No one will ever accuse Sean Hannity of being fair and balanced, but earlier this week he took his support of Republicans to a new level – blatantly using his program to help his buddy, and former colleague, John Kasich fundraise for his Ohio Governor race.
The problem is not what Hannity did. It is that Fox News allowed it to happen.
David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun has an excellent column up about the interview. “There isn’t a reputable mainstream newspaper in the country that lets its editorial page be used for partisan fund raising,” he wrote. “What Hannity allowed Kasich to do on his show Thursday crosses the line as to what’s acceptable for any news organization, and we all know it isn’t the first Hannity time has done this.”
What Hannity did was give Kasich, who worked for Fox News (even filling in occasionally for Hannity) until he started running for Governor of Ohio, a major platform to talk to potential donors. It was a response to Pres. Barack Obama‘s involvement in the race, which admittedly is major. But unlike a simple interview, the exchange devolved into this:
Kasich: People can come on our website at KasichforOhio.com. Sunday night at 6:30. We’re going to talk about the damage the Obama agenda has done to us. And if you have extra nickels or dimes please send it our way.
Hannity: I want to put some emphasis on this because this is really important. Explain to people why we cannot afford to lose that race?
Putting aside the use of the word “we”, I want to point out again this is not Hannity’s fault. Sean Hannity does not mask who he is – his show is the most obvious political talk show on television. He is a hybrid of establishment and tea party Republican talking points (maybe more tea party than establishment this year), set to fancy graphics and rock music, throw in a football, rinse, repeat. He doesn’t bring the sometimes surprising positions of Bill O’Reilly, or the ‘bigger than politics’ mentality of Glenn Beck (he also didn’t mention Beck’s mostly apolitical rally). He’s the show that candidates can go to when they want to complain about the “national media.”
Fox News knows this just like everyone else. And they are to blame for what occurred Thursday night with Kasich. Hannity has already been publicly rebuked this year for getting too close to a tea party event, forcing his bosses to call in an audible at the last second and send the host back to New York. Fox News does do news during hours they claim to be news (9amET-4pmET, and 6pmET-8pmET). But the other hours cannot be infomercials for the GOP, or else the entire organization can and should be blamed.
In a way, this Kasich race is Ohio is a test run for how Fox News will handle 2012. Right now they employ three potential presidential candidates (Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich), and questions are already being raised regarding how the network will handle very difficult and important ethical decisions. For what it’s worth, I only believe one will end up running – but even if others don’t run, they could come out in strong support of a certain candidate. If FNC allows these major players to roam free of basic levels of journalistic integrity, it will taint the entire news outlet.
As of now, Fox News has not weighed in on this particular Hannity segment. We’ll see if anything changes as the election nears closer. Here’s the video, from Fox News:
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