Sean Hannity is one of the personalities on Fox News aiding religious right groups push the false talking point that the lgbt community is intolerant of “other view points” and want to silence people.
Based on an interestingly nauseating incident which took place in 1989, Hannity should really know better. Decades before he was a bombastic, fact-free pseudo news personality, he was a shock jock who got fired from a California college radio station due to a interview which has to be heard (complete with a barf bag) to be believed. According to Media Matters:
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 his new book The Loudest Voice in the Room, New York magazine journalist Gabriel Sherman describes the start of Sean Hannity’s career as a conservative radio personality, beginning with an hour-long morning call-in show at KCSB, the UC Santa Barbara college station. The short-lived show was canceled in 1989 after Hannity made a number of extreme anti-gay remarks during a segment featuring Gene Antonio, author of the book The AIDS Cover-up? The Real and Alarming Facts About AIDS. According to Sherman:
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. 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]
Oh yes he did. The following transcript provides just snippets of the interview in which Hannity and Antonio spread nauseating propaganda about the lgbt community (Editor’s note – to hear the audio, go here).
ANTONIO: [T]hey have had meetings, literally, of the SPCA, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Dallas and elsewhere around the country, because these homosexuals were cutting the claws off of gerbils, and prying their teeth out, and stuffing them up their rectums. It’s called gerbil stuffing.
HANNITY: Oh, my God.
CALLER: I believe you. They’re getting sick with it. Crazy.
ANTONIO: It’s just this perversion. They don’t know what to do. They’re frantic in the search for a substitute woman. They put fists up the rectum.
HANNITY: And then they wonder why they have so many diseases, you know? I don’t understand it. But they won’t let you say that they have a disease. They won’t let you say it’s a gay disease and they won’t let you examine the practices that have caused them, making them so susceptible to these diseases. [KCSB, 4/4/89, emphasis added]
And then there was the talk about gay men and bodily wastes:
ANTONIO: These men eat one another’s fecal matter. And people say, “what are you talking, that is bizarre, what are you talking about?” This is called scat.
HANNITY: You just blew the whole audience out of Santa Barbara, I’ll have you know.
ANTONIO: Well that is reality, though.
HANNITY: It is.
ANTONIO: If you pick up a copy of the homosexual magazines, they have advertisements for giving and receiving enemas. And these are not fringe magazines. These are the standard fare of the homosexual subculture … It is a subculture of people engaging in deviant, twisted acts. So they literally will defecate in one another’s mouth. [KCSB, 4/4/89, emphasis added]
Unbelievably, the interview got worse as Hannity and Antonio get into the subject of gays and children. Needless to say, lgbts were furious about this interview:
Gay rights groups called for a boycott of the station following the segment, eventually convincing the station’s management to take Hannity off the air in June for violating the school’s non-discrimination policy. Hannity, with the help of the Santa Babara and Los Angeles chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, launched a “free speech campaign” against the station and pressured the university to agree to reinstate his program. When the university refused to double the length and duration of his show, however, Hannity declined to return to as the program’s host.
I would advise folks who are shocked or angry at this revelation regarding Hannity not push for his dismissal from Fox News. It ain’t going to happen. Although I do wonder if Hannity still believes the trash he pushed about lgbts.
Instead, let’s look at the similarities between anti-gay propaganda then and now because there are quite a few.
1. We have a on-air personality repeat some of the nastiest lies about the lgbt community and then whine about free speech when he got called on it? Sounds like the recent ‘Duck Dynasty situation,’ doesn’t it?
2. The claims about the lgbt community regarding gerbils and feces would be funny except for two things. It was these claims which played a huge part in Uganda pushing that awful anti-gay law. In 2010 Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, a strong supporter of the law, would show videos supposedly of gay men engaging in the behavior Antonio described.
And if we are to be truthful to ourselves, anti-gay groups still make these type of claims about lgbts, only less vulgar and more covert and nuanced. Anti-gay spokepersons such as Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth, Linda Harvey of Mission America, or Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council no longer say things like “gay men engage in the eating of feces or insert gerbils of their rectums.” Instead, they say things like “science shows that sodomy/homosexual sex is dangerous to your health and well-being.”
The connotation of the lies never changes even if the words are carefully picked. Decades after that interview, the lgbt community still has to deal with these lies and to my knowledge, we haven’t collectively as a community done anything to call attention to them.
It’s something we should not only remember, but call out with as much fervor as we ponder the dating lives of lgbt celebrities.
Related post – How They See Us: Unmasking the Religious Right War on Gay America – my booklet, published last year, provides more details on the ways anti-gay propaganda have changed over the years, as well as other distortions on the part of the religious right. Go here to see the version of How They See Us on Scribd.