The last week has proven that Hannity is, without a doubt, the worst kind of exploitative, unprincipled political hack, in case there was any remaining shred of doubt. But in this instance, Hannity’s self-satisfied rhetorical autofellatio has been so hypocritical it’s a new low, even for him.
Let’s start with how he handled accusations against Alabama’s Republican nominee for Senate, Roy Moore. After The Washington Post published a story citing 30 sources, and alleging that Moore had, when he was in his thirties, pursued romantic relationships with teenage girls (including allegedly molesting a 14-year-old), Hannity invited his viewers to hop aboard the If True Express—as though there were possibly holes in the Post’s reporting that would come out once Breitbart sent two of its oiliest reporters to Alabama to discredit the women. Hannity gave Moore a chance to explain himself on his radio show. A safe space, if you will. He also had an expert on to discuss how most sexual assault is made up.
That didn’t go over well, so Hannity issued a tough-talk ultimatum. Moore had to respond to the allegations in 24 hours, or else… well he didn’t really say or else what; suffice to say, Hannity was about to get real mad. But then, Hannity backpedaled, claiming that as a New York City TV yeller he had no right to tell the people of Alabama to vote one way or another (despite the fact that his job has, for many moons, entailed telling people all over the country how he thinks they should vote). He wimped out. He surrendered. He caved. He chickened out. Reports today indicated that Hannity backed off because Steve Bannon urged him to. Wow. Truly brave.
One would think that after such a pusillanimous display, wherein Hannity proved that he only believes that sexual molestation and harassment are bad if Steve Bannon thinks it should be talked about as bad, Sean Hannity would sit on his hands the next time sexual assault entered the news. I mean, he’d just both-sides’d child molestation. Doesn’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to other stuff, right?
Nope. News that Al Franken had groped and harassed model and radio personality Leeann Tweeden in 2006 was as irresistible to Sean Hannity as a teenage girl to a thirtysomething Roy Moore. Last night, Hannity deemed the Minnesota Democrat “Senator Grope” (uh, good one). He attacked Franken in the same week he let Moore off the hook. It was fucking shameless.
This isn’t the first time that Sean Hannity has used women who were sexually victimized as props for his own political ends. After the Access Hollywood tape leaked last year, Sean Hannity dismissed Donald Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” comments as just words. When women came forward—15 in total—to accuse the Republican presidential nominee of sexual misconduct, Hannity called the story a “distraction” and pointed out that what Trump was alleged to have done wasn’t as bad as what Bill Clinton had done. He also suggested that one of Trump’s alleged victims might have been asking for it.
Around the same time, he invited Bill Clinton’s alleged victims on to discuss what they’d been through. Hannity believed them.
It’s true that what Bill Clinton has been accused of is worse than what Donald Trump has been accused of. But Clinton’s misdeeds don’t launder Trump’s. Things can be morally bad if they’re not the very worst. Claiming Trump’s misdeeds should be exonerated by Clinton’s worse deeds is like claiming, at an assault trial, that you shouldn’t be charged with anything because you didn’t commit murder. It’s idiotic.
But now, Hannity is taking the opposite tack, siding with the bad guy whose alleged misdeeds are much greater in degree than the one whose misdeeds he’s now condemning. What Al Franken did was certainly bad. What Roy Moore is alleged to have done is worse, from both a legal and moral standpoint. Both actions are bad, both cause harm, and both are unbecoming of U.S. senators. Claiming that Franken deserves to be thrown off a cliff while Moore deserves a chance is as backward as wanting to legalize murder but turn assault into a capital crime.
The #MeToo moment’s spillage into Washington has laid bare the boundless craven opportunism among a certain political ilk. Hannity’s moral relativism on sexual assault contributes to a social attitude that is harmful to women who come forward after being harassed or assaulted. If women know that their stories will either be embraced or waved off depending on who they’re accusing and who they’re telling, why even come forward at all? The beauty of the #MeToo moment is that women finally feel as though they’re being listened to. Hannity’s philosophy is, ultimately, that political agenda trumps female personhood, that some women’s lived experiences are more valuable than others (and the others, unfortunately, are not valuable at all). If he’d ever demonstrated a capacity for shame, I’d say Sean Hannity should be ashamed of himself.
But he’s not alone in exploiting this moment. For more on female personhood in the Trump era, let’s turn to the White House. Donald Trump, after laying low on the Moore issue, today tweeted about how hard he was clutching his pearls over Al Franken. It’s not clear why anybody would lean into a kick in the groin like that; with that, Trump opened himself up to a media revisit of the dozen-plus women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct, and we’ll likely be re-familiarizing ourselves with those claims over the next few days.
But what struck me most today, a trash day in a garbage pile of a week in a steaming dump of a year, was how Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the White House’s insane stance. “Sen. Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn’t,” she told reporters today. What matters, in the eyes of the White House and Sean Hannity, are the words of men. And women, the only women who aren’t liars in their minds, are the ones who agree.