Hannity & Colmes continues to feature Bush "converts," distorting picture of electorate

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

In describing guest Ronald Kessler, author of A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush, on the August 9 edition of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, co-host Alan Colmes asked, "[W]hat is it about [President] George W. Bush that converts Democrats to Republicans?" Kessler's appearance followed other Bush "converts" who have appeared on Hannity & Colmes in recent weeks, providing a misleading picture of the attitudes and preferences of Democratic voters.

As the title of his book (which is included in the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign's suggested reading list) indicates, Kessler said on Hannity & Colmes that he voted for Democratic candidate Al Gore in 2000 but now supports Bush because of his "character." On the show, Kessler dismissed questions about Bush's military service and the Patriot Act as too "silly" to "waste my time."

On the previous show, August 6, the program featured Randy Kelly, the Democratic mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, who also supports Bush. Kelly argued that the United States needs "continuity in the White House" in order to best deal with the war on terror and the economy. Co-host Sean Hannity, who has been known to use Republican talking points to attack Democrats, responded to Kelly's remarks by stating, "Mr. Mayor, thank you for your intellectual honesty and lack of partisanship. It's actually refreshing. Thanks for being with us."

A frequent guest on Hannity & Colmes in recent months has been Senator Zell Miller, a Democrat who has endorsed Bush for reelection. On his most recent appearance (July 28), Miller described the Democratic National Convention as "the greatest illusion that I think anyone has ever come up with," and joined Hannity in echoing GOP talking points that distort Kerry's record on defense spending, asserting that Kerry "voted against every weapons system that we needed to win the Cold War."

The real "illusion" was not, as Miller asserted, the Democratic Convention but, rather, the false impression of Democratic voting preferences created by the collective appearances of Kessler, Kelly, and Miller on Hannity & Colmes. The truth is that available polling shows that Bush has not won over Democrats in significant numbers. Indeed, in a National Public Radio poll taken July 18-20 (prior to the convention), Kerry led Bush 46 percent to 44 percent in the swing states won by Bush in 2000 (though the difference is within the poll's margin of error). And in swing states decided by less than 5 percent in the 2000 presidential election, Kerry led Bush 49 percent to 43 percent. Further, according to a Newsweek poll conducted July 29-30, only 8 percent of registered Democrats support Bush for reelection (7 percent of registered Republicans support Kerry). A CBS News poll from July 30-August 1 indicates that only 12 percent of Democrats approve of "the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president."

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