Hannity dismissed Fox text-message polls as "just a lot of fun" when results favored Paul, but not when results favored Bush

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

Noting that a Fox News text-message poll following the October 21 Republican presidential debate put Ron Paul in first place, Sean Hannity said, "Oh, this poll -- you've got all your supporters calling." Paul responded: "What, you mean your own poll isn't any good?" Hannity then said: "No, it's just a lot of fun." But Hannity has previously touted the results of the same type of text-message poll when those results were favorable for President Bush: In January, Hannity noted several times that "85 percent" of viewers who voted by text message said that Bush did an "excellent" job in his State of the Union address.

On the October 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, following the Republican presidential debate sponsored by Fox News, co-host Alan Colmes began an interview with Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul by asking: "You keep leading us in text voting. What do you think is going on there?" Colmes was referring to a Fox News feature allowing viewers to vote via text message for the candidate who they thought won the debate. At the time of the interview, Paul was in first place with 34 percent. Later in the interview, co-host Sean Hannity asked Paul if he could support several of the other GOP candidates -- including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Sen. Fred Thompson (TN), or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- if he himself didn't win the nomination. Paul replied: "Well, you know, I think they're softening their tone. They're not nearly as militant as they were a few months ago." Paul then said, "[T]hey have to listen to these polls, don't they?" to which Hannity replied: "Oh, this poll -- you've got all your supporters calling." Paul responded: "What, you mean your own poll isn't any good?" Hannity then said: "No, it's just a lot of fun."

In contrast to his dismissal of the October 21 poll results as "just a lot of fun," Hannity has previously touted the results of the same type of text-message poll when those results were favorable for President Bush. Indeed, on the January 23 edition of Hannity & Colmes -- the first time the text-message voting feature was used on the show -- Hannity noted several times during the broadcast that "85 percent" of viewers who voted by text message said that Bush did an "excellent" job in his State of the Union Address earlier that evening. During the show, Hannity said: "Finally, the response from you tonight at the voting, 85 percent think the president did an excellent job. Four percent think the president did an average job. Ten percent think the president did a poor job. Tens of thousands of you voted. By the way, we want to thank you for the tremendous participation." Hannity added: "You know what's nice about this, though? It gives people, the viewers the opportunity. Because we hear from the pundits, we hear from the politicians, we hear from the senators."

Hannity has also previously downplayed the results of text-message polls when those results were favorable for Paul. Specifically, on the September 5 edition of the show, following a Fox News-sponsored Republican presidential debate in Durham, New Hampshire, Hannity noted that Paul came in first place among text-message voters, adding: "He is having all those 3 percent of his people call in, I'm sure." When Colmes responded: "Maybe he just did very well," Hannity stated: "He got 33 percent. Well, it happens." Hannity proceeded to note how well the other candidates had done in the poll. Additionally, on the September 6 edition of the show, after noting that viewers picked Paul as the "winner" of the debate via text-message voting the night before, Hannity asserted: "Some New Hampshire voters from our focus group felt differently. And here to tell us about the surprising feedback from the focus group is political pollster Frank Luntz." Luntz went on to talk about his focus group findings.

At the conclusion of the October 21 broadcast, Paul was still in the lead with 34 percent. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was second with 27 of the votes, Giuliani third with 11 percent, Romney fourth with 10 percent, Thompson fifth with 9 percent, McCain sixth with 5 percent, and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) seventh with 1 percent.

From the January 23 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

HANNITY: That was President Bush tonight delivering the State of the Union address. The text voting results are coming in, and here's how it's looking right now. Eighty-five percent of you voting say the president did an excellent job tonight, 5 percent said he did an average job, and 10 percent say he did a poor job. And by the way, you can continue to vote throughout the hour by texting "A" for excellent, "B" for average, "C" for poor, and the text number, 55333, and you'll see the results change right there on your screen in real time throughout the hour tonight.

And for more reaction, we're now joined by South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is back with us. Senator, welcome aboard.

[...]

HANNITY: Welcome back to a special edition of Hannity & Colmes, and we want to hear from you, the viewer, about how you think the president did. From your phone, you can send a text message, the number 55333. You send the letter A if you thought the president did an excellent job, send the letter "B" if you thought he did an average job, and you can give the president a "C" if you think he did a poor job. And you can do it from any wireless carrier, any regular phone, and the charges apply, of course. Now, the results are coming in. You can see them right there at the bottom of your screen with overwhelming support for the president tonight. But keep the votes coming until the end of the show.

And here with their take on the president's speech, Republican strategist Karen Hanretty and Democratic strategist, Fox News contributor, Bob Beckel.

[...]

