Discussing an amateur video that has recently surfaced showing a New Jersey high school teacher "screaming at his class and pulling the chair from underneath a student who refused to stand for the national anthem," criminal defense attorney and nationally syndicated Clear Channel radio host Bill Cunningham said that "we need more teachers beating people [students] about the face and head, especially on the derriere." After listening to Cunningham's remarks on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity greeted Cunningham as a "great American" and defended the teacher's actions: "[W]hat this teacher did would pale in comparison to what would have happened to me at home. ... No wonder why kids aren't learning anymore."
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, Cunningham told Hannity in November 2004 that the presidential election was over "because Elizabeth Edwards has now sung." Elizabeth Edwards is the wife of former senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards.
From the March 3 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
ALAN COLMES (co-host): Look, is it OK? Do you have a First Amendment right not to stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance or "The Star Spangled Banner"?
CUNNINGHAM: Alan Colmes, I think if you're a 16- or 17-year-old miscreant, and you don't know the sacrifices of American soldiers from Iwo Jima through Fallujah, if you have no idea what the red, the white and the blue stands for, I think to have the chair pulled out from under you is the least of what should happen.
And back in the good old days at Deer Park High School, Alan Colmes, the board of education would have met my derriere, and Ma Cunningham would have beat me about the face and head if I had done similar things.
And I think it's reprehensible that you sit there and defend someone like this who has no right to be a clown. That kid was a clown, and he got exactly what he deserved.
COLMES: I bet you were never a clown in school, huh, Bill?
CUNNINGHAM: Never at all. I followed the American way.
COLMES: Look, are you OK with the idea that a school, a government school, a teacher in a government school, could whack your child, could hit your child, could physically harm and without your permission as a parent? That would be OK with you?
CUNNINGHAM: No problem. In the good old days, back when AIDS was an appetite suppressant and when gay meant you were happy, back in those days there was discipline in public schools. But not today.
We need more of that old-fashioned religion, and we need more teachers beating people about the face and head, especially on the derriere. If we had more of that, believe me, we'd have less people thinking like you [Colmes].
COLMES: I can't even take you seriously, making comments like that. I mean, it's so absurd.
CUNNINGHAM: It isn't absurd.
COLMES: You know, there is a Supreme Court decision, the Barnette decision in 1943, West Virginia decision, that basically talks about a student's right not to recite the pledge, which would probably apply to this as well. You have a First Amendment right not to participate. You choose not to see that.
CUNNINGHAM: Alan, there's a principle in the law called loco parenti. And by that I mean it's a Latin phrase that means when the kid's in school, he does not have the same rights as an adult who's not in school. And the teacher stands in loco parenti, which means in the role of a parent.
I would ask you, Alan, if you had a kid acting like that, so disrespectful to the flag and to the anthem, would you mind if some teacher, doing his role as your -- as the parent of that child, so to speak, at school, would simply pull the chair out, not inflict any serious injury, not even a minor injury on the child, and tell that kid that America stands for principles of hard work and perseverance.
COLMES: I would mind, because what if the kid did have an injury? You don't know that a kid would not be injured when you pull a chair out. That's absolutely wrong.
CUNNINGHAM: He wasn't injured. He wasn't hurt at all.
HANNITY: Mr. Cunningham, you're a great American. Thanks for giving us a full report tonight. We love having you back, my friend.
CUNNINGHAM: Sean, you're a great American.
HANNITY: You know something? I want to tell you something. If you -- Hugh Hannity, God rest his soul, passed on a few years ago, my father, if he ever saw me mocking, ridiculing, laughing, taping, acting that way, cursing in that classroom, let me tell you something, what this teacher did would pale in comparison to what would have happened to me at home. And an apology would have been on that teacher's desk the next day.
No wonder why kids aren't learning anymore, Bill?
CUNNINGHAM: Sean, I went through a public school system. I assume you did also. And back 20, 30, 40 years ago, that kind of behavior was incredibly impossible, because of the cultural circumstances in which the students -- the fellow students would have so criticized that kid named Jay -- I don't want to use his last name -- because it would have been culturally unacceptable.
How come national shows, rightfully so, spend time on this? There's probably a kid in that class with straight A's who's a Boy Scout, who's not complimented. But the Alan Colmes and the Michael Moores would jump on the side of this miscreant and act as if he has rights and no responsibility.
HANNITY: Well, you know what's amazing? Look, probably it's better that a teacher doesn't have to yell like this in class, but I have no doubt this is a cumulative effort. That's why these kids are taping him. And has been pretty much setting this teacher up to act this way. They are purposefully provoking him and disrupting any opportunity that there might be in that classroom for anybody to learn anything.
And you know, but it's amazing that there is a backlash, Mr. Cunningham. And Bill, there -- parents are saying, "Good, good for this teacher. Finally, somebody is fighting back."
CUNNINGHAM: You know, Sean, how messed up is America today, when patriotism is criticized, and miscreants are applauded.
And I hope the students in New Jersey, the former home of Governor [James] McGreevey, who had his own difficulties -- I might add that Jersey, of course, is a blue state. We don't have these kind of problems in Ohio --
HANNITY: In Cincinnati, my friend.
CUNNINGHAM: -- Kentucky or Indiana.
COLMES: All right.
CUNNINGHAM: We don't have those problems in Cincinnati.
Alan Colmes, you have a good heart, but what's between your -- between your ears concerns me a great deal.
COLMES: I am not defending the child's behavior. I'm defending his rights. I do thank you very much, though.
HANNITY: Bill, thank you, my friend.