We Let Yousef Munayyer Answer the Questions Sean Hannity Wouldn’t
On the 24th of July, an evil terrorist sympathizer appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to try to justify the horror tactics perpetrated by the Palestinian people upon the state of Israel. At least, that seemed to be the perception Hannity was trying to push, sitting in front of a large screen bearing the words “Sympathy for the Terrorists,” pointing fingers at interviewee Yousef Munayyer, and not allowing him to get a word in.
Russell Brand picked up on this exchange in a segment of his Trews YouTube series, dissecting Hannity’s “interview” technique as little more than shouting leading questions at Munayyer, which he then didn’t permit his guest to answer. Brand also alleged that Hannity uses this tactic to convey a preconceived narrative of the Israeli-Gaza conflict, as he’d like his viewers to believe it. This prompted a response from Hannity, then a counter-response from Brand; and the latest internet spat was born.
Munayyer—a Palestinian-American political analyst, writer, and executive director of the Jerusalem Fund’s educational program, the Palestine Center—seemed like a calm, fairly reasonable guy, and it was a shame we were prevented from hearing what he had to say. So in an effort to right that wrong, I decided to track him down and let him answer the questions Hannity wouldn’t. [This is an abridged version of the interview with Munayyer; to read the full transcript, click here].
VICE: Hi, Yousef. So did Sean Hannity’s people reach out to you, or did you approach them to be on his show?
Yousef Munayyer: No, they reached out. So that was last week, and then of course the Russell Brand thing was totally unexpected. I mean, I’ll be totally honest with you—the last thing I was thinking about in the last three to four weeks, when there were bombs dropping all over Gaza, was Russell Brand.
I’ll get to Brand in a bit, but first I wanted to ask you about something Brand actually pondered on his segment. You weren’t in the studio with Hannity, but did you have access to a monitor? Could you see him aggressively jabbing his finger at you?
No. You’re sitting in a room, staring at the black box where the camera is. The monitor wasn’t available, so I couldn’t see anything that was going on. But I could hear, obviously. His tone was quite aggressive on the earpiece. I didn’t see him jabbing his finger at me, but it was very clear that he was acting in an aggressive way; I didn’t need to see it to understand that.
It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Elected
On Monday afternoon I was going about the normal business of being an informed 21st-century news consumer—skimming Twitter, wandering over to my favorite websites, watching with amusement as the debate over Nate Silver’s polling aggregation techniques turned vicious—when I began to feel bad. Physically sick. I got a headache and my stomach clenched and unclenched—I got up to walk around and my left leg decided to develop an inexplicable ache. Maybe this was just because I sit in front of a no-doubt-radiation-emitting computer screen for most of the day and drink too much coffee, but it’s possible I was having a physical reaction to a realization that was growing in my brain like a cancer: We are actually picking a president this Tuesday.
I don’t know what finally tipped me off to this reality. Maybe it was the trickle of celebrity endorsements on Twitter—Clarissa of Clarissa Explains It All cast her ballot for Romney!—or the flood of usually snarky folks on my Facebook feed reminding each other to vote in suddenly earnest tones—“It’s the most important election of our lifetimes, it really is, guys!” It really hit me once I read Choire Sicha of the Awl (he’s sort of like the cool RA of the liberal young New Yorker blogosphere) telling all the cynical little shits out there to suck it up and vote for Obama. By the time I read a mirror-image piece on National Review’s blog lecturing right wingers about how Obama really was that bad, I was massaging my temples and softly moaning to myself. The campaign was so much fun—why did we have to spoil it all by putting anyone in the White House?
So Barack Obama made some comments about Trayvon Martin that reflect the feelings of pretty much any human being with a functioning set of emotions. The quote that led every one of the dozens of short articles written about it was, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” a line that makes you realize that national leaders have personal feelings apart from politics, and that seeing someone who could have been his kid shot for no good reason probably made Obama just as angry and sad as the rest of us—or you had that response to the line if you were a normal person. If you were a capital-c Conservative pundit who appears on FOX News and bangs Obama at every opportunity out of pure malicious instinct, your eyes rolled back in your head, you started frothing at the mouth, you yelled, “THE PRESIDENT’S TALKING ABOUT RACE! LET’S GET ‘IM! GRRRRRRGHSGHHSSFSA!” and you rage-vomited a little bit. Here’s your chance to cover the Trayvon Martin killing without admitting that it’s a awful tragedy that a black teenager got shot because of his skin color—you can just go after Obama! The crazed anti-Obamans haven’t taken to the airwaves just yet, but you can see what they’re going to say so clearly that I’ve taken the liberty of predicting what the blonde fembots and deceptively clean-cut nutjobs that parade through FOX News will say in the next 48 hours. I hope I’m wrong.
They’ll call him a racist:
“Obama never comments wherever a WHITE 17-year-old gets shot.”
They’ll pretend to be even-tempered and objective, in contrast to Obama:
“Here Barack goes again, commenting on a matter before all the facts are in, just like with Henry Louis Gates.”
They’ll change the subject to whatever their pet policy obsession is:
“This is just more pandering and emotional manipulation from a president who is looking to push his anti-gun agenda. We need MORE guns, not fewer. Trayvon should have been armed.”
They’ll accuse Obama of meddling:
“Why is the president interfering with a local police matter? What about STATES RIGHTS?”