Skip to comments.New: Sean Hannity Interviewed by Catholic World Report (December Issue)
Posted on 12/07/2001 7:36:03 PM PST by Notwithstanding
Sean Hannity's Passion for Ideas
The conservative Catholic radio personality admits: I want everybody to think like me.
...You are also unusual, among media figures, in that you are not embarrassed about saying that your religious faith shapes and guides your political views.
Hannity: No, not at all. My faith is the most important thing in my life....I look at the Pope, and I see a very decent man. A lot of people look at the issues that divide usthe Christian community, Catholics and Protestants, and so forth. I look at the larger issue. We believe fundamentally in goodnessin goodness over evil. I think we should look more to the things that align us than those that separate us. Just because there are people of a similar faithpeople who are Catholicswho believe in a greater role for government in solving social illsthat does not make them bad people. I just think they are misguided, in a political sense. I dont take any of that personally. I view it as just a difference of opinion.
The conservative Catholic radio personality admits:
I want everybody to think like me.
Over the past several years, Sean Hannity has established himself as the foremost rising star among Americas talk-radio personalities. An outspoken and articulate conservative, he has demonstrated a knack for causing listeners to react stronglywhether favorably or unfavorablyto the views he expresses.
Born in Long Island, New York, Hannity discovered his talent as a radio host while he was still a college undergraduate in California. After graduation he established his own talk show in Atlanta, then moved back to New York as host of the Sean Hannity Show, broadcast by WABC radio and syndicated across the country. Since 1996 he has also been the co-host, with Alan Colmes, of the Hannity and Colmes show, a one-hour daily debate and discussion program on the Fox News television network.In the world of broadcast journalists, Sean Hannity is distinguished not only by his provocative style but also by his unapologetic defense of his pro-life principles and his Catholic faith. CWR asked the talk-show star to speak about his career, his religious beliefs, and the way they interact.
You made your start in the radio business when you were a college student. Prior to that, did you have any background in public speaking or debating to point you in that direction?
Hannity: No, not at all.
Then how did you become interested in that line of work?
Hannity: You know, I grew up listening to talk radio, and I just had an interest in it. I just followed by natural interest, really. I always was fascinated by it. I used to stay up late at night, in New York, and listen to the pioneers of the talk industry. That was something that I always wanted to do. So I found a way to get into it. Once you get behind the microphone, you find that you either love it or you dont. I just had a natural love for it.
Who were those pioneers of talk radiothe ones who inspired you?
Hannity: Oh, Barry Gray and Barry Farber and Bob Grant. Then there were Jerry Williams and Gene Burns in the Boston area. I eventually started listening to them as well. It wasnt until later that Rush Limbaugh came along and really transformed the industry. But those early guys were a big influence.
For your regular daily show on the Fox News television network, you and Alan Colmes have a heated debate every night. Is it true that you are friends off the air?
Hannity:Yes, hes a really good guy.
Is your friendship an essential part of the programs success?
Hannity: I think it is a component; I dont think theres any doubt about that. It certainly plays a part in our success. I dont think people would want to watch people who actually hate each other.
Among people who are regularly engaged in public controversies, one often finds an admirable ability to maintain friendly relations with those who disagree with one another. Do you often find that capacity among the people who are guests on your shows?
Hannity: Yes, I do. Congressman Gary Ackerman is a good case in point. He and I can battle it out as passionately as any other couple of people who like politics. But after the show, oftentimes either he will have won a bet, or I will have wonbecause you see were always betting about politics, too. We usually bet steak dinners, so after the show one of us will take the other out for a steak dinner. You cant take it personally. Otherwise I would be hating 50 percent of the people I meet in life. I dont live my life that way. I passionately believe in everything that I do believe in. I have some fundamental beliefsa value systemthats very important to me. I believe that conservatives have a better vision for the country. I think our vision is better, on a whole host of issues, and Im going to fight every step of the way to see that my vision is the one that guides the country. But at the end of the day, its one of the great blessings of this country that sometimes you can agree to disagree. If you lose your political battle today, you can come back tomorrow.
How do you see your role as a talk-show host? Is it your goal to inform the public?
Hannity: I would say that my role is to entertain, to inform, and maybe even occasionally, God willing, to enlighten.
Then are you seeking to change the opinions of those who disagree with you, or to strengthen those who are already on your side? Or are you aiming primarily to listeners who havent yet made up their minds?
Hannity: Look, Im not going to lie. I want everybody to think like me. I think its a better country when people think like me. Its a matter of confidence. Look at the Latin derivatives of that word: confideo: with faith. Its not arrogance. Theres a difference between ego and arrogance and pride on one hand, or on the other hand having a fundamental belief system and knowing that it is right. I know in my heart that abortion is wrong. You cant convince me otherwise; there is no middle ground for me. On a variety of moral issues, I would argue the same thing. I think its wrong to distribute condoms to kids in school. I think thats wrong. Theres no middle ground there for me. Its a belief system, confidence system. Thats what I mean when I say that I would rather have everybody believe as I do. I think it would be better for their kids if they believed that way.
