Last Friday, as millions of Americans were trying to pick up the pieces in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Sean Hannity seems to have been looking for an opportunity. By the time his radio show went live that afternoon he thought he had found one: there was one unsubstantiated report that a crew of Alabama linemen had been asked to sign a union document before beginning repair work in New Jersey. Never mind that the report turned out to be inaccurate -- Hannity thought he had struck gold.
He went on the air blazing, reporting the un-factchecked information as if it were news. And then -- inexplicably -- he played an audio clip he claimed was a union worker from New York turning away the non-union workers from Alabama. He seethed with outrage as he demonized the first responders, yelling, "Who's in charge here?"
Good question. The audio Hannity played was not what he claimed it was -- in fact, it wasn't even from this year. It had absolutely nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy, repair work, or anyone from Alabama. And the report of the crew from Alabama being turned away also appears to be without merit, according to other crews on the ground, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Governor of New Jersey.
I'm not naïve -- I know that FoxNews is perhaps the biggest misnomer in American media. But what Hannity did surely can't just be chalked up to sloppy reporting. This must be something different.
In his attempt to tar unions, Hannity apparently tried to turn first responder against first responder in the middle of a national crisis. It looks like he purposefully manipulated millions of Americans with doctored audio and false information. Who knows how much time was wasted when Governor Christie and others on the ground had to stop what they were doing to sort out his lies? This isn't news, and it isn't even commentary. This must be purposeful manipulation meant to divide a nation just as it is coming together to rebuild.
Over the past week, Americans have watched as linemen and other highly-skilled workers from as far away as California have poured into affected states to volunteer. Union and non-union, they are working 16-hour shifts seven days a week -- and they are working side by side. IBEW workers are grateful for the opportunity to help, and will continue to keep their heads down and work to get the power back on in hospitals, schools and homes across the country. But we ask the people in these damaged states to judge us on our character, the work we do and the facts -- not the lies and political manipulations of Sean Hannity and his ilk.