The state of Alaska released more than 24,000 of Sarah Palin's official emails as Alaska governor, and Sean Hannity has wasted no time shielding his Fox News colleague from potential criticism. Hannity was quick to accuse “the mainstream Obama mania media” of trying to “smear” Palin by asking readers to look through the emails. From Friday's Hannity:
HANNITY: The left's bizarre obsession with Sarah Palin surged to a whole new level today, as the state of Alaska released 24,000 emails from her time as governor. And at this hour, liberals are no doubt sifting through her private correspondence hoping to find some evidence of some impropriety. And as usual, the mainstream Obama mania media is doing its part to help smear the former governor. Now this week, left-wing news outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post enlisted their readers to help comb through the mountains of documents. Quote, “Help us investigate the Sarah Palin e-mail records,” reads an article on the Times website. And the Post, well, they took a similar even asking anyone interested to fill out an application explaining why they should be considered for their team of 100 investigators. However, after conservatives like Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, and others cried foul, the Post has now reconsidered its approach. Instead of limiting its attack team to 100 people, it's encouraging all readers to read through the governor's emails and send in comments on the contents. Anyone who can still say with a straight face the media is not biased, well, you should be nominated for an Oscar.
HANNITY: Look, Krystal [Ball], I understand the left doesn't agree with her politics, but don't you find this obnoxious? This over-the-top -- media outlets. Come on, help us, join in the smear campaign, you can be part of it.
First, these emails are not “private correspondence.” As The New York Times reported, emails sent from Palin's personal accounts that discussed state business were determined to be public record: “Ms. Palin frequently used her personal e-mail account to discuss state business, including with her husband, and those e-mails have been determined to be public record.” The same article reported that a spokesman for the Alaskan Governor said that an attorney for Ms. Palin had reviewed the material and requested neither redactions nor that any messages be withheld. Further, per the Times, many emails were withheld for both executive privilege and privacy: “In addition, more than 2,000 pages of the e-mails have been withheld for various reasons, including executive privilege and privacy, according to Gov. Sean Parnell's office.”
Second, Hannity's characterization of the Post and the Times is grossly misleading, and was equally so when he shifted to his panel discussion:
HANNITY: I understand the left doesn't agree with her politics. Don't you find this obnoxious? This over-the-top -- media outlets. Come on, help us, join in the smear campaign you can be part of it.
Both The Washington Post and The New York Times asked readers to help identify “interesting” or “noteworthy” messages. Neither invitation reads like an invitation to “smear campaign” or “attack team” against Sarah Palin. From the Post:
Here's how to participate: Over 24,000 e-mail messages to and from Sarah Palin during her tenure as Alaska's governor will be released Friday. We'll be posting them here, and are inviting you to comment on the most interesting or most noteworthy sections. Please include page numbers and, where possible, a direct excerpt. We'll share your comments with our reporters and may use facts or related material you suggest to annotate the documents displayed on The Post site.
From the Times:
On Friday, the State of Alaska will release more than 24,000 of Sarah Palin's e-mails covering much of her tenure as governor of Alaska. Times reporters will be in Juneau, the state capital, to begin the process of reviewing the e-mails, which we will be posting on NYtimes.com starting on Friday afternoon.
We're asking readers to help us identify interesting and newsworthy e-mails, people and events that we may want to highlight. Interested users can fill out a simple form to describe the nature of the e-mail, and provide a name and e-mail address so we'll know who should get the credit. Join us here on Friday afternoon and into the weekend to participate.
Finally, Hannity tried to invent a media double standard to decry by reincarnating the mythic close connection between President Obama and Bill Ayers:
HANNITY: Can I give you an example, though? In 2008, we had a candidate running for president that started his campaign in the home of an unrepentant terrorist, that sat on boards with him and gave speeches with him. How many questions was Barack Obama asked during the campaign about Bill Ayers? Do you know the answer to that question?
BALL: I don't know the exact number.
HANNITY: The answer is one. One question. And he's hanging out with a guy that bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol, and New York City police headquarters. Do you think that there's any proportionality here?
Hannity goofed up the talking point by saying that Obama began his campaign in Ayers' home. The right-wing spin is that Ayers hosted the launch of Obama's political career. (In truth, Ayers hosted a coffee event for Obama's first run for office.) Hannity cleaned up the point on the second go:
HANNITY: I want to go back to this. Are you really going to look in the camera and tell me if Governor Palin started her career in the home of an unrepentant terrorist, hung out with Jeremiah Wright, gave speeches with Ayers and Dohrn, sat on boards with Bill Ayers, you're telling me -- you're telling me that she would only get one question and her answer that “he's just a guy in the neighborhood” would fly? Krystal, look in the camera and tell the American people you don't believe that. Answer the Ayers part.
The acquaintance between Obama and Ayers, including their shared community involvement and board activities, was reported by The New York Times a month before the 2008 election. Then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's criticism of Obama over that acquaintance was covered by NPR and Reuters. A Times writer even repeated Palin's claim regarding Ayers that Obama was “palling around with terrorists” without noting the Times' own reporting to the contrary. Hannity's suggestion that the media swept Bill Ayers under the rug is simply false.