Fox News’ Sean Hannity once compared the Black Lives Matter movement to the Ku Klux Klan and suggested BLM leaders shouldn’t be allowed to moderate a Democratic town hall, because of their supposed bias. Despite his history of racially charged rhetoric, the conservative media host is scheduled to co-moderate a town hall with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump Wednesday evening on issues affecting Black voters.
The town hall event tonight, which will be broadcast from Cleveland, Ohio, is slated to focus on the “core issues and concerns surrounding African-Americans,” according to Politico.
But how can Hannity fairly moderate an event on issues of concern to Black communities? The countless examples of the Fox News host’s often extreme and controversial claims about people of color and issues pertaining to race include exclaiming “all lives matter” at protesters during a previous town hall on immigration, calling the Black Lives Matter movement racist, suggesting that the lesson from Freddie Gray’s death is not to run from cops, and downplaying police violence against Black men by pointing to misinformation on “black on black crime.”
In May, when a caller to his radio program told him he would “never understand what it means to be Black in America …. how we are policed and how you are policed,” Hannity even went as far as to deny that Black people face systemic discrimination at the hands of the police.
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“I can tell you a fact—that if you don’t do things that are wrong, if you’re not part of a gang, you’re not robbing, you’re not stealing, you’re not selling drugs, you’re not using drugs, you’re not violent, you’re not involved in any trouble, guess what’s going to happen? Nothing,” said Hannity. “And I don’t care what neighborhood you live in. If you stay out of trouble, obey the laws, pay your taxes, you are going to be fine.”
Nevermind the court ruling finding that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy was a “policy of indirect racial profiling”; the Department of Justice’s investigation into the Ferguson Police Department finding that police had disproportionately focused on Black folks due “at least in part” to “unlawful bias against and stereotypes about” them; or the Washington Post’s database of fatal police shootings revealing that Black people “are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.”
Hannity’s inability to act as an unbiased moderator is only underscored by his seemingly unwavering support for the Republican presidential nominee. The host even made an appearance offering his endorsement to Trump in a campaign video released Sunday for the candidate titled “#HEARTLAND4TRUMP.”
Fox News, for its part, told the Daily Beast Tuesday evening that it had not given Hannity permission to appear in the video, and promised “he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election season.” But the network and Hannity have already allowed Trump to make countless appearances on his prime-time television program—giving the candidate tens of millions of dollars in free airtime.
All that free publicity likely contributed to Trump’s ability to spend “less on television advertising—typically the single biggest expenditure for a campaign—than any other major candidate according to an analysis by SMG Delta, a firm that tracks television advertising,” the New York Times reported in March.
Of course, it isn’t as if Hannity has vowed to act as an unbiased figure. After all, he told the New York Times last month that he is “not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States,” reasoning he had “never claimed to be a journalist.”
His co-moderator, Pastor Darrell Scott, is also a vocal Trump supporter. But unlike Hannity, Scott doesn’t have his own media show. He acts as the CEO of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, which the pastor says was formed to show that Trump is “not racist, misogynist, sexist or Islamophobic.” In a March interview with Jason Johnson published in the Root, Scott said he had previously met with Trump to discuss “black stuff” and that the candidate had “asked us for a list of community programs that we were doing here in the city” and promised to implement them all nationally if elected. Scott dismissed questions about a Black Lives Matter protester being assaulted at a Trump rally.
Hannity, too, hasn’t made a secret of his feeling that the Trump campaign is working hard to reach out to Black voters. “I heard the campaign was doing something with Pastor Scott, who is a friend, and I said let’s put it on TV,” the conservative media host reportedly told the Hill earlier this week. “They agreed. Donald Trump has had a series of speeches in predominantly black churches and he is clearly continuing that outreach.”
Black voters deserve a forum to ask Trump about the issues that affect them. But given the co-hosts’ loyalties to the Republican presidential nominee and Hannity’s own history of egregious dog whistles and racially charged commentary, can anybody truly expect to get real answers?