You say that there is no middle ground on these crucial moral issues. In a broader sense, are we running out of middle ground in American society?
Hannity: Theres plenty of middle ground. I say that I want limited government and greater freedom; other people say that they want nationalized health care and day care. By and large I dont get everything I want, but they dont get everything they want. You end up compromising. That happens all the time.
That process works well on economic issues. But on moral issuesissues like handing out condoms in schools, or abortionits much more difficult to find a way to compromise.
Hannity: Well, you cant cut the condom in half, and say thats a compromise. You cant cut the baby in half, and say thats a compromise, either. So one sideone vision for Americais going to win out on that issue.
So do you see a cultural division on those issues?
Hannity: Sure. In that sense, one side is going to be victorious. I speak at a lot of pro-life events, because its something Ive believed in for my whole life. And I have made the case, over and over again, that for the short term and probably even the long term, abortion is going to be legal in America. Even if the Supreme Court shifted tomorrow, they would still have to have a case presented to them, and then the issue would still be sent back to the 50 states, and then youd be dealing with a matter of a decade before there would be a change. On top of that, the hearts of the American people are not with us; they dont want change. I dont believe theyre on my side on this question. So if weve lost this battle, weve got to ask ourselves: Well, what is our goal? Is it winning a political battle, or a legal battle? Or is our goal to help the unborn? If your goal is to help the unborn, then there are alternative solutions. I dont believe that yelling at people works, or proselytizing works. But maybe you can create a local crisis-pregnancy center, where you offer girls help. If they need a job, you get them a job; if they need help to stay in school, you help them in school. Or you get them prenatal care. If theyre having trouble with housing, you get them housing. If they just need baby clothes, you get them baby clotheswhatever they need. By the way, this is very consistent with my conservative values. This is not a big government solution; its a compassionate conservative solution. Painting a scarlet A on a girls chestor an S for slutisnt going to work. But taking a young girl, who probably came from a troubled home and a troubled background, and helping her out at a time when she is having a crisis in her life, is a decent thing to do.
The sorts of opinions that you are voicing right now, about issues like abortionthe opinions that you voice on a regular basis on your radio and television showsare held by a very small minority of people within the mass media. Does your minority status make life more difficult for your work in the industry?
Hannity: I dont run my opinions by other people before I deliver them. I dont take polls. I dont use focus groups. I speak from my heart. I think thats one of the reasons why Ive been successful in both radio and television. I am who I am, and a lot of people find it refreshing.
Maybe your views are refreshing because they are so rarely heard.
Hannity: I agree.
You are also unusual, among media figures, in that you are not embarrassed about saying that your religious faith shapes and guides your political views.
Hannity: No, not at all. My faith is the most important thing in my life.
Are there any issues on which you find tension between what you believe and what you hear taught in the Catholic Church?
Could you give an example?
Hannity: I was in church just last Sunday, and I had what I would consider to be a very liberal priest, and in his sermon I thought he was just wrong. He was talking about issues about how we should respond to the attacks of September 11. There is a mentalitya school of thoughtthat seems to think: If only were nice to the terrorists, and pray for them, then everything is eventually going to be OK. Well, I believe that the terrorists are evil, and unless we root them out and destroy them, they are going to try to destroy civilization as we know it. So as I was sitting there listening to this sermon, I thought that the priest must be living in a utopia. I turned to my wife, in the middle of the sermons, and I said, I cant take much more of this!
Is that an unusual circumstance for you? Havent there been many other times when you disagreed with priests, or with the US bishops, about issues like domestic policy or welfare reform?
Hannity: Well, look: I look at the Pope, and I see a very decent man. A lot of people look at the issues that divide usthe Christian community, Catholics and Protestants, and so forth. I look at the larger issue. We believe fundamentally in goodnessin goodness over evil. I think we should look more to the things that align us than those that separate us. Just because there are people of a similar faithpeople who are Catholicswho believe in a greater role for government in solving social illsthat does not make them bad people. I just think they are misguided, in a political sense. I dont take any of that personally. I view it as just a difference of opinion.
Have you had particular heroes in public life?
Hannity: There are people that I admire, on different levels. Ronald Reagan made me very interested in politics. There was a real magic about that man. It was his destiny to be where he was in life; theres no doubt about that. There are certain people that I admire on some topics. If you listen to Alan Keyes give a speech on morality, or Newt Gingrich give a speech on changing American civilization for the better, it can be very inspiring. I try to learn from the people out there, and I try to absorb as much as I can. What I agree with, I agree with, and what I dont, I dont.
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