Earlier this week, we highlighted a segment from Sean Hannity's nightly Fox News program that spent over six minutes smearing State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. What we found perplexing about the piece wasn't that it included numerous distortions and omissions -- that's par ...
Earlier this week, we highlighted a segment from Sean Hannity's nightly Fox News program that spent over six minutes smearing State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. What we found perplexing about the piece wasn't that it included numerous distortions and omissions -- that's par for the course, after all -- but rather that Tribune political reporter Rick Pearson had submitted to such a lengthy interview with Hannity. How could he "possibly be confident the resulting report will be fair and accurate?" we asked.
Well, it turns out that Pearson didn't actually know his analysis was going to end up on Hannity's show. To the contrary, he taped the interview under the impression it would be used as part of a straight news report on the U.S. Senate race -- one that examined both Giannoulias and GOP candidate Mark Kirk. He only later found out that he would be appearing as part of a Hannity hit-job on Giannoulias and that his comments regarding Kirk would be left out entirely.
On Steve Cochran's WGN Radio show yesterday evening, Pearson shared his thoughts about the segment, saying that he felt "hijacked" by Hannity because his presence in the report had been used to "lend them credibility." "[I]t's almost like an identity theft kind of thing in a way," Pearson added, "because all I have is my credibility. And I know that show doesn't have any." Listen:
Pearson's experience is a good lesson for reporters as the campaign season ramps up: Before you submit to a national news interview, be sure you know who is ultimately going to be slicing and dicing your words.
An abridged transcript of the Pearson interview appears below:
PEARSON: I got hijacked the other night. Actually, my credibility got hijacked and I'm not happy about it. [...]
A week ago, I was contacted by a producer for Fox News and was asked if I would mind coming over to tape a segment for a newscast -- a news segment about the upcoming U.S. Senate race in Illinois, with Democratic Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Republican congressman Mark Kirk as the respective candidates of their parties.
Went over there, sat for an interview, talked about both Treasurer Giannoulias and also about Mark Kirk. And they said, "Thank you very much. We'll send you a note when your segment airs." Two nights ago, I get an email from a producer saying, "Your segment will air on Sean Hannity's show."
COCHRAN: And I would guess that it did not air in context.
PEARSON: It was a six-minute, twenty-second attack on Alexi Giannoulias. Now, I'm not going to defend the treasurer. And frankly, what I said in the interview is what I would say as far as any interview. But it was billed as a "special investigation" featuring grainy photos of Bill Ayers and various assorted misdeeds -- did not mention Mark Kirk at all, except of course that he was the leading Republican. [...]
I'm there to lend them credibility is what they did. And that's why I feel my credibility was hijacked by this. [...]
Frankly, Hannity has had people on before that were not qualified to really tell you what the price of a loaf of bread is in a grocery store. I'm not a politically ideological person. I don't pick sides to root for here -- any of that stuff. And for a legitimate news segment, I have no problem with that. But to really, kind of, have had this happen to me -- I mean, it's almost like an identity theft kind of thing in a way, because all I have is my credibility. And I know that show doesn't have any.