AUDIO: Hannity Divulges Detail From “Off The Record” Conversation with George Zimmerman
Sean Hannity complicated the Trayvon Martin saga Tuesday. It was announced he was directly called by George Zimmerman after breaking off contact with the lawyers running his defense. The revelations came during a press conference in which attorneys Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig announced they were no longer representing Zimmerman.
Looking like spurned “celebrity lawyers” themselves, their grandstanding press conference echoed Zimmerman’s bizarre choice to contact the media, giving special access, publicity and ratings to Fox host Sean Hannity. Sonner lamented “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 previously shared that Zimmerman was under severe stress and “is not doing well emotionally”. The embattled guman may have turned to Hannity because he felt Hannity was uniquely sympathetic to his cause.
As we learned, Zimmerman also reached out to special prosecutor Angela Corey. From the LA Times:
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.
The punditsphere lit up in response, with some saying Hannity should be subpoenaed to determine what was discussed in the “off the record” conversation. Hannity had divulged on his radio show Tuesday that George Zimmerman told him that the screams heard on the 911 tape were not Trayvon’s but his own.
This sharply contradicted Hannity’s claim 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, he played a broadcast clip of a witness describing Trayvon on top of Zimmerman, but then Hannity revealed a question he had asked Zimmerman, as well as 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 for days highlighting the bounty placed on Zimmerman’s head by the New Black Panther Party, but, tellingly, Hannity also used the occasion to suggest there were ties between the NBPP and Obama’s campaign.
Hannity’s assertions were handily debunked here by Mediaite, but some in law enforcement have expressed concern media exploitation of the Trayvon tragedy to further a political agenda or sow seeds of racial division could hinder the actual legal proceeding.
For background, The NBPP are universally denounced racist hatemongers: the original Black Panther Party sued them over the use of the name, and they were deemed terrorists by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They were even denounced by Jesse Jackson, whose daughter Santita Jackson was on Hannity’s show live as he described his communication with Zimmerman.
Zimmerman, again showing he marches to his own drumbeat, likely gravitated to Hannity because he had been giving inordinate attention to the New Black Panthers, with daily and sometimes hourly repetition of their threats.
The hype and attention Hannity gave to the NBPP is 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 whore, 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
But Hannity knows what he is doing. Even as he stokes racial tensions over public airwaves, Hannity slyly blames this on Obama. For example, not cracking down harder during alleged voter intimidation in 2008 when 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 kinda new for Hannity.
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 from the “prostitute/slut” scandal he and Rush Limbaugh were enduring. The awkward advertiser backlash has since left both shows with abundant PSAs in place of ads.
As the Trayvon case devolved into a media circus, Hannity gradually got more involved, tracking down Zimmerman’s family and milking the notion that premature charges of racism by black leaders in the early going (including Obama’s comments), could be flipped around to make them seem like the racists.
Add in Hannity’s prediction Tuesday 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, sensationalizing ongoing investigations for self-promotion, ratings, profits and the
proliferation of biased reporting.
The public interest is not served by this type of irresponsible behavior, but as noted
by the CEO of Clear Channel, controversy, drama and public outrage is now the “normal day-to-day” of talk radio.
UPDATE: Special prosecutor Angela Corey reserved special words for the media in the announcement of charges against Zimmerman Wenedsay. It’s patently clear she was talking about complications such as the NBC audio editing and hasty racial charges made by celebrities, but we might include Hannity’s “magnifying” coverage of radical hatemongers as well. Said Corey:
There is a reason cases are tried in a court of law, not in the court of the public and not by the media, because details have to come out in excruciating and minute fashion, detail by detail, bit of evidence by bit of evidence. And it’s only then when the trier of fact, whether it’s a judge or a jury, gets all of those details that then the law is applied to that and a decision can be rendered