Do you know what an Earth Ball is? It’s a giant inflatable ball, also called a cage ball, and you can usually find them in the corner of your junior-high-school locker room, waiting for a rainy day so that the coach can say, “No soccer. Today’s Earth Ball Day.” I am one of those. I was manufactured sometime in the early 1980s, and I have lived most of my life in a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland. It is a peaceful existence and a generally happy one.
Earth Balls have an equivocal relationship with the weather. We like sunshine, of course (who doesn’t?), but our livelihood depends on rain. That’s why the events of the last few weeks have been so confusing. On the one hand, the hurricane on the Gulf Coast was an unconditional tragedy. On the other hand, in the part of the country where I live, it produced three days of minor thunderstorms that got me out of my corner and into the action. The kids sat in a circle and bounced me into the air for hours. “Here comes the Earth Ball,” they’d say, their voices filled with excitement. That’s me! I was tired afterward, but in the most pleasant sense. But soon enough, my peaceful rest gave way to darker thoughts regarding the human race. I attribute most of these dark thoughts to one man. Please indulge me for a moment while I tell you about him.
There is a man named Sean Hannity. He is barely a man. Perhaps in his private life he is fair and kind, and perhaps he cares for his wife and children dearly, but that is not the point of the preceding sentence. In fact, it is entirely beside the point, so much so that I will now repeat myself. Sean Hannity is barely a man. Now sometimes an Earth Ball will criticize a man without any cause at all. This is not one of those times. I listen to Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio show quite often—almost every day, in fact—and I catch his television show whenever I can. (I should say that it’s not very often that I can see him on television, not because they have moved the TVs out of the locker room, but because the show is broadcast at night, and it’s rare that coaches are still in their offices.) (Coach Parker is an exception. He’s having a little thing with Coach Ortega, and sometimes she comes over from the girls’ locker room, and the two of them do what people do when they are having a little thing.) (I may be slightly off point. Let me collect my thoughts.)
There is a TV version of Sean Hannity and a radio version of Sean Hannity. I am less interested in the television show, which offers a flashier and more polished version of the radio show. The TV show is only an hour, not three. It has fancy graphics and often finds Sean “debating” with his “liberal” “co-host,” Alan Colmes. The radio show lets Sean Hannity stretch out, lets him digest and reflect upon the news in a relatively unrestricted environment, and as a result it offers a clearer picture of what I take to be the real Sean Hannity. Every day, Sean Hannity makes a speech at the beginning of his show, during which he articulates his mission. That mission has something to do with bringing listeners the most complete coverage of current events. “That is our pledge, our commitment, our promise, and our solemn vow,” he says, solemnly. In addition to being a little too Anne of Green Gables for my tastes, this speech exemplifies the kind of sanctimony that Hannity demonstrates on a daily basis.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of examples of Hannity’s abysmal behavior. I would like to select just one. The other day, he was talking about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. For weeks, he has been defending the president against charges that he was partly responsible for the failed relief effort. He has said that it isn’t really the president’s responsibility to save New Orleans, or even to lift up the city’s spirits. I don’t agree. I think that since the president can’t be conversant with the dangers facing every single state and every single municipality, furnishing symbolic leadership in the wake of a massive crisis such as Hurricane Katrina is among his most important duties. But I am just an Earth Ball and I could be wrong.
Then a strange thing happened. About a week and a half after the hurricane made landfall, Sean Hannity had the actress Kelly Preston as a guest on his show. First, he flirted unctuously with her for a few minutes—she called him “honey” and he told her that it was cool that John Travolta had his own 707, so cool that he (Hannity) would have married him (Travolta) just to get to ride in the plane. (Wealth never loses its allure, does it?) Then Sean Hannity told Kelly Preston that the people in New Orleans were so inspired by her visit that it touched him. “It means so much to them to see you, Kelly Preston, a movie star.” I admit that I may be paraphrasing slightly. Go find the transcript. But it surprised me so much that I rolled back a few feet. Coach Parker was in his office, and he saw me roll. He saw it but he didn’t believe it. And just as he didn’t believe that, I don’t believe that I heard Hannity congratulate Kelly Preston for buoying the spirits of those devastated by the hurricane. Let me understand this: moral uplift courtesy of Kelly Preston is worthy of Hannity’s praise, but whether or not the president does his part for the nation’s morale is irrelevant? Is it irrelevant? Huh, Sean? Huh?!?!?!? (You will have to pardon me for screaming here.) Granted, this is not the only or even the most egregious example of Sean Hannity’s horrendous character, but it is the one that stuck with me, because it is a perfectly economical instance of his hypocrisy. One minute, he says one thing. The next moment, he says the opposite thing. Zip, zip: it’s a clean cut right through the heart of the truth.
I would love to go on Hannity’s show and give him a piece of my mind. I’m not sure that there’s much chance of that. Have you ever seen an Earth Ball interviewed on a news show—even on cable? Because I cannot go on the show, I urge all of the rest of you to rise up against this man. Do not take him off the air, for that will only make a martyr of him. But discredit him by making him accountable for what he says. That is the worst punishment for a man like Sean Hannity.
Meanwhile, today was a sunny day. Sad. I sat inside while the kids played soccer and Coach Parker and Coach Ortega got a few minutes of afternoon delight. Guess who was on the radio throughout their rendezvous? That’s right. Sean Hannity. I’m not sure whether Coach Parker listens because he agrees with the man or because he finds the whole thing blackly comic. People’s inner depths elude me. But if Coach Parker continues to listen, I will listen, too. I find that I feel most inflated when I am filled not with air but with hatred.