On Tuesday, Sean Hannity provided Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann with a friendly platform to clean up a messy situation. This was the second time in as many weeks that the Republican presidential candidate went on Fox News' Hannity to -- as Slate's Dave Weigel has defined it -- be "Hannitized." And the second time at least in which controversy about Bachmann swirled around the issue of slavery.
On Tuesday, Hannity welcomed Bachmann on his show to respond to criticism over a pledge she signed that claimed African-American children were better off during slavery than they are now under President Obama. The pledge, titled "The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMILY," by the organization, The Family Leader, contained this passage in its first bullet point:
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President.
The uproar that ensued was quick and biting, with The View's Whoopi Goldberg being especially scathing. Hannity characterized the criticism as "Bachman bashing" and said "it goes with the territory." Throughout the interview, the text read: "UNDER ATTACK."
When he asked Bachmann to respond to the criticism, Hannity first cited the record high unemployment numbers in the African-American community before saying: "I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond and explain what you were saying that got Whoopi Goldberg so worked up." After talking about the "really bad news" regarding unemployment in today's economy, Bachmann replied:
That statement was not on the document that I signed. Apparently, the group had a statement about that in another part that they've now since removed and gotten rid of and disavowed. I just want to make it absolutely clear: I abhor slavery. Slavery was a terrible part of our nation's history. It's good that we no longer have slavery, and under no circumstances would any child be better off growing up under slavery. But that isn't what I signed. That isn't what I believe. What I signed was a statement that affirms marriage as an important part of our nation and I agree with that.
Hannity didn't challenge Bachmann on her response.
Instead, he turned the conversation to President Obama's so-called "fear tactics" and "fearmongering," giving Bachmann the opportunity to attack Obama on the issue of the debt ceiling. Indeed, Hannity isn't known, nor is he coveted by Republicans, for his hard-hitting interviews.
If he was, he would have pressed Bachmann to explain why, according to the Des Moines Register, she "quickly signed the pledge" on Thursday when language about slavery was still included in the pledge: It wasn't until two days later that the group apologized and removed the offensive passage. And when responding to criticism over the vow on Saturday, Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart stated: "In no uncertain terms, Congresswoman Bachmann believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible." Hannity did not ask Bachmann to explain the "economic enslavement" reference or why it was fitting to use that slavery analogy in light of all the criticism.
Indeed, Tuesday's interview with Bachmann is reminiscent of his July 1 interview, in which he meted out similar softball treatment. Following comments about the founding fathers and slavery -- Bachmann claimed that John Quincy Adams was a Founding Father who worked to eradicate slavery -- Hannity welcomed Bachmann to lament about the media's "venom" after her mistake.
Less than a week before, on June 27*, Bachmann had also appeared on Hannity. That interview would try to compensate for Bachmann's mistake about John Wayne. During the segment, Hannity tried to explain away the Republican's gaffe, saying, "You obviously misspoke."
This of course is nothing new. During the 2010 campaign, then-Republican senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell said she had Hannity "in my back pocket." O'Donnell also reportedly claimed that she went on his show to get a "certain kind of treatment."
Campaign season 2012 has proven to be no different. As primary season heats up, Hannity's show has continued to act as a haven for Republican presidential candidates. Indeed, of the nine major contenders in the race, four have conducted their first, sit-down television interviews after announcing with Hannity.