Hannity offers plethora of town hall falsehoods to claim Dems are the ones "calling names"

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Asserting that "the Democrats" are the ones "yelling here and calling names," Sean Hannity claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called health care town hall protesters "Nazis"; that Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote "that they are un-American"; and that President Obama is "telling the American people to shut up." In fact, none of these claims is true.

Hannity repeatedly advanced false claim that Pelosi called protesters "Nazis"

Hannity: "[W]e've had hardworking Americans called Nazis and brownshirts and un-American by Nancy Pelosi." On August 11, as an example of "the host of insults the Democratic leaders have been hurling" at town hall protestors, Hannity stated: "Now, we've had hardworking Americans called Nazis and brownshirts and un-American by Nancy Pelosi." [Fox News' Hannity; 8/11/09]

Hannity: "[I]t's Nancy Pelosi attacking the American people, it's the Democrats comparing them to Nazis -- the Democrats are doing that." Hannity further said on August 11:

HANNITY: The only people, John, that are yelling here and calling names -- it's Obama telling the American people to shut up, it's Nancy Pelosi attacking the American people, it's the Democrats comparing them to Nazis -- the Democrats are doing that.

JOHN McWHORTER (Manhattan Institute senior fellow): Oh, yeah. I mean, I'll tell you honestly that I think a lot of the people who are yelling in these town hall meetings do have some problems with misinformation. But, nevertheless, it seems to me that back in my day, when I used to teach at UC Berkeley and the big debate was affirmative action, I saw people on the left acting in the same way with the same lack of manners, the same volume, the same misinformation. Now, it wasn't in the formal setting of a town meeting about a national policy -- same thing.

HANNITY: Wait a minute. What misinformation? What yelling? You know what I see? I see fathers with their kids in wheelchairs. I see veterans that are speaking. Is there passion? Yeah, there's passion. You know, maybe they don't have the --

McWHORTER: Yes.

HANNITY: So that -- but that's real passion.

McWHORTER: They do feel what they feel. Yeah.

HANNITY: Because they see their country's going bankrupt. They see that every promise that has been made has been broken, and they're being attacked and called Nazis by people that are supposed to be public servants. [Hannity; 8/11/09]

Pelosi actually said protesters were "carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care." Speaking to reporters, Pelosi was asked if she thought there was "legitimate grassroots opposition" at recent town hall events. She responded: "I think they're Astroturf; you be the judge. They're carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care."

Pelosi was right: Swastikas have appeared at town hall meetings. As Media Matters for America senior fellow Eric Boehlert and Fox News contributor Alan Colmes have noted, multiple protesters at health care reform protests have held signs featuring swastikas.

Media falsely assert Pelosi called or suggested that opponents of health reform are "Nazis." As Media Matters noted, conservative media figures including Joe Scarborough, Gregg Jarrett, Peggy Noonan, James Taranto, and Rush Limbaugh have similarly claimed Pelosi compared protesters to Nazis.

Hannity repeatedly falsely claimed Pelosi said protesters were "un-American"

From the August 11 edition of Hannity;

HANNITY: Nancy Pelosi said they had swastikas.

PENNY LEE (Democratic strategist): Again, America is great when we have --

HANNITY: Nancy Pelosi said they are un-American.

LEE: America is great -- America is great when we do have that public discourse and we have freedom of speech, and that is a wonderful thing.

HANNITY: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Nancy Pelosi --

LEE: But shouting at each other --

HANNITY: Nancy Pelosi --

LEE: But shouting at each other similar to what you and I are doing right now, but is not --

HANNITY: Wait a minute. Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House, and she wrote with Steny Hoyer that they are un-American. I can't think of anything more quintessentially American. [Hannity, 8/11/09]

Pelosi, Hoyer actually wrote: "Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American"

From Pelosi and Hoyer's August 10 USA Today op-ed

[A]s members of Congress spend time at home during August, they are talking with their constituents about reform. The dialogue between elected representatives and constituents is at the heart of our democracy and plays an integral role in assuring that the legislation we write reflects the genuine needs and concerns of the people we represent.

However, it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue. These tactics have included hanging in effigy one Democratic member of Congress in Maryland and protesters holding a sign displaying a tombstone with the name of another congressman in Texas, where protesters also shouted "Just say no!" drowning out those who wanted to hold a substantive discussion.

Let the facts be heard

These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views -- but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

Health care is complex. It touches every American life. It drives our economy. People must be allowed to learn the facts. [USA Today, 8/10/09]

Media have repeatedly claimed Pelosi and Hoyer called opponents "un-American." As Media Matters noted, numerous media figures including Chuck Todd, Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, Greta Van Susteren, Lou Dobbs, Carl Cameron, and Glenn Beck have previously advanced this mischaracterization of the op-ed.

CNN contributor Louis debunks claim. After Dobbs claimed that "we also have now the leadership of the House saying you're un-American to oppose" health care reform, CNN contributor Errol Louis corrected him, stating that "the un-American part was, you know, to shout people down. To stop the conversation is un-American, which I would agree with." Louis continued: "[T]he words in the article were to shut down debate; to use those kind of disruptive tactics to try and stop the debate from going forward is wrong. It is just wrong. You call it un-American; you call it whatever you want. I mean, it needs to be denounced. You can't have people tarred and feathered in effigy outside of their congressional office or hung in effigy outside of their office. That's not the way to conduct this debate." [Lou Dobbs Tonight, 8/10/09]

Echoing Beck, Hannity falsely claimed Obama told health care protesters "to shut up"

From the August 11 edition of Hannity:

HANNITY: The only people, John, that are yelling here and calling names -- it's Obama telling the American people to shut up, it's Nancy Pelosi attacking the American people, it's the Democrats comparing them to Nazis -- the Democrats are doing that.

