In recent broadcasts, Fox News host Sean Hannity has voiced support for 68-year-old Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his family in their standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management over grazing for Bundy’s cattle. The bureau asserts that Bundy owes in excess of $1 million in fees and penalties for loosing the cattle on federal land for about two decades. Bundy has declined to pay up, and this month federal officials seeking to round up Bundy’s cattle engaged in a standoff with armed citizens protesting on Bundy’s behalf.
In one clip highlighted by Stewart, Hannity noted: “It’s not like they want to build a school, a road or a hospital. That land’s going to stay vacant whether or not your cattle are on it or not, right?” Another: “By the way, when your cattle graze there, that keeps the price of meat down for every American consumer,” averred Hannity, a comment that drew this rejoinder from Stewart: “Yeah, most goods are cheaper when you steal the raw materials necessary to make them.”
At this point, “The Daily Show’s” ace video-archiving gene kicked in. Sensing that Hannity was endorsing a “buffet-style” approach to complying with the law, Stewart played clips of Hannity scolding previous guests for just this offense: “You only believe we should obey the laws that you want to obey — obey the laws you like,” he lectured a guest on an immigration topic on Aug. 23, 2006; Stewart played a couple of other such instances. Another inconsistency: Hannity has previously slammed those who are “scamming off the taxpayers,” as Stewart put it, noting Hannity’s hammering of a California surfer dude who relies on food stamps.
Whatever contradictions may be sprouting from Hannity’s coverage of the Bundy story, it’s a stretch to suppose that Hannity would ever walk past this particular story. We’re talking about a Western rancher facing off against a very powerful federal government, guns and flags in every camera shot. Nor has Hannity been uniformly over the top about the Bundy issue, as Stewart’s segment might lead you to believe. On his April 16 show, for instance, he spoke with pundit Tucker Carlson, who brushed back Bundy: “I mean, and they certainly wasted more than a million dollars … hassling the Bundy family — is an absolutely correct point. But it’s also true to say, again, here’s the principle, and it’s a conservative principle: If you use public property to make a profit, you ought to pay.”