Sean Hannity (full disclosure, I write columns at his website) was in the middle of his Thursday night live television show on Fox when there was, as they say, breaking news - from The New York Times. The news?
The Times had just posted a story saying the Justice Department had seized the phone records of a New York Times reporter. And in an instant, there was Hannity looking America in the eye and defending The New York Times. A reporter’s sources, he reminded, are off limits. No small matter for Hannity himself who has developed many of them in the course of his investigations into the Trump-Russia collusion business.
Eventually more of the story came clear. The Trump Justice Department had been investigating one James A. Wolfe, the former Senate Intelligence Committee’s director of security. Wolfe has now been indicted, reports the Times:
The former aide, James A. Wolfe, 57, was charged with lying repeatedly to investigators about his contacts with three reporters. According to the authorities, Mr. Wolfe made false statements to the F.B.I. about providing two of them with sensitive information related to the committee’s work. He denied to investigators that he ever gave classified material to journalists, the indictment said.
The plot soon thickened. The Times again:
“The seizure was disclosed in a letter to the Times reporter, Ali Watkins, who had been in a three-year relationship with Mr. Wolfe.”
In short? Wolfe - mind you his title was “Director of Security” for the Senate Intelligence Committee - stands accused of betraying national security to a lover who was also a reporter for the Times. A sticky and infuriating wicket indeed.
But let’s stick to the point. Which is, literally the second Hannity heard of the government moving on a reporter’s private phone records, learning midstream of his live television show, he spoke up on the spot for a free press.
Now let’s recall another several instances of attacks on a free press. Recently Fox’s Laura Ingraham was assailed for a tweet about one of the students from the Florida high school that was the site of a school shooting. The Left howled for her head - and The New York Times and the liberal media was silent on the attacks.
Earlier the attacks had been directed at Hannity, with demands he be silenced by losing his show. And the liberal media was silent on the attacks.
Going back through the last decade there were demands for Rush Limbaugh’s head. And Lou Dobbs when he was the conservative at CNN. Before that it was Glenn Beck when on Fox. And in every case, the liberal media was stone cold silent at the attempts to silence these people.
Most recently was the Roseanne contretemps. Yes, indubitably she tweeted a racist tweet. She was gone from ABC in a nano second. But Joy Reid? All kinds of homophobic and other garbage seeped out about the MSNBC host and there were demands for her head. Who came to her defense? Hannity - who issued this statement:
Over the last few days the conversation surrounding the comments made by TV personalities has dominated the news cycle. We have covered them as well, going over previous tweets, statements and on air opinions. One of these individuals, MSNBC’s Joy Reid, has now apologized for her previous blogs and commentary.
It’s good to see Joy (who is no fan of mine) starting to take responsibility for her past remarks. My suggestion is that she follows up with the groups and people who she offended, and learn from all of this. Her apology should be accepted, and she should be given a chance to make it right, and not fired.
Someone needs to take the lead in cable news and stop the “crush, fire them, and destroy hosts you may disagree with” environment. I guess as the number one rated host in cable, I’ll start.
I am grateful for this microphone and the platform given to me everyday by my audience. I am a believer in the freedom of speech for all Americans. I am also a believer in second chances. And as someone who believes in forgiveness, I have to say, we have all fallen short.”
The statement speaks for itself. But there is more here.
When one broadens out the focus on a free press and the constitutional right of both a free press and free speech, one is struck by the repeated determination of the Left - in the media and out - to quite selectively shut down what they don’t like.
A classic example of how this works was recently provided by You Tube commentator Dave Rubin. He appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show to discuss his recent appearance at the University of New Hampshire. What happened was also picked up here at Red State and described this way:
Rubin was interrupted by a black woman sitting in the crowd, who had apparently brought a jar with metal objects inside of it. While Rubin was speaking, she would shake the jar and make noise enough to attempt to drown out or throw Rubin off. This caused Rubin to focus on the woman, and attempt to engage her. After attempting to pull a conversation, or allow her to ask a question, she said nothing and continued to shake the jar. It was then that Rubin called her out.
“I’m seriously willing to have a conversation right now. But you won’t question me and you won’t tell me you didn’t like something. Who’s winning right now? Who’s changing more minds? Me or you?"
The woman made no response, but continued to shake the jar. This prompted Rubin to dismiss her, saying he made his point.”
On - and on - went this episode, all captured in video. But of course, what happened to Rubin is not a stand alone. There was Charles Murray - who was physically attacked in a successful effort to shut down a Middlebury College speech. Then this with Ben Shapiro at Berkeley, as reported by the Daily Caller:
The University of California, Berkeley ended up spending roughly $600,000 to ensure that protests didn’t turn into riots Thursday night when conservative commentator Ben Shapiro spoke on campus.
And, of course, the repeated efforts to shut down Ann Coulter when she speaks somewhere in what is nominally thought to be the land of the free. I must report that last fall I was invited to give a speech at my alma mater, Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on a proposed college speech code. I was invited by the College Republicans and I was there to oppose the speech code idea. The auditorium was packed, I gave my speech with no problem there was a vigorous Q and A. But what struck me was …the college felt the need to assign me four security guards for the duration of my presence on campus. Security for a speech about free speech. Amazing.
All of this is of a piece and it all revolves around the central issue of a free press and free speech.
What is, shall we say, “curious” - or maybe not - is the Left’s hypocrisy on all of this. CNN makes much of not attending the traditional White House Christmas party for the press because they supposedly are standing up for a “free press” in the Trump era. But when others - conservatives - in the press are the subjects of moves to silence them - be that Hannity, Ingraham, Limbaugh, Dobbs etc etc etc - CNN falls mysteriously silent.
And no, the fact that Hannity and Ingraham work for competitor Fox is not an excuse. Because the Times cannot abide conservative X is no reason to be situational on their rights to participate in a free press or exercise free speech. For the elementary reason, among many, that they could be next. Suddenly, they are next - and now its one of their own who is under attack. And who defends the Times? Hannity.
What we are seeing from the Left across the board - whether the target is a media personality or a campus speaker or a reporter - is an assault on freedom. And the hard fact here is that conservatives are willing to stand up regardless of the target - while liberal media types play the dangerously selective game that inevitably translates as “freedom for me but not for thee.”