Since President Obama's and Sarah Palin's speeches on Wednesday about the tragic shooting in Arizona, some in the media have contrasted their addresses and found Palin's wanting (Politico, for example, headlined one article, “Barack Obama takes opportunity Palin missed”).
Now, with her polling support in free fall and her presidential hopes on the ropes (Joe Scarborough is of the mind that Palin “probably ended” her political career with response to shootings), Palin will sit for her first extended interview since the shooting on Monday night's Hannity.
Slate's David Weigel responds to the news by coining a new definition of the neologism “Hannitize”: "(v) To clean up a messy situation with a softball interview, typically one conducted by Sean Hannity." And indeed, even on a network with a long history of providing non-confrontational interviews of conservatives, Hannity stands above the rest in his willingness to frame his questions to embattled conservatives in the most supportive way possible. Hannity isn't who you go who to set the facts straight; he's who you go to craft the most positive interview possible.
How will the rest of the media respond? If history is the guide, not well. Mainstream reporters have long served as stenographers for Palin, trumpeting her every Tweet, Facebook note, and right-wing media comment to their audiences without a care for her unwillingness to submit herself to questions from actual journalists
In his initial report for The New York Times on the pending interview, Jim Rutenberg sets a strong standard:
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey suggested on Wednesday -- in an interview with The New York Times -- that if Ms. Palin ever wanted to be president, she needed to open herself to potentially combative question-and-answer sessions.
In going on Mr. Hannity's program, however, she is choosing a more sympathetic setting, an indication of her continuing isolation from what she calls the “lamestream” media. Ms. Palin rarely does interviews, and when she does, she tends to submit only to questions by conservative-leaning questioners.
The rest of the media should strive to provide this needed context in their reports on Palin's Hannity interview, not allow her to use a friendly chat with a right-wing propagandist to set next week's conversation.