Sean Hannity appears to be hoping for a repeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning primary defeat, using his considerable influence as a conservative talk show host to promote extreme right-wing candidate Chris McDaniel in a runoff election for the GOP's U.S. Senate ballot slot in Mississippi.
Hannity linked McDaniel's race to that of Virginia's 7th congressional district, which ended June 10 in a surprise victory for conservative outsider Dave Brat. In Mississippi, neither Sen. Thad Cochran nor his opponent McDaniel received more than 50 percent of the vote in the state's June 3 primary, forcing a runoff on June 24.
Conservative talk radio's influence was undeniable in Brat's defeat of Cantor -- radio hosts like Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, and Glenn Beck devoted a significant amount of time to promoting Brat and took credit for his surprise win. On the June 11 edition of his radio show, Sean Hannity continued the trend, playing a full campaign ad for Chris McDaniel and hosting the candidate himself. Hannity referenced Cantor's defeat several times and praised McDaniel, who he previously endorsed, as a "solid conservative":
HANNITY: After last night's political earthquake a lot of people saying -- remember some have been predicting the tea party is dead, even though there had been a lot of success actually this election year.
HANNITY: I have always been very, very reluctant to endorse in primaries. Very reluctant. And I decided to get into this race and support Chris McDaniel because I see him as a solid conservative.
In addition to hyping calls for Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation, Fox News hosts have advocated for two of their own contributors to fill the position.
A preliminary report released by the VA Inspector General on May 28 substantiated allegations of VA officials falsifying records at the Phoenix, Arizona VA medical center, and found that at least 1,700 veterans waiting to see a doctor there were never scheduled for an appointment or placed on a waitlist. This review has prompted calls for Shinseki to step down, which right-wing media figures have enthusiastically promoted despite Speaker of the House John Boehner's refusal to demand the secretary's resignation.
But Fox was not content to simply call for Shinseki's resignation -- two prominent Fox hosts have replacements in mind for Shinseki, both of whom are the network's very own contributors.
During a May 28 interview on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly advocated for Fox contributor Colonel Ralph Peters to replace Shinseki. When Peters -- who has repeatedly defended Shinseki -- skeptically asked O'Reilly who would replace Shinseki in the event of his resignation, O'Reilly was quick to respond, "You!" to Peters' chagrin:
Fox News host Sean Hannity's attempt to blame oil spills from deepwater drilling on environmentalists rather than under-regulated oil companies was debunked by a news service that largely serves energy industry clients.
On May 22, Hannity spoke at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in North Dakota, a state that has recently experienced a boom in oil and gas production. Platts, an industry journal that specializes in covering the oil industry for those employed in relevant industries, reported in coverage of the conference that "Hannity did not know some important details about the drilling industry" including falsely claiming that oil companies were drilling in deepwater because environmentalists forced them out of shallower waters.
In the aftermath of the BP oil spill in 2010, Sean Hannity and other Fox News figures repeatedly claimed that BP was only drilling in dangerous deepwater because environmentalists had "pushed us out there." However, as Media Matters pointed out at the time and Platts is now reporting, companies were actually drilling in deepwater due to discoveries of large, potentially lucrative reserves there.
Platts also pointed out that a reporter challenged Hannity on his portrayal of the fossil fuel industry as a panacea for unemployment, noting that some states "such as Vermont, Georgia or Idaho, which have no oil production" while North Dakota has "naturally abundant resources" (North Dakota also has a very small population, making the impact of the boom on the unemployment rate unusual compared to the rest of the country). Hannity, who has been hosting fossil fuel companies on his radio show as part of a "Get America Back to Work campaign," reportedly replied that increasing oil production in some states would trickle down to other areas.
The Associated Press summarized Hannity's speech as arguing that "government needs to get out of the way" of the oil industry. However, investigative reporter David Cay Johnston argued instead that the government needs to get involved in North Dakota, where worker fatalities have soared because "preventing accidents costs much more than paying off the families of dead workers." An AFL-CIO study found that North Dakota has more workers dying on the job than any other state -- with a worker fatality rate "more than five times the national average" and "one of the highest state job fatality rates ever reported for any state." The study noted that "the oil and gas industry in North Dakota has been a major source of these fatalities" and that North Dakota's fatality rate has "more than doubled" since 2007, around the time that North Dakota's oil boom took off.
Conservative media outlets jumped at the chance to revive the long-debunked myth of a "death panel" provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by exploiting the serious investigation into problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration.
Right-wing media launched a dishonest attack on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by using reports of problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration to revive claims of "death panels."
