[Note: This piece is a sidebar to Can You Hear Us NOW?]
The most mean-spirited portrayal of the protest as a Vietnam echo came from Fox’s Sean Hannity. “I see you brought Jane Fonda back for this one,” Hannity said to protester Anne Roesler, asking if she were proud of Fonda, whose picture was taken in Vietnam sitting on “the very equipment used to kill our troops.” When Roesler started to answer that she was a member of Military Families Speak Out with a son serving in the war, Hannity cut her off, saying, “I’m not interested in that.” He then continued to talk over her, demanding to know her feelings about Fonda.
On his next show (1/29/07), Hannity brought on Joshua Sparling, an Iraq veteran whose injury in Iraq cost him a leg, and who was among the small group of counter-protesters. The New York Times story (1/28/07) reported that a protester had spat at the ground near Sparling, and that he had spat back. (One of the three Times’ reporters assigned to the protest says she actually witnessed the incident.) Once the Drudge Report (1/29/07) spread word of this, it became new proof in the blogosphere of the left’s hatred of the military.
But Sparling was not a newcomer to Hannity or conservative bloggers. In December 2005, Fox News reported that Sparling had received a “hate letter” while he was being treated at Walter Reed Hospital. The card, in childlike writing and with childish drawings, read “have a great time dying in the war.” Sparling said he had not kept the envelope, so its origins were unknown.
As a victim of such a despicable card, Sparling had great value to Hannity and Republican leaders, who began using him as new evidence that the antiwar movement does not support the troops. Sparling was a Republican guest at the 2006 State of the Union address. Hannity visited him in the hospital and showered him with gifts, including movies and an iPod, and had him as a call-in guest on his show. Sparling also spoke at the San Diego Freedom Concert sponsored by the Freedom Alliance, whose president is Oliver North.
When Hannity brought Sparling back to talk about the January 27 spitting incident, co-host Alan Colmes brought up the hate card again: “You got a hate letter at Walter Reade Army Hospital in 2005. Why do you think this always happens to you?” What he failed to mention was that blogger Michael Crook, a white supremacist Holocaust denier with a grudge against the U.S. military, had taken credit for sending the card to Sparling and ones like it to VFW Halls (Michelle Malkin, 12/18/05).
Crook himself is no stranger to Hannity, who interviewed (and insulted) Crook on his show in 2005 (5/20/05). Crook’s anti-military rants (“The U.S. soldier is the poster-child for retroactive abortion”) were deemed so offensive that they were re-aired a week later (5/27/05).