Sean Hannity complicated the Trayvon Martin saga Tuesday when it was announced he was directly called by George Zimmerman - even as the shooter had broken off contact with his own defense team. The revelations came during a press conference in which attorneys Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig announced they were no longer representing Zimmerman.
In an age where legal matters increasingly are exploited by media for ratings or special access, Sonner lamented the bizarre turn the case took, saying "He's gone on his own. I'm not sure what he's doing or who he's talking to....I've lost contact with him."
Zimmerman's "astonished" former attorneys shared that Zimmerman was under severe stress and "is not doing well emotionally". It appears he may have turned to Hannity because he may have felt Hannity was uniquely sympathetic to his cause.
As we learned, Zimmerman not only reached out to Hannity, but special prosecutor Angela Corey. From the LA Times:
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The attorneys said they had not spoken with Zimmerman since Sunday. Since then, they said, they had learned that he spoke to Corey's office and to Fox News TV host Sean Hannity without consulting them, in an attempt to give his side of the shooting.
They said Corey refused to talk to Zimmerman without his attorneys' consent and Hannity wouldn't tell them what was discussed.
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The punditsphere lit up in response, with some saying Hannity should be subpoenaed in the case to reveal what was discussed. Hannity declared the conversation was off the record, but he did divulge on his radio show today that Zimmerman told him that the screams heard on the 911 tape were not Trayvon's but his own.
This sharply contradicts Hannity's his own claims that he had agreed not to discuss the conversation. On his TV show Tuesday evening, Hannity announced:
"He reached out to me and we spoke on the phone about his case, and I agreed not to report on the contents of that conversation"
But the same afternoon on the radio, Hannity sang a different tune, (also managing to mangle the English language):
"Was this a case of self defense? Was this a case, as Mr. Zimmerman claims - and I interviewed his father and I talked to him - that he was reaching for his gun and Trayvon said he was going to kill him. Or do we have any evidence to the contrary? And if we do, let's bring that evidence out, but in the meantime, we don't know what happened. And when people make declarative statements that he was killed because he was black, if I'm listening to that, you know what, I find those statements insightful ."
Hannity surely did not mean he sees insight in those statements, rather he used the invented word "incite-ful" there, a Palin-esque way of saying 'that which incites'. Later in the show, Hannity played a broadcast interview of witness "John" who described Trayvon on top of Zimmerman, but then reveals a question he had directly asked Zimmerman, with Zimmerman's answer, as follows:
"...Alright so it raises questions about the rhetoric of people, activists, the media, their coverage of this, the New Black Panther Party, and we continue now with Santita Jackson and Deneen Borelli. I did ask George Zimmerman if that was his scream on the tape. He said it was, Deneen."
Hannity has been using his platform for days to highlight the fact that the New Black Panther Party has put a bounty on Zimmerman's head, but Hannity also used the occasion to suggest ties between the NBPP and Obama's campaign. Hannity's assertions were handily debunked here by Mediaite, but it shows how Hannity has been exploiting the Trayvon tragedy to further his political agenda and sow seeds of racial division.
The NBPP has been universally denounced as racist hatemongers, including the original Black Panther Party who sued them over the use of the name, the Southern Poverty Law Center and even including Jesse Jackson, whose daughter Santita Jackson was on Hannity's show live as he blurted out the detail from the Zimmerman call.
Zimmerman, again showing he marches to his own drumbeat, likely gravitated to Hannity because he has been giving such an inordinate amount of attention to the New Black Panthers, with daily and sometimes hourly repetition of their threats.
The attention and publicity Hannity gives to the NBPP seems disproportionate relative to their actual size or influence, but follows a pattern of Hannity serially publicizing radical hatespeech by black fringe-dwellers.
Besides granting multiple appearances to an obscure pastor who said Obama's mother was a trashy prostitute, it was ironically Hannity and Fox colleague Bill O'Reilly who have given the New Black Panther Party their biggest platform over the years, including prime air-time on Hannity & Colmes in 2006 and on O'Reilly's TV show in 2007.
But Hannity knows what he is doing. Even as he does his part to stoke racial tensions over his airwaves, Hannity slyly blames heightened racial tensions in the country on Obama, for example not cracking down harder during alleged voter intimidation in 2008 in which a NBPP member brandished a nightstick at a polling site.
In fact, the DOJ had adjudicated the case by issuing an injunction against the individual with the nightstick, but the imagery of black thugs at a polling location is too valuable for Hannity to let go.
It's well-acknowleged that Hannity broadcasts in bias every day, choosing his guests and callers carefully so as not to expose himself to any tough questions or refutation of his claims. But this business of moving legal cases out into the court of public opinion is somewhat new.
When the ACORN "pimp" James O'Keefe was arrested, Hannity didn't announce or discuss the case on his show for days, treating it as a sensitive matter solely for the authorities, those involved and their attorneys.
But when the Trayvon story took center stage, Hannity found it a useful "balloon boy" type distraction to the embarrassing "prostitute/slut" scandal unfolding around Rush Limbaugh and Hannity, and the awkward advertiser backlash that has since left both shows with so many PSAs in place of ads.
As the Zimmerman case devolved into a media circus, Hannity gradually got more involved, tracking down Zimmerman's family members while milking the notion that premature charges of racism by black leaders in the early going (including Obama's statement), could be flipped around to make them seem like the racists.
Add in Hannity's prediction today that we are headed for serious racial conflict, his "take our country back" dog-whistle promos, the violent rhetoric of the New Black Panther Party and the spurious connections made between Obama and any number of radical black extremists, and you have exactly what we don't need today - abuse of public airwaves for the purpose of self-promotion, ratings, profits and the proliferation of sensationalized, biased reporting counter to the prevailing public interest.
(OpEdNews Contributing Editor since October 2006) Inner city schoolteacher from New York, mostly covering media manipulation. I put election/finance reform ahead of all issues but also advocate for fiscal conservatism, ethics in journalism and (more...)