The allegations facing the VA are serious and troubling and are largely the result of years of systemic issues. The Obama administration has worked to ease those problems, including reducing backlogged claims and beginning to transition claims away from the traditional paper-based systems that have largely been responsible for the backlogs. In 2012, the VA implemented the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), "a web-based, electronic claims processing portal created to give VA the ability to process Veterans' claims paper-free." According to the VA, the VBMS has allowed the agency to reduce the processing time from 272 days to 78 days. The Veterans Benefits Administration is now processing claims at a higher rate than ever before, although "the number of claims continues to exceed the number processed."
The problems facing the VA have existed long before the Obama administration. The Government Accountability Office has been reporting on backlog issues for years, such as this 2005 report that warned of "long waits for decisions, large claims backlogs, and inaccurate decisions." The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that "Since 2001, the number of claims received by the VA outpaced the number of claims completed" and noted that "the VA faced an increased demand because older generations of veterans continued to submit claims for injuries revealed by age, new veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan began to pour into the system, and the VA expanded the schedule of conditions covered to include PTSD and illnesses due to Agent Orange exposure."
While concerns over the VA are legitimate, the right-wing media have exploited the situation to launch a dishonest attack on the ACA, using the reported deaths of veterans to revive the long-standing lie that Obamacare creates death panels.
On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that individuals covered by the ACA are "headed for similar potential as these deaths in the VA." Sean Hannity similarly invoked death panels in a report on the VA on his radio show.
On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Eric Bolling claimed both health care systems are examples of "a big, bureaucratic, government-run health care system," concluding, "whether you believe it or not, Sarah Palin and a couple other people on the right said there will be death panels. There will be people deciding who gets what treatment and when and that's just gonna put long waiting lines on certain types of treatment. Well, if the VA isn't proving that right now, nothing is":
Fox News' Sean Hannity repeated a false claim by Fox commentator Karl Rove, who in baselessly implying that Hillary Clinton has brain damage incorrectly asserted that Clinton spent 30 days in the hospital following a fall in 2012.
Following reports that Rove questioned the recovery and health of the former secretary of state following a 2012 fall, Hannity parroted many of Rove's false assertions. Rove suggested that Clinton suffered from long-term damage after her fall and attacked the amount of time she spent in the hospital. During his May 13 Fox show, Hannity repeated Rove's false claim that Clinton spent 30 days in the hospital, asking, "whoever spends 30 days in the hospital these days?" Fox commentator Dr. Marc Siegel added that Rove is "on to something here":
Hannity repeated the factually incorrect attack earlier in the day on his May 13 radio show:
Both Hannity and Rove are incorrect about the duration of Clinton's hospital stay.Clinton spent four days, not 30 days, in the hospital after a blood clot was discovered in her brain several days after her fall.
UPDATE: During the May 14 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity hosted Karl Rove to "set the record straight" about Rove's smears against Clinton. Hannity acknowledged during the interview that Clinton spent four days, not 30 days in the hospital, as both he and Rove falsely claimed. But Hannity failed to acknowledge that he had pushed the false claim that Clinton spent 30 days in the hospital:
From the May 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the May 9 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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In recent months, Sean Hannity has repeatedly handed the reins of his national radio show to Dan Bongino, an active congressional candidate. During his guest hosting stints, Bongino used the prominent platform to promote his political views, send listeners to his campaign website and Facebook page, and encourage people to watch a campaign ad.
Bongino is a former Secret Service agent who left duty in 2011 to run for Senate in Maryland. The fact that he left the presidential detail during Obama's first term in order to run as a Republican immediately endeared Bongino to conservative radio and Fox News, though he drew criticism from his former Secret Service colleagues. After losing his 2012 Senate election by roughly 30 points, Bongino announced in June 2013 that he planned to run for Congress in Maryland's 6th district against Democratic Rep. John Delaney.
Bongino's campaign has since gotten a big publicity boost from conservative media outlets like Fox News, which has hosted him several times over the past twelve months. He's also been endorsed by Fox employees like Allen West and Sarah Palin. But perhaps his biggest ally has been Sean Hannity.
The media relationship between the two dates back to Bongino's 2012 run. In a Facebook post promoting an appearance on The Sean Hannity Show shortly before that year's election, Bongino wrote that Hannity had been a "good friend and great supporter to the campaign."
Since announcing his congressional bid last June, Bongino has been invited to guest host Hannity's three-hour national radio program at least five times (on August 22, November 27, December 23, February 20, and May 5). Bongino officially filed to run on February 21, 2014.
While he mostly avoided directly discussing his active congressional race, during Bongino's two most recent hosting gigs he railed against Democrats and touted conservative principles, both of which are naturally themes of his campaign.
Bongino also used the hosting opportunities to direct listeners to his campaign's Facebook page and his official campaign website.
