There's no question that Sean Hannity was, is, and will continue to be an unethical, lying hack. He's a determined and gifted prevaricator, a Republican National Committee spokesman posing as a cable news host, and in a moment of exquisite Schadenfreude for the Democrats and progressives he makes an ample living demonizing, he was exposed as such when his Fox News masters decided it was finally time to yank on the leash and end his pay-for-bray involvement with the Cincinnati Tea Party.
It was embarrassing for Fox News, and probably confusing for Hannity, who likely assumed he had carte blanche to use his considerable media presence to boost Republican and conservative politics. But for all the reporting on how Fox News executives are furious with Hannity and plan to exhaustively investigate the situation, count me as extraordinarily skeptical that the network will do anything to punish Hannity.
Recall that this isn't the first time a Fox News personality has misbehaved egregiously enough for the network brass to publicly intervene. Remember when Glenn Beck called Obama a “racist” ? Or how about when a Fox News producer was caught whipping up a 9/12 crowd for a live shot? And what about Fox News' promotion of the ridiculous story that President Obama was educated as a child in a madrassa? I can't recall any heads rolling after those incidents. In the latter two instances, executives released all-staff memos reminding their employees that they have to at least pretend to act like journalists sometimes. In the case of Beck's “racist” jab, the worst he got was the support of Rupert Murdoch.
And, of course, there were egregious instances in which Fox News heads should have rolled, but conspicuously didn't. For example, when the Fox & Friends crew photoshopped pictures of two New York Times journalists to give them yellow teeth and circles under their eyes. Not only did they escape rebuke, they were defended by Bill O'Reilly on the air. And who can forget E.D. Hill's famous "terrorist fist jab"? Sure, Hill's show was cancelled not long after that, but Fox News executives went out of their way to say that the cancellation had nothing to do with Hill's insinuation that Barack Obama and his wife were playing jihadi pantomime.
This isn't the first time Hannity has crossed the line, either. Remember Andy Martin, the virulent anti-Semite whose ridiculous anti-Obama conspiracy theories factored heavily into Hannity's “documentary” on the president's “radical” associations? The repercussions from that were... nonexistent.
To paraphrase MSNBC's First Read's response to the Beck- “racist” fiasco, there was a time when outrageous acts of journalistic malpractice like these would actually cost the offending journalists their jobs. But these “journalists” happen to work for Fox News, so the worst they'll get is the salutary neglect of their superiors. Or perhaps a staff memo.