Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Hannity shows the other side of the boycott story

Peter Bronson

Sean Hannity should be listed on the New York Stock Exchange: SeanInc. He's a one-man opinion industry, with products in every media grocery aisle: TV, Internet, talk radio and a best-seller in print, Let Freedom Ring.

He says he now reaches as many as 18 million people a week. And it felt like all of them were packed into Cintas Center to hear him Friday night.

Hannity is riding a Banzai Pipeline wave of anger at the media. His success is fueled by a growing national appetite for the "other side" of the story from a conservative point of view.

And he thinks the demand itself shows how far the rest of the press has tilted.

"People have choices, and they instinctively perceive an institutional bias," he says. Networks and newspapers "don't understand the problem, but we've made them more aware of their bias."

In an interview and during his speech at Cintas Center, he described the epic battle for America's future as an all-out ideological war. "The Democrats are on the run," he said to reverberating cheers from fans of his syndicated show on 550 WKRC-AM.

A well-dressed, middle-aged woman stood up during the Q&A and asked him, "When are you going to get Hillary on your show and grill her like the pork chop she is?" The sell-out crowd of 4,000 erupted.

It was feeding time at the zoo, and liberals were the raw meat being broiled by Hannity and his guest, author Ann Coulter.

Welcome to Cincinnati, where conservatives are the majority, and know how to act like it. They were young and old, from all over town, having a rowdy "booya" good time.

When Hannity asked for a head-count of liberals in the crowd, one guy raised his hand. One.

That's not counting the eight who picketed outdoors, the last stragglers in the slow, ragtag retreat of the increasingly disoriented Cincinnati boycott.

Hannity had asked their leader, Nate Livingston, to come on stage and have his say, uninterrupted. Livingston chose instead to stand outside with a bullhorn as protesters shouted racist slurs and profanities at the departing crowd.

"Liberals are on the wrong side of history," Hannity said.

And there was the proof, standing outside in the rain behind a line of cops, waving soggy cardboard signs, screaming insults and obscenities at men, women and children who chose to defy a boycott enforced by a tiny handful of misguided extremists.

The people who came to see Hannity had another reason to show up: Many were also there to stand up against the boycott threats and intimidation that had become a national topic on Hannity's radio show. They were there to say, "It's over."

Once again, Cincinnati was in the national spotlight. But this time, the story was actually flattering. Finally, the boycotters were exposed as a joke. Threats of "hundreds" of picketers turned out to be just eight. A boycott for "justice" was revealed as an attack on free expression of ideas.

It was the long overdue reply to boycotters Bill Cosby and Whoopi Goldberg.

"I don't think innocent people should get hurt because you want to make a political point," Hannity said.

Thank you.

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