Saying that "I know more about Reagan than you do," Sean Hannity attempted to correct a caller to his radio show who criticized former President Ronald Reagan. But Hannity's defense of the Reagan administration included several false or misleading claims.
On the June 20 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity attempted to correct a caller who criticized former President Ronald Reagan, saying "I know more about Reagan than you do," adding that "the history is there on the table for anybody to look at," and "if you don't care to see it, that's your problem."
But Hannity's defense of the Reagan administration turned out to be grounded in misinformation, rather than factual knowledge:
- Hannity falsely asserted that "Reagan cut the top marginal rates from 90 to 28 percent." In fact, the highest marginal rate in the 1980s was 70 percent, in 1980. During Reagan's presidency, the highest marginal tax rate was lowered to 28 percent.
- Hannity repeated his oft-mentioned -- and false -- claim that tax revenues doubled during the Reagan years. As Media Matters for America has previously noted, if the numbers are not adjusted for inflation, federal tax revenue increased 52 percent, not 100 percent ($599.3 billion to $909.3 billion) under Reagan; adjusted for inflation, revenue increased only 15 percent ($1.077 trillion to $1.236 trillion).
- Hannity reasserted that Reagan's tax cuts "gave us the longest period of peacetime economic growth in American history." But, as Media Matters has documented, the longest period of peacetime economic growth in American history occurred from March 1991 to March 2001. Democratic President Bill Clinton presided over most of these 120 months of economic growth, compared with 92 months of growth between November 1982 and July 1990, during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.
- Responding to the caller's statement that Reagan "cut and run" from Lebanon, Hannity simply said: "No, he didn't." In fact, U.S. troops withdrew from Lebanon in February 1984, four months after a suicide bomber killed 241 U.S. Marines, sailors, and soldiers at a Marine barracks in Beirut.
- Hannity similarly replied to the caller's claim that Reagan "negotiated with terrorists in Iran" and "sent them arms for hostages" by saying, "He didn't." Hannity went on to dub the caller "a walking liberal cliché," and repeated "that's not what happened," without providing any evidence to back up his claim. Hannity failed to explain how his denial squared with the "Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters" as well as Reagan's own statements. According to the independent counsel Lawrence Walsh's report, "The Iran operation," which was "coordinated by National Security Council staff" of the Reagan administration, "involved efforts in 1985 and 1986 to obtain the release of Americans held hostage in the Middle East through the sale of U.S. weapons to Iran, despite an embargo on such sale." And in response to a congressional investigation, Reagan himself admitted the arms-for-hostages connection in a March 4, 1987, speech, stating: "A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not."
From the June 20 broadcast of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
CALLER: I'm good, Sean, but I keep hearing you backtracking away from Bush and towards Ronald Reagan. But Ronald Reagan negotiated with terrorists in Iran, he sent them arms for hostages --
HANNITY: He didn't. Sir, you're a walking liberal cliché. Stop, that's not what happened. But anyway --
CALLER: When he left office, more people paid more in taxes, because he doubled the Social Security tax, than paid less in taxes when he left office --
HANNITY: Sir --
CALLER: He cut and run from Lebanon --
HANNITY: No, he didn't --
CALLER: And he granted immigrants amnesty.
HANNITY: Sir --
CALLER: Now, your listeners should check all that out for themselves, because it's all true.
HANNITY: Hey, [caller], let me just educate you, because I know more about Reagan than you do. Reagan cut the top marginal rates from 90 to 28 percent. He doubled revenues by doing that, from $500 billion to nearly a trillion dollars. Yes, he made a mistake on immigration, one of the few mistakes he made. While he was supporting SDI [the Strategic Defense Initiative], and building up our military and confronting the Soviet Union, you guys on the left were melting down and having conniptions thinking he was going to start a nuclear holocaust and World War III, but his peace through strength, trust but verify, tear down this wall mentality made the world a better place. Similarly on the economy. Unprecedented economic growth. You guys predicted the Reagan tax cuts would lead us into an economic depression, it gave us the longest period of peacetime economic growth in American history. Twenty-one million new jobs were created, and I don't know what you guys don't learn about increasing revenues by cutting taxes. You know, it is what it is, the history is there on the table for anybody to look at. And if you don't care to see it, that's your problem.