Sean Hannity dredged up the long-debunked “Obama phone” smear on his radio show by suggesting that a caller was voting for President Obama so he could get a free cell phone. But the program that “Obama phones” refers to was not started under the Obama administration and is not funded by the government or by taxpayer money.
Last week, a video surfaced of a woman who claimed that she received a free “Obama phone.” The video was picked up by the Drudge Report and Rush Limbaugh, and it quickly spread throughout the right-wing media. In fact, the current federal program of offering subsidized phone service has nothing to do with Obama - it was created in 1996 and was expanded to cover cell phones in 2008, under the Bush administration. Further, the goal of universal service has been a basic tenet of federal telecommunications policy since 1934, and the program is entirely funded by the telecom industry, not through taxpayer money.
Hannity pushed the false narrative on the October 1 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show while taking a call from someone he identified as “one more Dem in D.C.” When the caller said that was voting for Obama and was about to explain the reason he was doing so, Hannity responded: “Let me guess -- you're gonna get an Obama phone.”
Hannity's embrace of the “Obama phone” story fits in with the conservative narrative of attacking Obama supporters as lazy and dependent on the state, most recently illustrated by the right-wing media's embrace of Mitt Romney's criticism that “47 percent” of the electorate are Obama supporters who do not pay income tax and refuse to take “personal responsibility” for their lives.
Hannity pushed this theme last month when he asked, “Do you think people are better off on food stamps, or are they better off with a job?” -- even though most recipients of food stamp benefits are working-class Americans with jobs, or are senior citizens or children. Hannity also claimed that Romney's “47 percent” remarks will ultimately “be seen as a godsend” for the candidate.