On January 7, Fox News will premiere a new weekly show, Hannity's America, starring Sean Hannity, who currently co-hosts the Fox News show Hannity & Colmes along with Alan Colmes. Hannity and others have defended themselves against charges that Fox News leans conservative by pointing to the purported conservative/liberal balance represented by the co-hosts of Hannity & Colmes, but Colmes apparently will not be a co-host of Hannity's America.
According to a January 4 Hollywood Reporter article, Hannity's America will "blend the debate style that Hannity is noted for on TV and syndicated radio," featuring interviews and reports and a "debate component, called 'Hannity's Hot Seat,' [that] will feature a lightning round of five yes or no questions put to a liberal and then a debate." Each show will also reportedly include "the naming of a 'Great American' ... 'people that on a daily basis make this a great country and never get noticed." According to a Fox News advertisement that aired during the January 2 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity's America will air every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET; Hannity will continue to co-host Hannity & Colmes and his daily ABC Radio Networks show.
As Media Matters for America has noted, several people, including Hannity himself, have previously defended Fox News against charges it skews to the right in part by pointing to the pairing of Hannity and Colmes on their show. For example:
- CNBC's The Tim Russert Show, August 7, 2004:
TIM RUSSERT [host and NBC News Washington bureau chief]: Do you think that Fox News Channel has a conservative spin to it?
O'REILLY: If you look at the Fox News commentators in prime time, starting with Hume and ending with Van Susteren, it comes right down the line, OK? Van Susteren is a liberal, Colmes is a liberal, Hannity is a conservative, I'm a traditionalist, Shepard Smith is really nothing and -- you know, he's just in -- a neutral guy, in the neutral zone, and Hume, I would say that he's slightly conservative, but certainly no bomb-thrower. All right?
PAUL KRUGMAN [New York Times columnist]: Unbelievable.
- The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, August 4, 2004:
O'REILLY: You're going to really enjoy this [New York Times columnist Paul] Krugman-O'Reilly shootout. It's not much of a shoot-out, I have to say. It's not like [the July 27 O'Reilly Factormeeting between Michael] Moore and O'Reilly. You know, Krugman, you know, he's just -- he's not strong enough to stand up to me. And I didn't take any mercy on him, I have to say.
Anyway -- one of the points that he was trying to make was that FOX is a right-wing network. You know, he's trying to put us in the right-wing radio category and I ran down -- I said, OK. Let's take it from 6:00 [p.m.] to 11:00 [p.m.]. Brit Hume? Leans a little bit right. Shep Smith? No bias at all. Just straight down the middle. O'Reilly? Traditional guy. If you want to put him a little right, go ahead.
Hannity? Right. Rabid right. Colmes? Rabid left. [Fox News host Greta] Van Susteren? Left. Add it up. And then commentators -- right down the middle. And guests -- more liberals than conservatives. So, Krugman, what is your complaint? Humma, humma, humma, humma, humma, humma. [chuckle] It's a great moment.
- A November 29, 2003, Washington Post article headlined "For Alan Colmes, Nothing but Left-Handed Praise":
In his book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," [comedian and radio host] Al Franken mocks Colmes by rendering every mention of his name in tiny type. Franken writes that "Colmes' duties as co-host of 'Hannity & Colmes' include adding toner to the copiers and printers [and] loofah-ing Roger Ailes in his personal steam room." Colmes dismisses Franken as a "liberal satirist." Such knocks, he says, are consistent with the belief among many liberals that Fox News is a conservative network -- a conclusion he rejects. "If you're going to make the argument that Fox is conservative, you can't make it very easily unless you diminish my role," Colmes says.
Unlike, say, CNN's Paul Begala, Colmes says his career has been as a broadcaster, not as a politician or advocate. Colmes, who like Hannity was raised on Long Island, has hosted a string of successful radio talk shows in New York. Fox News hired Hannity -- himself a radio talk show host -- before Colmes. (The show's unofficial in-house title was "Hannity & LTBD" -- "Liberal to Be Determined.") Colmes was hired partly at the suggestion of Hannity, who knew Colmes from New York radio circles.
