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Remember When Sean Hannity Was Fired For Anti-Gay Hate Speech?

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Before becoming a prominent Fox News personality, Sean Hannity was fired from a local radio show for peddling a number of extremely disparaging smears about gay people, including the myth that gay men are prone to disease because they consume each other’s feces during sex.

In a recent book by a journalist from New York magazine, Gabriel Sherman  describes the start of Sean Hannity’s career as a conservative radio personality. In The Loudest Voice in the Room, Sherman recounts Hannity’s hour-long morning call-in show at KCSB, the UC Santa Barbara college station. Sherman reminds us that the short-lived show was canceled back in 1989 after Hannity got himself in hot water over several extremely anti-gay hateful comments. Many of these comments were made during a segment featuring Gene Antonio, author of the book The AIDS Cover-up? The Real and Alarming Facts About AIDS.

Sherman writes that, “In April 1989, Hannity invited the virulent anti-gay activist Gene Antonio on the air to promote his already widely discredited book, The AIDS Cover-up? The Real and Alarming Facts About AIDS.” Sherman explains that the author was “A Lutheran minister without scientific training, Antonio peddled paranoid fictions about the epidemic. He wrote that the virus could be transmitted by sneezes and mosquito bites and that the Centers for Disease Control and the American Medical Association conspired to cover up the ‘truth.'”

At the opening of his hour-long interview, Hannity said: “I’m sick and tired of the media and the homosexual community preventing us from getting the true, accurate information about AIDS in this day.” He went on to describe The AIDS Cover-up? as an “excellent book” that was “so full of facts” and added, “if you want the real truth about this deadly, deadly disease, he’s not afraid to say what the homosexuals don’t want you to hear.” He gave his audience Antonio’s mailing address, where they could order “autographed copies” and write to find out about “places where homosexuals can go for help if they want to change.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 239]

After massive calls for a boycott of the show, the station’s management decided to take Hannity off the air in June of 1989. The cause was cited as violating the school’s non-discrimination policy.

Hannity elicited the help of the Santa Babara and Los Angeles chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union. Together, they fought back, launching a “free speech campaign” against the station. The university was ultimately forced to reinstate his program, in spite of the fact that Hannity had in fact violated the school’s non-discrimination policy, as he was accused of.

Some examples of Hannity’s hateful, discriminatory comments included saying that it is common practice for homosexuals to literally eat fecal matter. He also said that he would never want a homosexual teaching his children. While it is certainly Mr. Hannity’s right to believe whatever he wants about homosexuals, or anyone else who is different from him, it was not his right to violate the school’s non-discrimination policy. Similarly, while Hannity may have the right to be a bigot, today he acts as though his position on issues like gay marriage and the like are not rooted in hatred, when his own work history proves otherwise.

Know any Hannity fans? Let them know the type of hate and venom that this guy BUILT his career on!

(Article by Ari Simeon; image via the Independent, June 22, 1989)

4 Comments on "Remember When Sean Hannity Was Fired For Anti-Gay Hate Speech?"

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  1. chris graviss says:

    Now I don’t know the school anti-discrimination policy is, but it would seem that discrimination requires action or disaction based on the bias. Hateful speech, while distasteful, should never be prohibited as long as is not a direct incitement of violence. Even speech calling for non-violent discrimination (no matter how much you disagree w it) can not be restricted. That is the price of freedom, and one well worth paying.

    • PBSpot Admin says:

      In public, yes. Private institutions, however, have every right to set policies against hateful speech. That is what happened in this case, but because of pressure at the time – and because few would stand up for the rights of homosexuals, Hannity was reinstated.

      • Isn’t UCSB public? I agree that private institutions can set their own policies, although if we take that argument to its other extreme, than a private entity ought to have no restrictions on discrimination, whether it wants to only hire gays, straights, women, or blacks. (Rand Paul actually got this right a couple years ago). Such policies are bad business, and I would expect a free market to drive them out rather quickly, these days.

        “cause few would stand up for the rights of homosexuals”- It is the concept of rights where I sometimes feel certain advocacy groups go to far. As in this example, there are many who advocate limiting hate speech even in public. No-one has a right to not be hated. Personally, I hate anyone who hates anyone else, but I can only hope to modify their hatred through rational discourse, not force.

        • PBSpot Admin says:

          Every university is perfectly welcome under U.S. law to establish rules prohibiting hate speech on University-owned radio stations, or even in the classroom. The University is not required to allow Neo-Nazi student groups, or radio shows, regardless of whether they are privately or publicly funded.

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