Sean Hannity repeatedly railed against the Smithsonian art exhibit on his Wednesday show, using deceptive phrasing to give the false impression that taxpayer dollars paid for the exhibit and that the artwork that has been the focus of attacks was still on display. In fact, the exhibit is privately funded, and the video that Hannity has repeatedly objected to had already been removed.
Hannity said, "It couldn't be worse timing, the story of the Smithsonian. And, you know, we pay 65 percent of their bill. They have this exhibit, you know, with genitalia, brothers kissing, Jesus Christ on a cross with ants all over him. You know, we make it possible for the doors to open at the Smithsonian. So, people are seeing that and they're saying, 'Wait a minute. I'm having a hard time paying my taxes and paying my mortgage.' " A still image of Jesus from the video aired as he spoke. But the previous night, Hannity said that the piece had been pulled from the exhibit. Wednesday, that information was missing in his repeated rants.
The show also incorrectly created the impression that the exhibit was paid for by taxpayers. Hannity's guest Mercedes Viana Schlapp said that "it's sad that they even want to call it art, that they think it's art, but to use public funding for it is just not correct. I mean, we don't want to use taxpayer funding like that." Later, Hannity said that "they can insult Christianity in a museum where 65 percent of their $800 million yearly budget comes from us." Juan Williams replied, "I understand if someone could be offended easily. But I must say, as a Christian -- all right, if this artist wants to depict Jesus as an AIDS sufferer with ants on it, it doesn't blow me out." Hannity wouldn't let up: "It blows me out that I'm helping to pay to open that door."
Hannity failed to mention at any point in the show that private donations were used for the exhibit. Hannity knew this, because Joe Trippi repeatedly informed Hannity of that fact Tuesday night.
The entire charade was designed to leave viewers with the incorrect impression that the video Hannity found offensive was still up and that the exhibit was paid for by taxpayers, all in support of Hannity's contention that tax money shouldn't go to the Smithsonian. From Hannity's Tuesday show:
HANNITY: I'm thinking Americans are out of work. Why should we pay one red cent for any of this garbage?
TRIPPI: You didn't.
HANNITY: We didn't?
TRIPPI: The money for this exhibit was all private foundation.
HANNITY: Wait, we fund -- see, I don't agree with that analysis. That's like saying we fund the ability for them to open their doors every day so they don't get to open the doors. The American taxpayer --
TRIPPI: The American taxpayer paid for the buildings and those things, but it's an art museum. This exhibit --
HANNITY: Fine, if they want an art museum --
TRIPPI: Gay and lesbian artists --
HANNITY: But we shouldn't pay to open their doors because they can put this type of stuff in there. [transcript from Nexis]