Sean Hannity appears on FOX News Channel’s “Hannity.” (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)

Hand it to Sean Hannity: Even after colleague Bill O’Reilly got schooled last week by Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, he himself invited Ramos on his Fox News program for essentially the same discussion.

Last Wednesday, O’Reilly wondered aloud how Ramos could cover Trump when “you’re on the record as calling him an anti-immigrant bigot?” Ramos referenced Trump’s famous comment from his campaign kickoff announcement last June: “When you say that Mexican immigrants are criminals or rapists, that is, for many people, a racist remark.” O’Reilly lashed back: “But he didn’t say all of them were.”

An identical defense pathetically turned up last night on the set of “Hannity.”

The always-fiery host blasted Ramos on two fronts: “When you go out there and say that he wants to ban 1.5 billion people from coming into the United States because of their religion or when you said that he’s calling all Mexicans criminals and murderers and rapists, that is a false characterization on your part.”

This exchange ensued:

RAMOS: I’m just — I’m simply reporting what Donald Trump has been saying.
HANNITY: That’s not true.
RAMOS: And when he says that Mexican immigrants — when he says that Mexican immigrants…
HANNITY: Some.
RAMOS: … are criminals, drug traffickers and rapists…
HANNITY: Some.
RAMOS: He’s absolutely wrong. I’m a Mexican immigrant. I know for sure. The fact is, the fact is that the vast majority of immigrants in this country are not criminals, not rapists. And he knows that.
HANNITY: He didn’t say all…

For the record, this is what Trump said last June:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best….They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

That is what O’Reilly and Hannity are lawyering in defense of Donald Trump.

At another point in the interview, Hannity ripped his guest, “You are taking his comments out of context. You’re calling him racist. You’re calling him bigoted. And you totally misrepresent what he said. And you think you’re the superior reporter? I don’t really need lectures from you, Jorge Ramos!”

Instead of a lecture, Hannity decided to present Ramos with a false choice in regard to Trump’s much-discussed proposal to institute a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. Hannity pressed Ramos: “He said a temporary ban on Muslims because our director of national intelligence, James Clapper, our FBI Director [James] Comey … all said that ISIS will infiltrate the refugee population. Do you think we should gamble with the lives of Americans, or would you support a temporary ban until we can absolutely vet them 100 percent?”

Yes, Hannity is right — Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has rung the bell about ISIS infiltration of migrants as a means of extending its reach. And posing to Ramos a choice between “gambling with the lives of Americans” and “supporting a temporary ban” on Muslims is tendentious television anchoring at its finest. Surely there are no other possible policy responses! Ramos responded with this haymaker: “You want to make discrimination official?”

In any case, Hannity lectured away at the end: “I think you got to think twice about throwing that ‘racist’ word around, and if you’re going to quote me or quote Trump or quote anybody, please do it accurately in the future before you lecture us on how to do journalism.” Ramos wasn’t having it: “We’re using the same sound bites, exactly the same sound bites, that you’re using.”

In sparring with Hannity, Ramos found noteworthy a recent one-hour interview that the host had completed with Trump. “You can be more challenging with Donald Trump, Sean, and you haven’t been.” A similar Ramos blast landed last week in O’Reilly’s lap: “You let him get away with anything.” Both hosts rejected the criticism, even though they have to know it’s true. They are in the vanguard of Trump apologists and bear a share of the responsibility for his buildup. Right in between these two fellows on the Fox News schedule, meanwhile, is Megyn Kelly, who provides skeptical, yet balanced, coverage of Trump. And gets attacked for doing so.

Many pundits once said Donald Trump never had a chance. But despite the Republican frontrunner's politically incorrect comments on Mexicans, Muslims and his closest rivals, his popularity is soaring. (Reuters)