. Nor does the bill include, as Media Matters has noted , a provision directing that $8 billion in funds be spent on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas.
After writing that "there isn't any such money in the bill" for the mouse, The Plum Line blogger Greg Sargent reported  on February 12 that the "marsh harvest mouse" claim originated in an email from a "House Republican leadership staffer" who, when contacted by Sargent, "conceded that the claim by conservative media that the mouse money is currently in the bill is a misstatement." San Jose Mercury News staff writer Paul Rogers subsequently reported  on February 13 that Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), originated the claim and said that "[t]here is no language in the bill that says this money will go to this project."
Moreover, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace has said  that the claim that the bill had funding to protect the mouse has been "supposedly ... debunked."
As Media Matters has noted, the mouse falsehood has been repeated several times on Fox News , including on Hannity. Furthermore, other media outlets such as The New York Times , Fox Business Network , The Washington Times , and CNN  have advanced the same falsehood.
Furthermore, contrary to Hannity's false claim -- which has been pushed by House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH)  -- that the economic recovery bill directs that funds be spent on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas, the bill does not direct high-speed rail funds to any specific high-speed rail project. Furthermore, any funding would be allocated by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman.
The bill states  that $8 billion shall remain available for the "Secretary of Transportation" for "projects that support the development of intercity high speed rail service" and that the secretary shall "submit to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations a strategic plan that describes how the Secretary will use the funding provided under this heading to improve and deploy high speed passenger rail systems." The Joint Explanatory Statement of the Conference Report on H.R. 1 further states  of the high-speed rail program: "The conferees have provided the Secretary flexibility in allocating resources between the programs to advance the goal of deploying intercity high speed rail systems in the United States."
From the February 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
HANNITY: And that was President Obama, delivering his remarks to a joint session of Congress just a bit ago. And joining us now to give us his thoughts on the president's speech is Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak [PA] is with us.
You know, Congressman Sestak, I'm getting a little frustrated. He said in last week's $1 trillion-plus with interest, you know, massive spending bill -- he said there were no pet projects in it. We all know that's not true.
I have a list of the $410 billion omnibus spending bill. I have a list -- I'll start reading them to you, if you like -- of nothing but part of the 9,000 earmarks. How can you say with a straight face that this is not irresponsible spending when it's full of earmarks? Last week's bill; this week's bill being debated. Explain that to me. You're a Democrat. Help me out.
SESTAK: Absolutely. Sean, first off, you try to name me one -- one in the recovery bill of an earmark. Now, with a --
HANNITY: Got it.
SESTAK: -- 9,000 earmarks in this omnibus --
HANNITY: I got it.
SESTAK: -- bill -- just one moment.
SESTAK: There were -- OK. If --
SESTAK: -- you could, just answer this: Is -- there's 9,000 --
HANNITY: The salt harvest marsh mouse that gets $30 million. The railway from Los Angeles to Las Vegas: that is a pork project. That is reckless spending.
SESTAK: Sean, that -- those words are absolutely not in the bill, and you know it.
HANNITY: What --
SESTAK: You may be reading them off --
HANNITY: -- the stimulus --
SESTAK: -- the Internet, but those words are not in the bill.
HANNITY: Yeah, of course, because you hide it. But we know where the money's going. It's just like, for example, all-terrain --
SESTAK: Now, Sean, those words --
HANNITY: I'll give you another one.
SESTAK: Sean, if I could.
HANNITY: All-terrain vehicles --
SESTAK: Now, wait a minute, Sean, you're reading off an Internet type of thing.
HANNITY: I'm actually reading the bill.
SESTAK: You've got to read the actual bill, and I've read every word.
HANNITY: You know --
SESTAK: Now let's talk about the 9,000 earmarks.
HANNITY: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You know and I know that Nancy Pelosi's district, that these marshlands to help save the mouse, that's where that money's going. This railway for Harry Reid, these all-terrain vehicle trails, they're in the bill, Congressman. We're spending $1.3 trillion of our kids' money. Why?
SESTAK: Sean, I just don't want to mislead the public. Those words are not in the bill. Number two: We're --
HANNITY: But the money is earmarked for it.
SESTAK: No, there are not, Sean. Number two --
HANNITY: You sound like Bill Clinton.
SESTAK: No, I'm just telling you what the facts are, 'cause I've read every word of the bill.
HANNITY: "I did not have sex with that woman." They -- that is where the money is going, Congressman. Be straight with the American people.