[...]

LEE: There needs to be -- back to be a level of civility, and that is what is lacking in this debate. To scream and to shout at each other just to --

HANNITY: Maybe Obama should stop telling them to shut up.

LEE: Well, and he didn't -- the president didn't say that.

HANNITY: He did. He said it last week --

LEE: He did not say -- he did not --

HANNITY: -- I don't want to hear from them anymore.

LEE: He did not say that. [Hannity, 8/11/09]

Hannity echoed Beck's false claim that Obama said he doesn't want health reform protesters to "do a lot of talking." On the August 10 edition of his Fox News program, Glenn Beck aired a cropped version of Obama's August 6 remarks at a rally for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds, falsely claiming that Obama's statement, "I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking," was his "reaction to the health care protests."

Obama was actually discussing "folks on the other side of the aisle" who increased the deficit, not health care reform protesters. From Obama's remarks:

OBAMA: So, now, you got folks on the other side of the aisle pointing at the federal budget and somehow trying to put that at our feet. Well, let's look at the history. When I walked in, we had a $1.3 trillion deficit. That was gift-wrapped and waiting for me when I walked in the Oval Office. Without my policies, we'd have an even higher deficit going forward. The one exception is the recovery package that we had to do in order to get this economy moving again.

So you can't go out there and charge up the credit card, go on a -- all kinds of things -- shopping sprees on things that didn't grow the economy, hand over the bill to us, and say -- then say, "Why haven't you paid it off yet?" I got that bill from you.

So, we've got some work to do. I don't mind, by the way, being responsible; I expect to be held responsible for these issues because I'm the president. But I don't want the folks who created the mess -- I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them just to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess. I don't mind cleaning up after them, but don't do a lot of talking. [Obama remarks in Tysons Corner, Virginia, 8/6/09]

Obama spokesman: President welcomes "spirited debate about health care" but doesn't think "scream[ing]" is "productive"

BILL BURTON (White House deputy press secretary): The President thinks that if people want to come and have a spirited debate about health care, a real vigorous conversation about it, that's a part of the American tradition and he encourages that. ... And so if people want to come and have their concerns and their questions answered, the President thinks that's important. Now, if you just want to come to a town hall so that you can disrupt and so that you can scream over another person, he doesn't think that that's productive. And as a country, we've been able to make progress when people actually talk out what our problems are, not try to shout each other down. [White House press gaggle, 8/10/09]

Transcripts

From the August 11 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

ROBERT GIBBS (White House press secretary) [video clip]: I think what is unproductive, though, is if somebody tries to come to a town hall meeting and you can't ask your question or your mother can't ask her question because somebody else is yelling. That's what cable TV and the food fight brings to this.

HANNITY: The only people, John, that are yelling here and calling names -- it's Obama telling the American people to shut up, it's Nancy Pelosi attacking the American people, it's the Democrats comparing them to Nazis -- the Democrats are doing that.

JOHN McWHORTER (Manhattan Institute senior fellow): Oh, yeah. I mean, I'll tell you honestly that I think a lot of the people who are yelling in these town hall meetings do have some problems with misinformation. But, nevertheless, it seems to me that back in my day, when I used to teach at UC Berkeley and the big debate was affirmative action, I saw people on the left acting in the same way with the same lack of manners, the same volume, the same misinformation. Now, it wasn't in the formal setting of a town meeting about a national policy -- same thing.

HANNITY: Wait a minute. What misinformation? What yelling? You know what I see? I see fathers with their kids in wheelchairs. I see veterans that are speaking. Is there passion? Yeah, there's passion. You know, maybe they don't have the --

McWHORTER: Yes.

HANNITY: So that -- but that's real passion.

McWHORTER: They do feel what they feel. Yeah.

HANNITY: Because they see their country's going bankrupt. They see that every promise that has been made has been broken, and they're being attacked and called Nazis by people that are supposed to be public servants.

[...]

PENNY LEE (Democratic strategist): There needs to be -- back to be a level of civility, and that is what is lacking in this debate. To scream and to shout at each other just to --

HANNITY: Maybe Obama should stop telling them to shut up.

LEE: Well, and he didn't -- the president didn't say that.

HANNITY: He did. He said it last week --

LEE: He did not say -- he did not --

HANNITY: -- I don't want to hear from them anymore.

LEE: He did not say that.

HANNITY: Nancy Pelosi said they had swastikas.

LEE: Again, America is great when we have --

HANNITY: Nancy Pelosi said they are un-American.

LEE: America is great -- America is great when we do have that public discourse and we have freedom of speech, and that is a wonderful thing.

HANNITY: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Nancy Pelosi --

LEE: But shouting at each other --

HANNITY: Nancy Pelosi --

LEE: But shouting at each other similar to what you and I are doing right now, but is not --

HANNITY: Wait a minute. Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House, and she wrote with Steny Hoyer that they are un-American. I can't think of anything more quintessentially American.

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