NYT Claims Fox Host Hannity Abets 'Inflammatory Rhetoric'; Fiery Leftist PBS Host Avoids Criticism

New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter marked the 15th anniversary of Fox News on the front of Monday's Business section with a profile of host Sean Hannity, whose program has been a channel mainstay from the beginning: 'Victory Lap for Fox and Hannity.'

Stelter wasn't hostile, but did use something a guest said on Hannity's show to accuse Hannity of instigating 'inflammatory rhetoric.' But another Stelter story in the same section failed to criticize a left-wing figure, Tavis Smiley, who engages in truly inflammatory rhetoric from a secure public perch at PBS.

When the Fox News host Sean Hannity arrived at Centennial Olympic Park here on Thursday night, some of the hundreds of fans who had been waiting for him since sunset rushed to the rope line for handshakes and autographs. He obliged, then bounded onto a temporary stage two blocks from the CNN Center and asked them mischievously, 'Do you think it's any coincidence that the CNN logo is in the background?'

Knowing the crowd would get a kick out of it, one of Mr. Hannity's guests, the Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich, chimed in. 'That's gonna get them their biggest rating of the night.'

Mr. Hannity had come to Atlanta not to stick it to CNN - though that proved to be fun, too - but to take note of a remarkable anniversary in the city where he was plucked by Roger Ailes out of relative obscurity 15 years ago, when the Fox News Channel was born.


Mr. Ailes and Mr. Hannity share many of the same conservative core values, like a belief in American exceptionalism and an aggressive counterterrorism stance. Both have written off Mr. Obama as a socialist. Warming up his crowd on Thursday, Mr. Hannity asked, 'How many of you are voting for Barack Obama? Anybody?' When one man said yes, Mr. Hannity tried to toss him a football, an on-camera trademark.

'This is more than Barack Obama's given you,' Mr. Hannity exclaimed. Later, during the 9 p.m. broadcast, the radio host Neal Boortz called Mr. Obama 'a bigger disaster to this country than 9/11,' prompting condemnations by liberal critics the next day. (There is one or more liberal guest each evening, though outnumbered by conservatives.)

Despite the inflammatory rhetoric he instigates, Mr. Hannity is good-natured and humble in person, as interested in his children's tennis matches as in Mitt Romney's foreign policy positions. He rarely agrees to interviews, and when he did last week, he said he did not read negative articles about him, or even the friendly Twitter account all about his abundant head of hair. (A Fox hairdresser keeps tabs on the hair account for him.)

A double standard was evident in another Stelter story in Monday Business involving two left-wing figures, Princeton professor Cornel West and Tavis Smiley. Smiley hosts his own talk show on PBS, which this week is dedicated to the 'poverty tour' of eleven states this August by Smiley and West.

Stelter provided no left-wing or liberal labels, offered no criticism or critics, and suggested no blame for poverty could be laid at the feet of President Barack Obama, who has presided over this impoverished nation for the last 33 months.

While Stelter aired criticisms of Hannity, he completely ignored 'inflammatory' remarks by both Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, such as West's recent insult of Republican candidate Herman Cain, as reported by Media Research Center analyst Matt Hadro. West recommended that Cain, who is also black, 'get off the symbolic crack pipe," adding that Cain showed "mediocrity, mendacity, mean-spiritedness toward the poor, and now mean-spiritedness toward black people fighting for their lives in this very ugly economy."

Host Tavis Smiley earned the #1 slot in MRC's recent study, 'Counting the Reasons to Defund - The 20 Most Memorable Leftist Excesses of Public Broadcasting,' for his insistence in a 2010 interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a critic of radical Islam, that America has a problem with Christian terrorists: 'Oh, Christians, every day, people walk into post offices, they walk into schools, that's what Columbine is. I could do this all day long.'

From Stelter's Monday piece:

Tavis Smiley has described it as 'a call to conscience.'

An 11-state tour by Mr. Smiley and Cornel West, the Princeton professor, to raise awareness about poverty in America will be translated onto television starting on Monday. All five episodes this week of the PBS program 'Tavis Smiley' will focus on the subject, which is one that antipoverty advocates say is all too often slighted by television news programs.

Mr. Smiley said that many of the poor Americans he met on the tour feel the same way.

'They sense that they're being rendered invisible,' he said in a telephone interview last week. 'They sense that the focus has been on Wall Street, not Main Street, much less on the side street.'

Stelter managed to name three show guests, including left-wing economist Jeffrey Sachs and Kathleen Sebelius, Obama's health and human services secretary, without stamping an ideological label on them.

This paragraph would have been a natural place to try and elicit criticism of Obama's performance in office from the left-wing Smiley, but Stelter let the moment pass without any comment besides a promotional one.

Interest in the weeklong series might be lifted by the recent Census Bureau finding that nearly one in six Americans - 46.2 million - live in poverty, the highest number ever reported by the bureau. The finding was widely reported in the news media last month.

- Clay Waters is Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch site.