On his radio program, Fox News' Sean Hannity claimed that The Washington Post is trying to "smear, besmirch, [and] demonize" Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert McDonnell (R) by going through "the great effort to dig up a graduate school thesis that he wrote," adding that a thesis "by design is supposed to be provocative" and that McDonnell wrote his "20 years ago." But during the 2008 presidential campaign, Hannity aggressively attacked Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton for college theses they wrote more than 20 years ago.
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Hannity sharply criticizes the Post for "dig[ging] up" McDonnell's thesis
He claims reporting on the thesis is an effort to "smear, besmirch, demonize" McDonnell and "impact that election." Hannity was referring to an August 30 Post article about controversial views McDonnell expressed in his 1989 master's thesis at CBN University, which was founded by Pat Robertson and named after his evangelical Christian Broadcasting Network; the university has since been renamed Regent University.
From the September 2 edition of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
HANNITY: By the way, we've got to watch out, folks. We've been telling you about the lead that Bob McDonnell has in the state of Virginia; that lead is now cut in half. There's been an all-out war declared by The Washington Post against Bob McDonnell, a solid conservative. And the effort to smear, besmirch, demonize, and impact that election is under full way here, and a lot of this has to do -- well, they went through the great effort to dig up a graduate school thesis that he wrote, and they're claiming that, well, he's saying that "homosexuality, working women, and abortion are detrimental to traditional American families."
McDonnell has repudiated much of the thesis during a conference call with reporters, but it doesn't matter. I mean, it's OK, that was, let's see, 20 years ago, we'll go back to opinions that he might have held at a time when he's writing a thesis, which by design is supposed to be provocative, and yet they're not holding Barack Obama accountable to the pastor whose church he still went to throughout the campaign until he had to get rid of the pastor. America's chickens have come home to roost, U.S. of KKK --
JEREMIAH WRIGHT [audio clip]: The chickens are coming home to roost.
HANNITY: Now if they put the same energy into -- into investigating Barack Obama, I wonder if we would have had a different result in that election? You see how abusively biased the media can be? It's unbelievable.
But Hannity touted Obama and Clinton theses as purported evidence of their extremism
Hannity distorted Michelle Obama's 1985 thesis to claim she has divisive views of race. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Hannity repeatedly distorted Obama's 1985 senior thesis from Princeton University, suggesting that she was asserting her own views when she wrote that "[i]t is possible that Black individuals either chose to or felt pressure to come together with other Blacks on campus because of the belief that Blacks must join in solidarity to combat a White oppressor." As the context of the quote makes clear, however, she was purporting to document attitudes among black Princeton alumni who attended the school in the '70s and not expressing her own opinions. Hannity employed this distortion at one point to ask, "Do the Obamas have a race problem of their own?"
Hannity suggested Hillary Clinton's 1969 thesis on Saul Alinsky "exposes the real Hillary Clinton." From the July 1, 2007, edition of Fox News' Hannity's America:
HANNITY: Chapter six, the thesis. It's a 38-year-old document that's been rumored about, analyzed, debated, criticized, and defended. Until recently, few have read it because it was hidden away at the request of Bill Clinton's administration for the eight years he was in office.
These 90 pages, steeped in intrigue and mystery, are the senior thesis of Hillary D. Rodham, Wellesley College class of 1969. Hillary's thesis, elevated to mystical status from years of secrecy, is now available to anyone inclined to visit Wellesley's archives.
It begs the question: Why was it so important to the Clintons to keep it a secret. How can the words of a 21-year-old political science major be so damaging and explosive? And most importantly, why did the Clintons ask Wellesley College to hide the thesis in 1993?
Once dubbed a Rosetta Stone, the answer may lie in the fact that it exposes the real Hillary Clinton. In her own words, it allows readers to decipher the true thinking of the former first lady and now 2008 presidential hopeful.
HANNITY: What's the real reason behind the Clintons' desperate attempt to have it banned? Many biographers see it as evidence of the Marxist and socialist views of the young Hillary Rodham -- views that she tries to downplay depending on the political winds but clearly maintains today.
As Media Matters for America documented, later in the program Hannity purported to rebut those who "argue that a college paper written almost 40 years earlier can't decode a candidate's politics or beliefs" by distorting a speech Clinton had recently given. Hannity cropped Clinton's remarks to claim she "blasted the free market," but in remarks from the same speech that Hannity did not air, Clinton said, "[T]here is no greater force for economic growth than free markets." Hannity concluded that while "the Clinton campaign wants you to believe" that the thesis and Clinton's purported ties to radicals are "ancient history," Clinton is "[c]learly following in the path of Alinsky and others like him."