Fox News' America's Newsroom criticized a Hannity segment for “cross[ing] the line” of “civil society” after a frequent Hannity guest yelled for his female debate opponent to “know your role and shut your mouth.” The daytime program wondered if this type of behavior -- not far from standard fare on Hannity and other Fox primetime programming -- damages the nation's ability to have serious discussions.
Radio host and frequent Hannity guest Bill Cunningham appeared on the June 20 edition of Hannity to debate Fox contributor Tamara Holder on the merits of claims that Attorney General Eric Holder mislead Congress while under oath. Out of the gate, Cunningham told Tamara Holder she was “one of the stooges of the left,” pointing his finger at her while loudly shouting, “Sign the petition, Tamara! To call for the resignation of the chief law enforcement officer of this nation because he lied under oath when he criminalized journalism. And you know he did it but you refuse to do what's right.” Holder replied that, “your finger does not prove your point,” pointing back at Cunningham:
CUNNINGHAM: Whose finger's in my face right now?
HOLDER: Mine, because I'm telling you to shut up.
CUNNINGHAM: Wait a minute. You shut up. Know your role and shut your mouth.
HOLDER: My role as a woman?
CUNNINGHAM: Yeah. Yeah.
HOLDER: What is your obsession with stooges? Aren't stooges like little elves?
CUNNINGHAM: I'm sitting next to you. I'm sitting next to you. And you're a liberal stooge and an excuse-monger for the Obama administration.
HOLDER: Never mind. I --
CUNNINGHAM: What are you going to cry?
HOLDER: No! I'm not going to cry.
CUNNINGHAM: You're not going to cry?
The next morning, America's Newsroom dedicated a segment to whether Cunningham's behavior “crossed the line,” concluding that conduct like this on Hannity stifled important public debate on national issues. Host Martha MacCallum appeared speechless after playing an excerpt of Cunningham's comments, asking, “Is this what we've come to? Is this civil society?”
Fox contributors Juan Williams and Mary Katherine Ham agreed that Cunningham's conduct was unacceptable, as Williams asserted, “He not only crossed the line, he obliterated the line ... I think it shut down the conversation. That doesn't help.”
MacCallum shared the concern that personal attacks like Cunningham's damage the nation's ability to communicate, wondering, “What does this say, sort of, about our ability to communicate and you know, have a serious, respectful discussion on these things these days?” Williams replied, “What it does is, it makes it very difficult then to cross lines to have reasoned conversation.”
Bill Cunningham has been crossing the line for years, and yet Fox continues to host him during primetime. Among his most egregious claims, Cunningham has declared President Obama “to be the beast. Six-six-six,” and said that under the Obama administration “women are going to sell their bodies for pennies.” He claimed the poor are in poverty “because they lack values, ethics, and morals” and advocated “beat[ing]” the hell outta" the homeless. Still, a Nexis transcript search finds Hannity has hosted Cunningham eight times so far in 2013.