HANNITY: And finally tonight, the response to tonight's text voting has been overwhelming. Let's give you the final results. Eighty-five percent think that the president did an excellent job, 4 percent think the president did an average job, 10 percent think the president did a poor job. Tens of thousands of you voted -- and by the way, we want to thank you for the tremendous participation.

COLMES: A lot of people did not get the quarters I sent them. I don't know what happened.

HANNITY: You know what's nice about this, though, is that, you know, it gives people, viewers, an opportunity --

COLMES: Right. Absolutely.

HANNITY: -- because we hear from the pundits, we hear from the politicians, we hear from the senators.

From the September 5 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

HANNITY: All right, it's time now for the final results from our text-messaging poll. And in first place tonight, Ron Paul. He's having all those 3 percent of people call in, I'm sure. He got 33 --

COLMES: Maybe he just did very well.

HANNITY: He got 33 percent. Well, it happens. Anyway, in second place tonight, Mike Huckabee getting 18 percent, and taking the third spot is Rudy Giuliani getting 15 percent. Now, I want to give you a quick -- oh, by the way, fourth place is John McCain with 14 percent and Mitt Romney with 12 percent tonight. And taking the sixth spot, Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter both with 2 percent tonight.

Now, I want to give you a special programming note. As you know, Senator Fred Thompson announcing that he will be entering this race and we will have a special interview right here, Hannity & Colmes, our regular time, 9 Eastern, with Senator Thompson. And we will probably ask him some of the questions that were asked of the other candidates tonight. You know one thing that's emerging here -- and I know you love the Democrats -- there are distinct differences on Iraq, on immigration, securing the borders, on taxes, on health care, on education. There is going to be a very interesting --

COLMES: Yes, this will be a good debate.

From the September 6 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

[begin video clip]

CHRIS WALLACE (Fox News host): You're basically saying that we should take our marching orders from Al Qaeda? If they want us off the Arabian Peninsula, we should leave?

PAUL: No! I'm saying -- I'm saying we should take our marching orders from our Constitution. We should not go to war -- we should not go to war without a declaration. We should not go to war when it's an aggressive war. This is an aggressive invasion.

We committed the invasion of this war, and it's illegal under international law. That's where I take my marching orders, not from any enemy. We dug a hole for ourselves, and we dug a hole for our party. We're losing elections, and we're going down next year if we don't change it. And it has all to do with foreign policy and we have to wake up to this fact.

[end video clip]

HANNITY: He sounds like the Democrats. That was Congressman Ron Paul, the presidential candidate who text voters picked as the winner of last night's debate. But some New Hampshire voters from our focus group felt differently. And here to tell us about the surprising feedback from the focus group is political pollster Frank Luntz.

From the October 21 Republican presidential debate post-debate coverage on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

COLMES: We're now joined by Ron Paul. Why do you keep leading us in text voting? What do you think is going on there?

PAUL: Well, I wished I knew. Anyway, the message must be great. The American people are agreeing with this. I think they're just tired of the war, they're tired of big-spending Republicans, and they like their personal liberties, so --

COLMES: Now, in front of the Republican crowd, though, you got a few boos tonight, especially when you said America wants the war over and wants the troops home. That didn't get an applause from the Republicans you need in order to get the nomination.

PAUL: Yeah, I know, but this is a very narrow -- we didn't get a thousand tickets, you know. If I had had two thousand tickets, I could have filled that auditorium. So, you know, you have to look at the audience. The big audience is your listeners out there, and evidently, Fox has a good listening audience. I mean, they're responding very favorably.

COLMES: We do very well in the ratings.

PAUL: Yeah. They're doing very good. I like this audience.

COLMES: But how does an anti-war Republican win the nomination?

[...]

HANNITY: So if you don't win this nomination, you vote libertarian?

PAUL: Well, it depends on who's running, on what policy, there may -- who knows? There's talk of a third party --

HANNITY: Could you support Rudy? Fred? Mitt?

PAUL: Well, you know, I think they're softening their tone. They're not nearly as militant as they were a few months ago.

HANNITY: But you think you've Ron Paul-ized them? Or Hannitized them?

PAUL: Well, they have to listen to these polls, don't they?

HANNITY: Oh, this poll is -- you've got all your supporters calling --

PAUL: What, you mean your own poll isn't any good?

HANNITY: No, it's just a lot of fun.

PAUL: Oh, this is a great audience. This Fox network is just great.

HANNITY: Yeah, when you win it's a great audience. All right, good to see you. Thank you, Congressman, appreciate it.

PAUL: All right.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Sean Hannity
Show/Publication
Hannity & Colmes
Stories/Interests
Ron Paul, 2008 Elections
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