- Hannity & Colmes, June 18, 2003:
COLMES: [Former Al Gore campaign spokesman] Doug [Hattaway], the guy you used to work for, Al Gore, appeared with me on this program. I asked him about this perception about the Fox News Channel being fair and balanced. And here is the conversation that Al Gore and I had.
[begin video clip from the December 10, 2002, Hannity & Colmes]
AL GORE [former vice president]: You probably wouldn't -- well maybe you would -- but maybe if we got off-camera you might not dispute the proposition that overall Fox is pretty well tilted towards the conservative republican.
COLMES: We've got [then-Fox News war correspondent] Geraldo [Rivera], we've got Greta Van Susteren, we've got me. O'Reilly, I think, is pretty unpredictable.
GORE: But overall, wouldn't you say that it's more --
COLMES: I would say that we give vent to conservative voices that previously had not been heard necessarily as loudly on cable news.
GORE: Well, I'm not going to urge you to bite the hand that feeds you.
- Hannity & Colmes, February 17, 2003:
MIKE GALLAGHER [radio host]: But the problem with Alan, like most liberals, is they don't -- you guys don't use enough logic in your arguments. You want to say Republicans want to take away the seniors' health prescription. You know, George Bush wants to go to war just to satisfy his own personal gain.
COLMES: That's not my argument, Mike. Don't put my -- that's not what I'm saying. Gloria, go ahead.
GLORIA ALLRED [attorney]: Let me tell you about logic. You have Sean out there talking about how Hillary and Bill are behind this as though if they were that would be a terrible thing. I think it's great.
HANNITY: Wait a minute, Gloria. Hang on, Gloria.
ALLRED: He never mentions Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes behind the Fox News network, and they are well known conservatives. I have no problem with that.
HANNITY: What is Alan Colmes, a potted plant? Is [Newsweek contributing editor] Eleanor Clift and Ellen Ratner -- they're all on our payroll, Gloria. They're all liberals. They get paid here. Now let me move on to the more important --
ALLRED: The last time I checked, they were not hosts of a show.
HANNITY: They get paid. Alan is a -- we have a stopwatch in the control room. He gets half my time. It drives me nuts.
ALLRED: Alan, Alan, Alan. That's not enough for a 24-hour-a-day all-news network.
HANNITY: All right. Listen, let's stop the whining here because it's driving me nuts.
ALLRED: It's advocacy.
- Hannity & Colmes, September 15, 2000:
ELLEN RATNER [radio host]: Well, you know, Sean, I mean, you're pro-Republican. What do you expect? Everybody has a little bit of a media bias, and you're not talking about The Washington Times and what they did.
HANNITY: No, no --
RATNER: So I think that every paper has an editorial opinion. Every paper has a little bit of a bias. You know what it is. We know what it is with you, Sean. What's the difference?
HANNITY: No, no. But there's one difference. No, no, no! And this is important, Ellen, because I am a conservative, and I'm outspoken, and I'm on the record. We have Alan Colmes here to balance this act out.
COLMES: I am balanced.
HANNITY: He is a liberal.
HANNITY: And he's on record -- these papers are supposed to be giving us news stories. They're supposed to be objective.
RATNER: They do give you news stories, Sean, but it depends --
HANNITY: Well --
RATNER: -- where they place it and how --
RATNER: -- important they think something is.
- Hannity & Colmes, July 18, 2000:
CONRAD MUHAMMAD [radio host]: Well, Sean, you're not exactly [former CBS News anchor] Walter Cronkite. I mean --
HANNITY: But I'm --
MUHAMMAD: The media has moved --
HANNITY: But I'm different. I don't claim to be objective. I got Colmes here. That's his job is to balance me out.
MUHAMMAD: That's a fair point. But you know the media is moving to a more advocacy position, otherwise, there wouldn't be a place for guys like you. You're not exactly impartial --
HANNITY: But I'm honest about it. I am a conservative. He's a liberal.