Hannity falsely compared Obama replacing U.S. attorneys to Bush's controversial firings

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

Sean Hannity falsely suggested that President Obama's plans to replace current U.S. attorneys with his own appointees -- consistent with the practice of previous recently elected presidents -- are analogous to President Bush's controversial firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.

On the May 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity suggested that President Obama's plans to replace current U.S. attorneys with his own appointees are analogous to President Bush's controversial firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006. In fact, there is no comparison between Obama's actions, which are consistent with incoming presidents' practice of replacing their predecessor's U.S. attorneys with new appointees, and Bush's firings of his own appointees during his second term, which were characterized as "unprecedented" by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) in a September 2008 report.

During the segment, Hannity said: "[R]emember how outraged Democrats were when President Bush replaced a handful of his own U.S. attorneys? Now, liberals claim the prosecutors were unjustly removed for political reasons and argued that President Bush had no right to replace his own appointees. Well, get this -- according to the AP, on the very same day that Karl Rove is reportedly meeting with a prosecutor to discuss President Bush's decision, President Obama is one step closer to ousting a group of U.S. attorneys." Hannity later aired a clip of Attorney General Eric Holder stating during a May 14 congressional hearing, "Elections matter. It is our intention to have the U.S. attorneys that are selected by President Obama in place as quickly as we can." Hannity then said: "All right. 'Elections matter'? That's your reason? Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that considered politically motivated?"

As Media Matters for America has noted, in a March 23, 2007, Los Angeles Times article, David G. Savage wrote that the "pattern" of presidents' replacing U.S. attorneys upon taking office "go[es] back to President Reagan." From Savage's article:

But historical data compiled by the Senate show the pattern going back to President Reagan.

Reagan replaced 89 of the 93 U.S. attorneys in his first two years in office. President Clinton had 89 new U.S. attorneys in his first two years, and President Bush had 88 new U.S. attorneys in his first two years.

In a similar vein, the Justice Department recently supplied Congress with a district-by-district listing of U.S. attorneys who served prior to the Bush administration.

The list shows that in 1981, Reagan's first year in office, 71 of 93 districts had new U.S. attorneys. In 1993, Clinton's first year, 80 of 93 districts had new U.S. attorneys.

The report by the OIG and OPR, which explored the Bush administration's "reasons for the removals of the U.S. Attorneys and whether they were removed for partisan political purposes," found that the firings were "an unprecedented removal of a group of high-level Department officials." The report concluded:

In sum, we believe that the process used to remove the nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 was fundamentally flawed. While Presidential appointees can be removed for any reason or for no reason, as long as it is not an illegal or improper reason, Department officials publicly justified the removals as the result of an evaluation that sought to replace underperforming U.S. Attorneys. In fact, we determined that the process implemented largely by Kyle Sampson, Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, was unsystematic and arbitrary, with little oversight by the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, or any other senior Department official. In choosing which U.S. Attorneys to remove, Sampson did not adequately consult with the Department officials most knowledgeable about their performance, or even examine formal evaluations of each U.S. Attorney's Office, despite his representations to the contrary.

[...]

The Department's removal of the U.S. Attorneys and the controversy it created severely damaged the credibility of the Department and raised doubts about the integrity of Department prosecutive decisions. We believe that this investigation, and final resolution of the issues raised in this report, can help restore confidence in the Department by fully describing the serious failures in the process used to remove the U.S. Attorneys and by providing lessons for the Department in how to avoid such failures in the future.

From the May 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: And tonight in "Hannity's America": Now, remember how outraged Democrats were when President Bush replaced a handful of his own U.S. attorneys? Now, liberals claim the prosecutors were unjustly removed for political reasons and argued that President Bush had no right to replace his own appointees. Well, get this -- according to the AP, on the very same day that Karl Rove is reportedly meeting with a prosecutor to discuss President Bush's decision, President Obama is one step closer to ousting a group of U.S. attorneys. Listen to this.

HOLDER [video clip]: We are working as quickly as we can to put new U.S. attorneys in place. I expect that we'll have an announcement in the next couple of weeks with regard to our first batch of U.S. attorneys.

HANNITY: All right. I bet that's really going to get the Democrats' blood boiling. Hey, Mr. Attorney General, what's the reason for these firings?

HOLDER [video clip]: Elections matter. It is our intention to have the U.S. attorneys that are selected by President Obama in place as quickly as we can.

HANNITY: All right. "Elections matter"? That's your reason? Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that considered politically motivated?

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Sean Hannity
Show/Publication
Hannity
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