In Sean Hannity's newest effort to blame Democrats for the ongoing government shutdown, the Fox News host amplified a right-wing distortion of an exchange between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and CNN's Dana Bash to smear Reid as having an “angry, bitter” attitude toward children suffering from cancer.
CNN's Dana Bash asked Reid during an October 2 press conference if Democrats would be supportive of a House bill that would reinstate funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That funding, which includes a program that provides access to clinical trials for children with cancer, was halted after House Republicans refused to pass a bill to fund government operations in an effort to derail the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Bash then asked, “If you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn't you do it?” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) replied to Bash, “Why pit one against the other?” and Reid, who was critical of the Republican idea that Congress could “pick and choose” which parts of the government to fund, added, “Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own.” Reid's comments referenced his push for a bill that would fund the entire government, including the NIH.
Hannity knocked Reid's comments as “partisanship at a really despicable level,” before rhetorically asking Reid how he would feel if a member of his own family had been affected. Later in the show, Hannity claimed that, “Harry Reid says he wouldn't want to help one kid with cancer.” At one point, Hannity accused Reid of being, “cold, callous, heartless, mean spirited, hateful,” among other things:
HANNITY: All this casual cruelty of Harry Reid, he's going to subordinate literally compassion and decency for partisanship? He won't keep the parks open. He won't allow the vets to do go to World War II? He's not gonna fund the NIH even if it's gonna help one kid with cancer? I mean, that's pretty sick. What a twised, old -- I'm sorry.
Hannity's characterization of the exchange unfairly distorted Reid's remarks by ignoring the context in which they were made. Reid was not dismissing the idea of funding cancer treatment for children. Rather, he was dismissing the notion that that funding the NIH should be accomplished via a lone spending bill when it could instead be achieved with the passage of a “clean” continuing resolution that would fund the entire government -- a bill Republicans are refusing to pass. His question asking Reid how he'd feel if it affected his own family was particularly callous given the fact that Reid's wife is a cancer survivor.
Hannity's take on Reid's comments mirrored other right wing media figures' reactions, of which Politico's Dylan Byers wrote, “I can't imagine the intellectual leaps and bounds you'd have to go through to arrive at the conclusion that Sen. Reid doesn't care about cancer patients.”
Hannity's efforts to shift blame for the government shutdown away from Republicans are laughable considering that he was one of conservative media's loudest cheerleaders of the shutdown strategy -- cheerleading that his own colleagues have acknowledged can lead to the very hyper-partisan congressional dysfunction that helped cause the shutdown in the first place.
Photo Credit: Center for American Progress Action Fund via Flickr