For example, hosting the show on May 5, Bongino told listeners to "go to my Facebook page, give us a Like." Bongino's Facebook page is identified as the "Official page of Dan Bongino for Congress. Paid for by Citizens for Bongino," his campaign committee. Bongino asked listeners to "give me your comments on our ad." The same day, Bongino's campaign had released its first TV ad of the election cycle.
Talking to a show producer while on-air, Bongino asked, "you liked it, right? You thought it was good? Different, right?" She responded, "I loved the ad. It gave me chills." Bongino explained, "I like to do things a little different, kind of an outside the box operator here. But, yeah, give me a comment on it. I'd love to get your opinion. I promise, you haven't seen anything like it before."
From the May 2 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the April 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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The conservative media figures who lionized racist Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy made a feeble attempt at saving face by claiming this entire saga was never about Bundy, it was always about "land grabs" that are depriving hard-working Americans of their property rights. Yet some of these same figures have turned a blind eye to the actual land grabs taking place across the heartland of America at the hands of fossil fuel interests and the Republican state legislators that have supported their cause.
Fox News abandoned the rancher, and some of his most vocal cheerleaders in right-wing media distanced themselves from his racist remarks, while remaining loyal to his cause. "The ranch standoff," remarked Fox News host Sean Hannity, "was not about a man named Cliven Bundy." Instead, he argued, it was about average Americans being "victimized by eminent domain."
Bundy's standoff had nothing whatsoever to do with eminent domain, as he did not own the land that he was grazing his cattle on without payment. But the oil and gas industry, wielding the power of state eminent domain statutes, has actually snatched away land from ranchers in middle America.
If we take Hannity at his word that he believes himself to be the champion of average Americans whose homes have been threatened by land grabs, then one would imagine he's used his prominent public profile to help folks like Julia Trigg Crawford, a north Texas property owner whose land was unceremoniously stripped away from her control by TransCanada, the oil company pushing for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite Crawford's objections, TransCanada went forward with the construction and subsequent operation of the southern portions of the pipeline on her property thanks to a Texas statute that "grants eminent domain authority to pipeline companies that simply check a box on a one-page form." Her case is currently in court.
One would also imagine that Hannity has championed the cause of Raymond Hill, who had part of his land seized after he refused TransCanada's offers to buy his part of his land in east Texas because he wanted to preserve the peace and quiet his property offered. Crawford and Hill are just two of dozens of landowners in Texas whose property has been seized by TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
Instead, Hannity and others in right-wing media have been highlighting another bogus dispute in Texas over federal land that has been settled law for decades -- trying to frame it as the Bureau of Land Management trampling the rights of law-abiding Americans.
After right-wing folk hero Cliven Bundy was caught on camera delivering a racist tirade, Media Matters looks back at the conservative media figures who propelled him into the national spotlight.
From the April 24 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Radio host and Fox personality Sean Hannity hosted TruthRevolt.com founder David Horowitz to engage in an unimpeded rant that described President Obama as a "menace to American security" and accused Democrats and the "American left" of pushing the nation toward a modern day Holocaust. Hannity's promotion of the extreme figure may have completed his transition from conservative mouth piece to right-wing fringe promoter.
On the April 22 edition of his radio show, Hannity discussed the alleged growth of anti-Semitism around the world, comparing the phenomenon with Obama's purported support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hannity asked his guests, Horowitz and writer Joel Rosenberg, whether anti-Semitism in recent news stories had the potential of turning into a "modern day Holocaust." Horowitz replied (emphasis added):
HOROWITZ: I think that's exactly accurate. There's normal anti-Semitism which has been going on for thousands of years. And this Kansas City shooter, I mean he's a Klu Klux Klaner, he's a Democrat -- lifelong Democrat, Klu Klux Klan racist and anti-Semite. But he's obviously been encouraged. The irony of course is that he killed three Christians. Um, obviously encouraged by the American left. Max Blumenthal, who is the misbegotten son of Sidney Blumenthal who worked for the Clintons in the Clinton White House, has written a book filled with Jew hatred about Israel, which this guy read and cited as one of his inspirations. I actually pointed this out in a book I wrote about ten years ago. The alliance between the American left and the Islamo - I don't call them Islamo-Fascists anymore, they're Nazis. They preach the same doctrine that the Nazis did, they were allied with the Nazis during the second World War. The destruction of Israel, which is welcomed by you know, like I say normal anti-Semites. But after the Second World War, there was a certain intolerance towards these types of attitudes thanks to the American left which goes right into the White House. Obama is also responsible for this - attacking Israel.
After Rosenberg disagreed with Horowitz' claim of the growth of anti-Semitism in the American left, Horowitz retorted, "On the campuses across this country the American left is calling for the destruction of Israel. How can you say there's no anti-Semitism? The American left is the fountainhead of anti-Semitism now," concluding that it is only a matter of time before the left commits violence against Jews.