On Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity baselessly compared a June 1 remark by New York state comptroller Alan Hevesi, for which Hevesi apologized hours later, and a December 2002 statement by Sen. Trent Lott in support of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign, in which Thurmond ran as a segregationist.
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On the June 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity baselessly compared a June 1 remark by New York state comptroller Alan G. Hevesi, for which Hevesi apologized hours later, and a December 2002 statement by Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) in support of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond's (R-SC) 1948 presidential campaign, in which Thurmond ran as a segregationist.
During a commencement speech at Queens College on June 1, Hevesi described Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) as "the man who, how do I phrase this diplomatically, who will put a bullet between the president's eyes if he could get away with it." Hevesi apologized to Schumer and President Bush during a press conference hours later, saying, "I am apologizing as abjectly as I can. There is no excuse for it. It was beyond dumb." While discussing Hevesi's comment on Hannity & Colmes with Republican strategist Ed Rollins and Newsday columnist Ellis Henican, also a Fox News contributor, Hannity criticized Democrats for not giving Lott "the benefit of the doubt" that Hannity and Rollins were "giving Alan Hevesi."
But, unlike Hevesi, Lott, then the incoming Senate Majority Leader, waited at least two days after his comments were first widely reported before issuing an apology, having first defended his remarks against intense criticism. During a celebration of Thurmond's 100th birthday in Washington, D.C., on December 5, 2002, Lott praised Thurmond, saying: "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." During his 1948 pro-segregation presidential campaign, Thurmond said: "All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches." Lott's remarks were broadcast live on C-SPAN. On December 7, 2002, The Washington Post first mentioned that Lott's comments were drawing criticism. Two days later, on December 9, Lott issued a statement defending his remarks, saying, "My comments were not an endorsement of his positions of over 50 years ago, but of the man and his life." Later that day, Lott issued an "apolog[y] to anyone who was offended by my statement" for his "poor choice of words" that gave some the wrong impression: "A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embraced the discarded policies of the past ... Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement." However, it was not until December 14, a full week and two days after his original comments, that Lott characterized them as "wrong" during a press conference: "I take full responsibility for my remarks and only hope that people will find in their heart to forgive me for this grievous mistake."
Additionally, despite Hannity's assertion that, like Hevesi, Lott spoke "off the cuff, joking around," news reports showed that Lott made similar statements on at least two other occasions. The Post reported on December 11, 2002, that at a rally for the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan on November 3, 1980, Lott similarly praised Thurmond, the rally's keynote speaker, saying, "You know, if we had elected this man 30 years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today." NBC's Nightly News also reported on December 17, 2002, that, in file footage of members of Congress signing the National Defense Authorization Act on October 19, 2000, Lott could be heard saying of Thurmond, "This is a famous signature right here. He has been -- should have been president in 1947, I think it was." Further, Lott has, in Henican's words, "play[ed] footsie with segregationists," speaking at Council of Conservative Citizens meetings, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has linked with white supremacists.
From the June 2 broadcast of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: Here's the problem, though. When -- when Trent Lott spoke at the 100th birthday of a senator, Strom Thurmond -- off the cuff, joking around, talked about, "Things would have been better if you were president," he had to resign. And you know why, Ellis?
HENICAN: I'm going to tell you why.
HANNITY: Hang on. Because Democrats didn't give him the benefit of the doubt that I and Ed Rollins are giving Alan Hevesi.
HENICAN: No. Two things. First of all, it wasn't the Democrats who sold out Trent Lott. It was the Republicans, who dumped them as their leader.
HANNITY: No, it was -- no, no, no.
HENICAN: Secondly, the problem that Trent had is that a lot of Americans believed that Trent might really believe some of that stuff.
HANNITY: All right. All right, but --
HENICAN: Nobody thinks that of Alan Hevesi.
HANNITY: You know what? You know what? Nobody believes that he was talking about segregation.
HENICAN: No, but he's playing footsie with segregationists. It's different from one off-the-cuff comment.
HANNITY: Hang on a second. This is the difference. Is that if he apologizes, if he wants to revise and extend his remarks, there's no play on the Democratic side. What I'm saying to you guys on the left now is, we've got to be careful. Let people apologize. Let people say they were wrong.