I just had the strange and unpleasant experience of listening to Sean Hannity interview Russell Means on the radio. At least I think I have to call it an interview even if it mostly consisted of Russell Means mumbling semi-reasonable things and Hannity shouting him down and repeatedly calling him a ‘scumbag’. It was one of the creepier and more repulsive things I’ve been exposed to this year.
This ‘interview’ occurred on the Sean Hannity radio show as a result of the Ward Churchilll controversy. For those of you who live in EcoHuts in the far Yukon, Ward Churchill is the delusional professor at the University of Colorado who has been very outspoken with his theory that anyone who worked in the World Trade Center was part of the economic mechanism of American empire and therefore a fair military target, and that basically everyone who died on 9/11 deserved it. As you might imagine he’s not a real popular guy.
Anyway, at a speech Churchill made last week Russell Means did the introduction, and apparently Means has read and more or less endorses Churchill’s book. Now, Means is a very complex guy, and a bit nutty in his own right. But he’s got interesting things to say and is usually worth listening to if you let him get around to actually saying something. He’s not an easy interview, because he takes a while to get to his point and isn’t given to clear, straightforward answers.
What Russell Means really isn’t well suited to is being interviewed by a foam-flecked lunatic who seems to have no interviewing skills whatsoever and wanted him to either recant his support for Churchill instantly or just sit there and be insulted for 5 minutes.
The first thing which became clear at the start of the interview is that Shawn Hannaty has no idea whatsoever who Russell Means is. For someone who is supposed to be a professional interviewer and who has a staff of some sort to look things up for him, that’s inexcusable. Ok, maybe Hannity is too young to remember AIM and Means’ activities in the 60s and 70s, but surely someone on his staff could have looked Means up. The man is in Who’s Who in America. He’s all over the internet. There are multiple published biographies on him. How hard is it to find out who he is so your front-man doesn’t look like a complete idiot while talking to him? Hannity apparently thought Means was some sort of renegade leftist professor like Churchill, and when that turned out not to be true he latched onto Means mention that he was a part time actor and started gibbering about ‘you hollywood people’.
The ‘interview’ itself didn’t get very far at all. Hannity would read some statement from Ward Churchill, ask Means if he agreed, and then before Means could explain or qualify his agreement with the statement Hannaty would shout him into silence, ranting on about slain innocents. This type of exchange happened three times, and in the tirade at the end of the last one, before Means could even say much of anything, Hannaty started a rant in which he called Means a ‘scumbag’ five times, at the end of which Means had hung up. Of course, Hannity hardly noticed that Means was gone, and ranted on for another five minutes in a vacuum.
At the conclusion of this bizarre aural spectacle I felt more than a little queasy and wondering who the hell thought Sean Hannity was qualified to be interviewing people on the radio and TV in the first place. He’s generally not as bad as this on TV, but I guess radio indulges his worst instincts.
Ward Churchill is clearly a nut. If Russell Means is supporting him – hard to tell from this interview – then he’s made a pretty serious error in judgement. But why on earth is Hannaty bringing Russell Means on his show if he doesn’t know who the hell he is in the first place, isn’t going to let him get even one complete sentence out, and is going to shout him down and call him a scumbag? Russell Means deserves more respect than that, whatever his views on this particular topic may be.
As for Hannity, I’m at a loss. This was one of the most childish displays of unprofessional conduct I’ve seen in the media ever. More than that, this particular incident made him appear positively mentally unhinged, so overcome with emotion that he ranted like a lunatic street preacher and barked at his interviewee like a rabid dog. This type of display is neither informative nor is it entertaining. It’s everything bad that liberals accuse talk radio of being. Usually they’re wrong. In the case of Hannaty they appear to be dead on the money. He’s one mad dog who ought to be put down for the good of the rest of the talk radio community.