Less than a week before he was scheduled to speak to students at Washington University in St. Louis, ABC Radio Networks host and FOX News Channel host Sean Hannity -- who regularly casts himself as an "average American" while attacking Senator John Kerry's "elitist lifestyle" -- reportedly canceled the appearance because flight arrangements were not made to his liking.
According to an October 6 article in the Washington University magazine Student Life, Hannity "reportedly asked that the media not be informed of his motivations for the decision." The students who had coordinated the event -- who had raised $20,000 to bring Hannity to their campus -- described what happened:
Hannity cited personal reasons for his cancellation, said law student Ruth Hollander after speaking with the right-wing pundit over the phone yesterday. Hannity, Hollander said, requested a private jet to fly him to St. Louis for the speech, but then rejected "several" different jets offered by a private donor. He told Hollander about a "bad experience" with the prominent company that had manufactured all the jets offered for his trip.
"[Hannity's agent] said he thought we should say that because of the short time frame involved, it didn't work out," said Hollander. "I said I didn't think that was the truth, and...I really felt we had met all of our commitments and we were going to be honest when asked."
When Hollander and fellow law student Melinda Gorman failed to locate a jet manufactured by another company, they offered Hannity a first-class ticket on a commercial flight. He refused.
"He was very forceful on the phone," said Hollander. "It was hard to get a word in edgewise with him. He was interrupting me a lot."
Hannity's identity as an "average American" is an essential ingredient of his on-air persona. From ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
- On July 14, Hannity mocked Kerry for skeet shooting, saying "You know, there's no average Joe person that I know that shoots clay plates in the air. I just -- you know, I just, it's a lifestyle that I don't live."
- On August 4, Hannity ridiculed Kerry and Senator John Edwards for appearing at a Wendy's restaurant "for a light lunch with us common people."
- Also on August 4, while attacking environmental activist Robert Kennedy Jr.'s recent criticism of the Bush administration's environmental policy, Hannity claimed that "corporate America" creates "products that make life easier and better for all of us-- the average American out there, those of us that don't have the benefit of his [Kennedy's] lifestyle."
- On September 29, Hannity mocked Kerry for windsurfing, suggesting that "carpenters, electricians, regular folks" don't windsurf and asserting that "I know a lot about carpenters and electricians and plumbers, and I'm gonna tell you something right now that the ones I knew and worked with in New England ... were too busy working to find a little spare time to head off to Nantucket for the weekend and start windsurfing."
On the October 6 broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity attempted to explain the reason for his cancellation of the Washington University event, saying it was something "we didn't have enough time to fully and completely vet out and put together":
HANNITY: We had tried to do something similar for this Friday in St. Louis, and I know there was some press about it, and I want to apologize to all of you that were supporting our coming there to counter Michael Moore. It's just something that we didn't have enough time to fully and completely vet out and put together, and it went out frankly -- was advertised regrettably, prematurely, and it had not been solidified on our part in any way, shape, manner or form. ... I know some of you were looking forward to us coming and we just couldn't put it together. And I hope you understand because literally, just the credential-gathering process is a couple of hours of our day. We've gotta travel, we've got radio preparations we've gotta do, we got the three-hour show we're gonna do from St. Louis. We've gotta get on over, get the proper credentials so that we can get into the TV coverage for that night, obviously this Friday night -- and we just weren't able to pull it together for a lot of different reasons. And I just want to say I'm sorry and I'm gonna find a way to make it up to our St. Louis radio audience when I can get a spare moment.
According to his bio at Hannity.com, his official website, "Hannity grew up in Franklin Square, Long Island in the shadows of Manhattan. ... Sean Hannity is the hottest commodity in talk radio."